Indianapolis — In April, Dr. Niekia Franklin became the resident advisor at Indiana University’s Give Kids A Smile event.
It isn’t the first rodeo for the 2015 graduate of the Baylor College of Dentistry, scheduled to complete Indiana University’s pediatric dentistry residency later this year.
Dr. Franklin was the co-chair of Baylor College of Dentistry’s first Give Kids A Smile event in 2013. And in 2016, she was accepted to attend the ADA Foundation’s Give Kids A Smile Community Leadership Development Institute in St. Louis, where she learned skills on organizing successful GKAS events from other advisors and Dr. Jeffrey Dalin, the cofounder of Give Kids A Smile.
“One of my absolute favorite things about working with children is the special opportunity we get to change a child’s future,” Dr. Franklin said.
The advocate for GKAS was born and raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2011. It was at Baylor when she first heard of GKAS.
“[I received] an email to volunteer at the North Texas Dental Society’s GKAS event while in dental school,”
Dr. Franklin said. “I loved being around kids, but at the time I did not know that I wanted to specialize in pediatric dentistry. I was amazed by the organization, teamwork and compassion that went into making this event a success for more than 100 children.”
Inspired, Dr. Franklin decided to start a GKAS event at Baylor, confident that it would prove fruitful. “I have always been inspired by the willingness of dentists and dental students to come out and volunteer for a great cause,” she said. “While at Baylor, I knew GKAS was an amazing program that would thrive with a strong institution behind it.”
Her commitment to GKAS at Baylor continued when she went to Indiana for her residency.
“After attending the GKAS Leadership Institute, I learned about the rich history of GKAS [in the state of] Indiana, especially considering that the founder of Give Kids A Smile, Dr. Jeff Dalin, was an Indiana University School of Dentistry alumnus,” she said. “After discussing it with Dr. Tawana Ware, who has participated in the St. Louis GKAS, and assembling a team of motivated dental students, it was a perfect opportunity.”
Dr. Franklin spreads the word whenever she can about helping out through GKAS. “You will be surprised how easy it is to get involved,” she said. “Even if you are just a first-year dental student with minimal experience, your efforts and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated. Do not be afraid to start small. Even if we only find one child with dental pain through a screening and help connect them to a provider, you will have done something that means so much to that child.”
The ADA Foundation, which oversees the national GKAS program, has a toll-free number for GKAS inquiries, 1-844-490-GKAS (4527). Callers can find out whether there is a GKAS
program in their area, including parents and caregivers seeking oral health services for their children and dental team members and volunteers interested in volunteering can find out if there is a GKAS event taking place near them.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of GKAS. During GKAS’ first 14 years, more than 5.5 million underserved children have received free oral health services from 500,000 volunteers.
To find out more about the ADA Foundation’s GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute, click here. Applications for the GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute are due on May 31.