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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Skinner's Dental Project

The following article on Partners members Ruthi and Rankin Skinner appeared in Perspectives, a quarterly magazine published by The University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.

Rankin Skinner was just a young boy working on his grandfather’s farm
when the spirit of volunteerism and helping his 
neighbors was first instilled in him, as he saw neighbors helping 
neighbors as needed sowing, growing and harvesting crops. 
 Skinner, a 1969 graduate of the University of Kentucky 
College of Dentistry, has dedicated his life - and his passion for dentistry 
- to the people of Kentucky and far beyond. 
 “I learned you can’t just be involved in your own life, you 
have to help out others in need,” Skinner said. “A life of service is where 
you are happiest and it’s a part of my life.” 
 Skinner’s career in dentistry began with the U.S. Navy right 
after graduation from the College of Dentistry until he went into private 
practice in Winchester, Kentucky in 1971. Over the course of the past 
40 years, Skinner has been actively involved with countless volunteer 
organizations, including Partners of the Americas, since 1985. 
 Partners of the Americas is an international network 
that connects individuals, volunteers, institutions, businesses and 
communities to serve others through lasting partnerships. Currently, 
Partners has 120 volunteer chapters linked in 60 partnerships. Chapters 
in the U.S. form partnerships with chapters in countries or states in 
Latin America and the Caribbean. Each chapter is a private, non-profit 
institution that works to improve the quality of life of others. One such 
U.S. chapter is the Kentucky/ Ecuador Partners. 
  In 2002, Skinner and his fellow volunteers with Partners 
started the Kentucky/Ecuador Dental Sealant Project, working with 
15 clinics in the capital city of Quito and another 15 clinics in Ibarra 
and surrounding communities. Ibarra is Winchester, Kentucky’s Sister 
 Dental decay in Ecuador is in the 85 percent range. In the 
United States, the national average is 22 percent and in Kentucky it 
is about 50 percent, with significantly higher rates in some areas. The 
goal of the Kentucky/ Ecuador Partner Sealant Project is to significantly 
improve children’s dental health through education, regular cleanings, 
and fluoride varnish and dental sealant application. 
 Skinner’s group has trained 65 dentists to place sealants and 
later, fluoride varnish in each of these cities. They provided the material 
and the government dentists placed it and created a partnership 
with participating schools, local governments and most importantly, 
parents. After five years, a dramatic 50 -78 percent drop in decay was 
noted, from responding clinics. 
 Skinner’s volunteer work with Partners of the Americas 
is actually a family affair that involves his wife, Ruthi; their son and 
daughter-in-law, Ian and Jill; their daughter and son-in-law, Erin 
and David Smith; and Rankin’s brother and sister-in-law, Donnie 
and Roberta. The family was honored as the Family Award Winners 
for 2009 by United Way of the Bluegrass for their outstanding work 
with the Clark County Dental Health Initiative, locally in Clark 
County and abroad through Kentucky- Ecuador Partners. The dental 
initiative in Clark County came about as a result of publicity on their 
work in Ecuador, and in response to concerns about the dental health 
of Kentuckians. 
 It was Skinner’s successful work in Ecuador that led to 
another opportunity for service. On Christmas Day, 2007, in response 
to an article in the New York Times concerning the poor dental health 
of Kentuckians, a local member of the Clark County Community
Foundation proposed that they try to duplicate what had been done in 
Ecuador in Clark County, through a grant from the foundation to cover 
costs of all materials. Skinner spent the next two days drawing up a plan 
which would involve a partnership with The Winchester Dental Society, 
the Clark County Health Department, the Clark County Community 
Foundation and the Clark County Schools Administration. 
 Skinner said it was impractical to believe that they could do 
sealants in all the schools, so the plan was to apply Premier Dental’s new 
Fluoride Varnish with Amorphous Calcium Phosphate (ACP), a product 
he describes as ‘the best preventive tool for caries in my lifetime,’ on all 
preschoolers through 5th grade (nearly 3,000 students), twice yearly. 
This group was selected because this is the range of ages when children 
get their permanent teeth. Every student in the public school system 
also receives a new toothbrush and toothpaste kit every year for a total 
of nearly 6,000 kids. 
 Annually, a Decayed, Missing, Filled, Sealants (DMFS) Survey 
is done on all 6th graders. This allows Skinner’s group to measure all 
these factors on an annual basis to see if they’re having a positive effect. 
Dental exams are also done annually on all students, preschool-5th grade 
and reports are sent home to the parents on the dental health of their 
 Initially, the decay rate was 50.42 percent, right at the state
level. After the first year, a decrease of approximately 11 percent was 
noted and at the end of year 3, a decrease to 14.49 percent was noted in 
Clark County, placing them below the national level. 
 The Clark County School system now has a strong oral hygiene 
educational program in place. Skinner says the program is so successful 
because the entire community has become invested in this endeavor. 
 “Everybody came on board after seeing the results of our work 
and wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “When you’re doing something 
for the right reason, things just come together.” 
 The success of the Clark County school dental program just 
happened to catch the attention of Clark County resident and dental 
health advocate, Jane Beshear, wife of Governor Steve Beshear.  She 
heard about Skinner’s work in Ecuador and Clark County through one 
of Skinner’s dental volunteers and soon involved the Governor. 
 Could something be done in Appalachia to improve dental 
health like what was done in Clark County? Jane Beshear obviously 
thought so and went after grant money to support the work before she 
approached the UK College of Dentistry, well known for their extensive 
work providing dental care in Appalachia. 
 And so began the process of obtaining the $1 million grant 
through ARC and $250,000 in state general fund dollars so that 
approximately 25,000 Kentucky children in Appalachia will receive 
preventive oral health services through a new pilot program called 
Smiling Schools.  As part of the Smiling Schools program, the Oral 
Health Program in the Department for Public Health will also conduct 
outreach in eastern Kentucky to help increase public awareness of the 
importance of children’s dental health. 
 Robert Kovarik, division chief in the Division of Public Health 
Dentistry at the UK College of Dentistry, said the project is important 
because ultimately, the problem of poor oral health in our children needs 
to be addressed by preventing oral disease. This will take new 
preventive techniques as well as an increase in oral health literacy, both 
of which are addressed in this new project. 
 “We were anxious to participate in this new state public health initiative as it is this 
kind of collaborative model that can really make a difference to children 
in Kentucky,” Kovarik said. “This effort is a combined effort of private practitioners, 
government (health departments) and the University of Kentucky.  
Each brings special skill sets to the equation and the result is a benefit to 
many children. 

