Two second-year dental students from UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry volunteered to participate in Healthy Athletes at the 2022 Special Olympics Texas Summer Games in May in San Antonio.
Volunteers were Andre Larue and Camille Hoover of the DDS Class of 2024. The dental outreach participation was coordinated by Associate Professor Esther O. Kuyinu, DDS, MS, faculty sponsor of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry Student Chapter at the School of Dentistry.
“This was a priceless experience to be able to help serve the Special Olympic Athletes,” Larue said. “Through my research with this community, I have gained an appreciation for the need for care in this underserved population. Being able to contribute to the dental care at the Special Olympics Texas Summer Games in San Antonio was a priceless experience to be able to gain in-person experience with the amazing athletes.”
The 2022 Special Olympics Texas Summer Games took place May 12-15 at Morgan's Wonderland where athletes competed in track and field, cycling, soccer, and tennis.
The dental component of Healthy Athletes, known as Special Smiles, took place May 13-14 and included screenings and dental health education. Special Olympics athletes who needed dental treatment were given resources to connect them with local community centers who treat individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It was an amazing experience to be a part of Healthy Athletes program at the 2022 Special Olympics Texas Summer Games and being given the opportunity to play a role in providing dental care to those that may have never received it due to their disabilities,” said Hoover. “I loved being surrounded by the amazing athletes and look forward to helping serve more for the Special Olympics program.”
Healthy Athletes is a Special Olympics program that provides free health screenings and education in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a doctor or dentist.
At the health screenings, physicians, dentists, nurses, dental and medical students, and other volunteers collaborated to provide blood pressure and other vital signs, blood sugar and oral health screens, as well as COVID-19 vaccinations and health education to participants.
Special Olympics Texas provides approximately 1,500 health screenings annually at the Winter Games, Summer Games, and Fall Classic statewide competitions. Event divisions are based on age, gender, and ability level to give athletes an equal chance to win. Each participant receives a medal or ribbon following their events.