Michael Milano, DMD, has provided free dental exams, arranged follow-up care, recruited more than 1,000 dental professionals, written grants, published peer-reviewed research, and presented medical education to improve dental care for individuals with intellectual disabilities for the past 20 years. Now, Special Olympics is honoring the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Dentistry clinical associate professor with the Golisano Health Leadership Award.
“Special Olympics is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Keith L. Fishburne, president and CEO of Special Olympics North Carolina. “Our athletes and the people of North Carolina are exceptionally lucky and very grateful to have health professionals like Dr. Milano in the state.”
During the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics NC Fall Tournament in High Point earlier this month, Fishburne announced that Milano was receiving the award. The very next day, Milano and 40 volunteers that he recruited provided free dental exams, oral hygiene instruction, and mouthguards to 165 Special Olympics athletes.
People with intellectual disabilities are among the largest and most medically underserved disability groups in the world, according to the Special Olympics organization. These patients often lack access to quality healthcare and experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death. Among other beneficial activities, Milano maintains a statewide list of more than 50 dental providers who welcome and enable Special Olympics athletes to find appropriate follow-up care.
“I have been scared of the dentist for as long as I can remember, but I knew that my dental health was not where it should be,” said Kristine Hughes, a Special Olympics athlete from Wake County. “Dr. Milano has helped me find a dentist who I feel comfortable visiting and is ready to help me improve my dental health.”
The Golisano Health Leadership Awards are a global partnership between Special Olympics and the Golisano Foundation. They are presented every other year to individuals or organizations dedicated to improving healthcare and advancing the health initiatives of Special Olympics. Milano is one of 32 individuals or organizations receiving the award in 2016. Up to 7 honorees will be selected to receive the Global Award at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria next March.
Special Smiles is one of 7 noninvasive screening programs provided free to Special Olympics athletes with the support of the Golisano Foundation. These programs provide more than 1.7 million free health examinations in more than 130 countries. Throughout the next 5 years, Special Olympics North Carolina will expand healthcare screenings and incorporate new programs focused on healthy lifestyles, including nutrition.
“Dr. Milano’s commitment to dental health, the Special Smiles program, and the Special Olympics community is second to none,” said Fishburne.