November 06, 2007

Two SIUC dentists earn statewide recognition

by Christi Mathis


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CARBONDALE, Ill. — Two Southern Illinois University Carbondale dentists are among just 24 statewide to win the inaugural Healthy Smiles Hero Award.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn honored Dr. Dwayne G. Summers and Dr. Danna P. Cotner recently along with 22 others. During "Healthy Smiles Week," Quinn recognized oral health providers for giving free and reduced-cost dental services to needy families

"These dedicated dentists go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure people in rural and underserved communities across Illinois get the dental care they deserve," Quinn said. "I salute their commitment to providing decent oral health care for everyone."

"It is very impressive that two from SIUC were chosen," said Charla J. Lautar, director of the School of Allied Health.

Lautar said Cotner and Summers were recognized for their service to a rural and underserved area of the state. Their contributions have improved the quality of life for patients and the community, contributed to the public understanding and appreciation of the role of dentistry and importance of good oral health, and they have also provided leadership in organizations promoting oral health.

Summers is the director of the SIUC School of Allied Health's Dental Hygiene Program. A West Frankfort native now residing in Carterville, Summers is in his sixth year at SIUC, initially as a supervising dentist and now as program director. He worked in private practice in Carterville before returning to his alma mater. He earned his bachelor's degree in biological sciences at SIUC and graduated in 1996 from the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in Alton.

Summers cares for patients at the SIUC Community Dental Center, one of the state's few full-service community dental centers accepting Public Aid recipients as patients, he notes. In fact, Summers said it's not uncommon for people to drive two-three hours to see the center's staff.

A clinical associate professor at the University, Summers works with the Southern Illinois Dental Society and Southern Illinois Dental Hygiene Society each February in the American Dental Association's "Give Kids a Smile" program. About 250 children each year get cleanings, fluoride treatments, x-rays, and even fillings and extractions as needed. Summers works with the Dental Sealant Grant Program that gives cleanings, sealants and examinations in Carbondale and Murphysboro schools. He also donates his time to provide dental services to migrant children in Cobden each summer.

Summers started four years as a nose guard for the football Salukis, earning all-Gateway Conference honors once and was an Academic All-American his senior year. He's currently an assistant coach for the Herrin Tigers football team.

Lautar said Summers "takes the mandate of the University in terms of teaching, research and service seriously as he participates in dental health activities for the rural and underserved populations. He models civic responsibility, interpersonal communication skills and ethical conduct to our dental hygiene students- future preventive dental team members."

She praised Summers for his work securing funding for the programs to care for underserved populations, his efforts to improve his knowledge with summer mentoring, his work with the public in various venues, his research, and much more.

Cotner, who also works in private practice in Cape Girardeau, is a clinical assistant professor in dental hygiene at SIUC. An eight-year part-time employee of the university, she teaches pharmacology and clinic classes. She earned her bachelor's in speech and theater at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, her bachelor's in dental hygiene from Diablo Valley College and her dental doctorate from the University of California at San Francisco.

Cotner is a faculty dentist for the Community Dental Center and her work has also included public health assistance at the Redwoods Rural Health Clinic in Garberville, Cal., at the Tamms Community Clinic, at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna and in her private practice. She notes that it's difficult to find a dentist willing to provide Medicaid services, which she does.

In addition, Cotner is an officer in the Southeast Missouri Dental Society, works with handicapped and mentally disabled children and adults and assists with the Fluoride Varnish Program through Community Counseling in Cape Girardeau. She said the goal is placing fluoride varnish on the teeth of all southeast Missouri area school children.

"I especially enjoy working with the handicapped and mentally disabled," Cotner said. "It is a group of patients who are often ignored. The work is extremely challenging and the reward is enormous."

She recalls fondly many of those she has helped, including a mentally disabled couple who married and adopted a baby. While providing Valentine's Day treatment, she asked the husband what he had gotten his wife for the romantic day and he replied that he'd bought her an ice cream bar.

"For them, that was a big expense," Cotner said. She also recalls a cancer patient who told Cotner that by the time she lifted a mayonnaise jar out of the refrigerator, got bread off the cabinet and assembled a sandwich, she was so exhausted she couldn't eat it.

"We are so busy with our lives that we forget the small things," Cotner said. "Working with these patients reminds me of all I take for granted."

Cotner enjoys making pottery and laughs that she aspires "to be a self-supporting potter."

"Dr. Cotner is truly an asset to education and to public health as demonstrated by her efforts to improve and maintain the oral health of two communities, and to meet the needs of the rural and underserved populations in Illinois and Missouri," said Lautar.

Summers and Cotner are both published authors with writings in dental literature. The SIUC dental hygiene program is the only one in the state offering a bachelor's degree and it boasts a 100 percent placement rate for graduates.

Quinn presented plaques to the winners who were able to attend at ceremonies last month in Springfield and Chicago. Quinn helped launch Healthy Smiles Week in 2004. Coming annually in October, it occurs during National Dental Hygiene Month and Children's Health Month.


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