 The UK College of Dentistry will perform oral exams on a sampling of children 
in the pilot project prior to the first varnish application to document the 
initial condition of their teeth. The second treatment is applied four to 
six months later. Following two fluoride varnish treatments, the children 
will again be examined to determine the effectiveness of the varnish in 
stopping decay. 
 All children in the selected schools will be given the 
opportunity to have a dental screening. The fluoride varnish will then 
be painted onto children’s teeth and takes less than a minute to apply. 
The varnish treatment is painless and comes in a variety of flavors. The 
fluoride varnish prevents decay, slows the progress of existing decay and 
reverses the beginning steps of decay. 
 “Our young people already face a range of issues that distract 
from learning without having to worry about an aching cavity or overall 
poor dental health,” said First Lady Jane Beshear. “The Smiling Schools 
program will not only improve our children’s current dental health, 
but teach them the value and ease of maintaining quality dental care 
practices as they grow to be healthy adults.” 
 Skinner is a true testament to the spirit of volunteerism and 
what can be accomplished when a group of caring individuals come 
together for a good cause. In Skinner’s own words, “when you are doing 
something for the right reasons, things just come together.”

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About Kentucky Ecuador Partners

Kentucky Partners of the Americas (a chapter of Partners of the Americas) has enjoyed a partnership with Ecuador since 1965. (Currently, Kentucky works with areas of Ecuador including Quito, Santo Domingo de los Colorados, and the Amazon Basin. Kentucky-Ecuador Partners has been one of the most progressive and most productive partnerships. The Kentucky chapter is supported by volunteers from most regions of the Commonwealth. Members are located in Winchester, Lexington, Louisville, Murray, Richmond, Whitesburg, Danville, Frankfort, Bowling Green, and other cities.