Healthcare Leadership Awards – 2012

Lisa DeLucia, DDS (Special Smiles)

News Release

Lisa DeLucia was so attracted to a summer internship opportunity during college, that when she applied to the program and wasn't accepted, she asked if she could still participate without stipend. She was told yes, and it was that experience, studying children with autism who were on a special diet and shadowing neurodevelopment pediatrician Dr. Susan Hyman, that first sparked her interest in caring for patients with developmental disabilities.

While earning her DDS, magna cum laude, at University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Lisa received guidance from Dr. Steve Perlman, founder of the Healthy Athletes Special Smiles program, in channeling her interests in developmental disabilities into the career field of pediatric dentistry. During her time at dental school, Lisa published research about dental students' perceptions and attitudes toward providing dental care to people with developmental disabilities, and how they were influenced through classroom instruction and hands-on experiences. She was also very involved in the Special Olympics Special Smiles events as a student organizer, recruiter and volunteer screener, and continues her volunteer work with the organization today.

Dr. DeLucia then completed a pediatric dentistry residency at Children's Hospital in Boston and Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and became a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and an active member of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, among others. She returned to her native Rochester to complete the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship, which allowed her to gain additional experience in care for people with developmental disabilities, especially with policy issues affecting their access to health care.

Since then, she's been a staunch advocate by not only treating patients with intellectual disabilities, but also by educating other providers in order to increase their comfort level in caring for and awareness of this severely underserved population. She led a group charged with gaining provider input about serving this population for the recently formed Community Task Force on Oral Health for People with Developmental Disabilities.

Dr. DeLucia, who finds that caring for this population brings both challenges and enormous rewards, reminds other dentists and health care providers that having an open heart, a little patience and creativity can make all the difference in the oral health and ultimately, the lives of people with disabilities.

Today, Dr. DeLucia teaches pediatric dentistry residents at URMC's Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and is faculty for the LEND Fellowship program in hopes of inspiring another generation of oral health providers to care for this population. She also has a private practice in Webster.

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