Last week, the New York City chapter of Alpha Omega (AO) International Dental Fraternity celebrated a global tradition with an evening reminiscent of community, charity and philanthropy. The Fraternity participated in a worldwide event called 'Shabbat Across AO,' which has become an annual practice (Facebook).
During Shabbat Across AO, more than fifty AO chapters across the globe unite to honor their members as well as their friends and families with the intention to offer a supportive professional alliance. Although dentistry is the common bond linking Fraternity members, this event transcends the profession and offers a communal tie that is unique to most professional organizations.
The spiritual undertones of keeping the Sabbath are reflected in offering gratitude, connection, and openness. The traditional song "Shalom Aleichem" is sung before a Sabbath meal, which is a song about peace and completeness. The world is complete on Shabbat, as it is a time wherein one may focus on family, togetherness, and the joy of life in general.
The beauty and magic in enjoying this event globally is that Alpha Omega members are connected all over the world as they celebrate together, becoming one great community that shares a common goal.
The Alpha Omega international president Dr. Wendy Spektor and her husband, past international president Dr. Michael Spektor of Seattle, WA joined the New York AO chapter for the evening at the Kosciuszko Foundation located on New York's Upper East Side.
Dr. Wendy Spektor honored Dr. Michael Alfano of New York University in presenting the AO Achievement Medal alongside with Dr. Allen Finkelstein, past vice chairman of the Alpha Omega Foundation. This is the highest honor that one may receive from Alpha Omega.
Drs. Whitney Mostafiz, AO NYC chapter president and Gail Schupak,
AO NYC chapter treasurer and international secretary, with board members
Marina Milgrom, Blair Schlusselberg, Aryeh Genet and Jacob Teichner
of the revitalized NYU AO student chapter. Photo: AO/Lloyd Grauman.
Ever since the inauguration of the Achievement Medal Award eighty years ago, this prestigious recognition has been awarded to recipients or organizations for their contributions to dentistry or its allied professions. The first award was presented in 1936 to Dr. Leroy Miner, recognized today as the father of oral and maxillofacial surgery. He is the only dentist to appear on the cover of TIME magazine. Noted recipients in the past have included Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Dr. Alfano is executive vice president emeritus, professor of Craniofacial Biology and Senior Presidential Fellow at New York University. He is responsible for supporting the strategy and design of the University's E-learning platform. Dr. Alfano served as Dean of the College of Dentistry from 1998-2006, and as executive vice president of NYU from 2006-2013. As dean he exhibited extraordinary leadership, creating new roles for dentists and new models for healthcare education and research. He created an integrated dental and medical education; this is a model emulated at most graduate health programs. In addition, he's held numerous positions with Block Drug Company, including senior vice president for Research and Technology and president of the Block Professional Dental Products Company.
The evening concluded with a raffle and auction for an emerging charitable endeavor called Pearly Promise. In its inception, the Pearly Promise Project plans to offer orthodontic care and treatment to underserved patients in NYC through collaboration with Covenant House. Covenant House is a homeless shelter for teens and young adults located at 460 West 41st Street.
The Pearly Promise mission is to empower these individuals through offering dental health, personal confidence, and opening the door to new opportunities. A staggering 78% of Americans perceive that adults with crooked teeth are unsuccessful. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, more than one-third of American adults are unhappy with their smile. Interestingly, 77% of women think that having crooked teeth is worse than a receding hairline in a potential love interest. However, globally only 33% of the population receives orthodontic treatment in a lifetime.
Drs. Allen Finkelstein, Whitney Mostafiz, and Michael Abrams,
AO NYC chapter vice president. Photo: AO/Lloyd Grauman.
In New York City, a significant majority of patients who apply for Medicaid coverage of orthodontic treatment are denied. Pearly Promise aspires to select patients from this representative pool as well as those who cannot afford orthodontic treatment otherwise. Having aligned teeth prevents and controls for dental decay, periodontal disease and promotes longevity. In addition, individuals with an esthetic smile are shown to be happier, more successful and integrated with society.
Our friend Dr. Whitney Mostafiz, a Manhattan orthodontist and president of the AO New York City Chapter, led the Pearly Promise raffle and auction at the conclusion of the evening. Through these fundraising efforts, over $1,000 was raised in addition to significant donations from American Orthodontics and Propel Orthodontics. American Orthodontics is the world's largest privately held manufacturer of orthodontic appliances, with more than six hundred employees worldwide serving more than ten countries. American Orthodontics is proud to supply orthodontic brackets and wires for the Pearly Promise cause. Propel is a leading innovator, manufacturer and retailer of orthodontic products. The Russian American Dental Association (RADA) and Dr. Allen Finkelstein made significant contributions to sponsor the evening, as well.
Alpha Omega is the oldest international dental organization, founded in 1907 by dental students at the University of Maryland to promote and support the ideals of global oral health, education, and the bonds of fraternity, as well as fight discrimination. In New York City, the Fraternity supports two student chapters at Columbia and the recently revitalized chapter at New York University.
Alpha Omega has expanded into an international community of dental professionals who are guided by the tenets of professionalism, fraternalism and a pledge to the Judaic values of commitment, integrity, family, global oral health, inclusivity, leadership and social justice.
The Alpha Omega Foundation is a leading international dental philanthropic organization, second to the American Dental Association, having raised and distributed more than $19,000,000. Alpha Omega works in collaboration with Henry Schein Cares and the Henry Schein, Inc. Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program.
These endeavors serve to expand access to healthcare to the underserved and at-risk communities around the world and to increase Holocaust survivors' access to oral care, respectively. The aim is to significantly enhance these individuals' quality of lives. Dr. Rada Sumareva-Ukrainsky, AO NYC chapter philanthropy chair, leads the Holocaust Survivors Program in NYC. In this sense, Alpha Omega strongly resides in the Judaic principle of "Tikkun Olam," which means repairing the ailing world. These endeavors paired with the familial traditions are what make Alpha Omega a distinct professional organization.
Our foundation congratulates the excellent work of Alpha Omega and salutes Dr. Whitney Mostafiz for her inspired leadership of the Pearly Promise Project.
For more information about the Pearly Promise Project, contact Whitney by email here.
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