Time for change Improving Oral Health in 2023

Our Impact

  • $13M+ in grants awarded to 96 organizations
  • 87% of learners agree they can apply our education
  • 81% increase in average SDF applied across all COrHT project sites

A Statement from Our President and CEO

“The crisis isn’t coming; the crisis is here. But we’re making progress — and we’re not leaving until we’ve realized our goal of an oral health system that works for everyone.”

— Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA

There is, without question, an oral health crisis in our country.

In the past, it’s been called a “silent epidemic,” but today, you don’t have to look too hard to see the devastating impacts of this crisis in the headlines or shared across social media. Those of us working in this space know the realities of how we got here.

We know our oral health system developed over time in patchwork form, producing a system that isn’t well-designed to achieve the best outcomes for patients.

We know the fee-for-service model leads to misaligned financial incentives. We know dental providers are siloed from the rest of health care despite clear evidence of the connection between oral health and overall health. And we know that many people, often those from underserved and marginalized communities, lack access to critical preventive care.

Thankfully, we also know that solutions are possible and are helping elevate the voices of the people most impacted and the solutions that will lead to a more equitable system for everyone.

I’m proud that CareQuest Institute’s work in 2023 is part of this solution.

We’ve helped increase the use of several innovations and best practices, including minimally invasive care, teledentistry, and caries risk assessments. We’ve granted more than $12 million, thoughtfully and strategically, to organizations that are improving oral health in local communities. We’ve produced hundreds of data analyses and insights shared through reports, articles, and presentations that lift up issues and voices that often don’t have a seat at the table.

We’ve shared new ideas, frameworks, and tools to improve patient care with more than 12,000 providers through education programs. We are advocating—virtually and in-person—with partners from around the country fighting for a better system.

Below, I invite you to learn more about this work and the progress we’re making as an organization and with our partners to effect change.

The crisis isn’t coming; the crisis is here. But we’re making progress . . . and we’re not leaving until we’ve realized our goal of an oral health system that works for everyone.

Click play to hear from Myechia

child brushes teeth in the mirror while female relative looks on and smiles

Our Impact

Across Five Areas of Activation

Image 1: CareQuest Institute President and CEO Myechia Minter-Jordan speaks on leadership panel at The Root Institute event. Image 2: Male dentist wearing mask and gloves examines child's mouth.

How We Do It

Working together to improve
the oral health of all

Image 1: female dentist talks to child sitting on relative's lap. Image 2: dental team member helps patient fill out forms.

Our Community

Hannah Cardosi, senior administrative assistant at CareQuest Institute, shares her perspective at the organization’s annual retreat in November.

T.J. Clarke II, MBA, the executive director of Connecticut Oral Health Initiative (COHI), shakes hands with a local dentist. COHI, a grantee of CareQuest Institute, is a nonprofit organization that aims to strengthen and safeguard access to quality, affordable oral health services for all Connecticut residents.

girl smiles at camera while sitting in dental chair

Lillian, a first grader from Missouri, was born with a complex heart condition. As she grew older, another often overlooked health concern came to light: her oral health. Lillian’s teeth came in with spots and quickly started chipping from cavities. Her parents had an extremely difficult time finding a dentist who would treat Lillian. She needed oral surgery, but dentists were only comfortable doing the procedure in the hospital, which was over an hour away. The next appointment would take months, and insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the procedure because they said it wasn’t medically necessary to do it in the hospital, leaving high out-of-pocket costs for Lillian’s parents.

dental hygienist in mask and protective eyewear cleans child's teeth

A dental hygienist from Blue Ridge Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center in North Carolina, cleans a child’s teeth in a mobile dental service bus. Blue Ridge Health, a participant in CareQuest Institute’s Community Oral Health Transformation (COrHT) Initiative, uses teledentistry to help children in school get access to good oral health care.

doctor in mask talks to female patient

A doctor at MyCare Health Center in Michigan examines a patient. Since June of 2022, the Federally Qualified Health Center has been part of CareQuest Institute’s Community Oral Health Transformation (COrHT) Initiative, which provides a framework for safety net dental clinics to help transform oral health care delivery. Many patients at MyCare Health Center are enrolled in Medicaid and face many challenges to access oral health care.

oral health advocates talk to woman at informational booth

Promotoras from Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND), a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, affordable dental care to Colorado children in need, connect with parents at community events throughout the year. CareQuest Institute has provided two grants to KIND to help fund its promotora program.

oral health advocates walk through hallway of Alabama State House

Advocates with Alabama Arise work tirelessly to improve the lives of Alabamians who are marginalized by poverty. CareQuest Institute provided a grant to Alabama Arise in 2023 to help the organization advocate for better oral health benefits.

CareQuest Institute colleagues have discussion at roundtable during annual staff retreat

Together, we...

Together, with our partners — providers, patients, policymakers, and stakeholders across oral health — we are creating a more accessible, equitable, and integrated health system for everyone.

Our Team

Why is CareQuest Institute’s mission important to you?

Bree Bess

Grants & Program Associate

“It allows me to connect my values directly to the work that I get to do. Each day, I get to work with an amazing team to get one step closer to oral health for all.”

Brenna Smith-Mickunas

Human Resources Specialist

“I have not always had access to oral health care and resources. Being able to personally have an impact in helping pave the way for others to experience a more accessible, equitable, and integrated health care system is not only gratifying; it’s also meaningful, to know that I am contributing to intentional changes within the oral health space.”

Caroline McLeod, RDH, MS

Value-Based Solutions Manager

“Every person deserves to be healthy and thrive in their full identity and culture, showing a beautiful smile!”

Chavonah Graham

Marketing Associate

“Because of the connection I feel to improving the oral health of all. It’s for people who look like me, communities that don’t have the resources or opportunities to receive proper oral health care, and communities that deserve equity and accessibility. I am proud to be a part of the solution and making an impact where it matters most.”

Eric Tranby, PhD

Director, Analytics & Data Insights

“It means that we are all working with a common goal to improve the health of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It feels good to come to work every day knowing that our work makes a difference in real people’s lives.”

Francesca Gattuso, MA

Marketing Content Specialist

“It’s rooted in inclusivity. When my Dad first immigrated to the United States in the 1980s, he struggled with accessing health and dental care. To know our work at CareQuest Institute is improving the lives of people who are experiencing similar circumstances feels powerful and purposeful.”

Hannah Cheung, MPH, MS, RDH

Health Sciences Specialist

“CareQuest Institute understands that the current system can and must be improved if we want to collectively move forward as a healthier society. From the individual consumer level to the federal government, we strive to impact all areas where change can occur.”

John Gabelus

Grants & Programs Associate

“I know people, friends, and family members who continue to struggle with oral health traumas from the past as well as others who believe they will never be able to afford it. I want them to be able to comfortably access care that every person should have so that they can live healthy and productive lives.”

Kelly Schroeder, MS, RDH

Health Sciences Specialist

“As a clinical dental hygienist, I saw firsthand that traditional dentistry is designed to respond to acute oral disease rather than help patients achieve oral health. Even people who have access to oral health care can and do lose their teeth to chronic disease. The work we do here helps to demonstrate the magnitude and complexity of oral disease and helps find solutions to improve and maintain oral health.”

Kristin LaRoche

Vice President, Public Affairs

“CareQuest Institute’s mission translates to real change for real people. From strengthening dental benefits in public programs to integrating medical and dental care to uncovering new data insights that help shape new solutions — every day, we get to work with incredible advocates, community and business leaders, and policymakers on issues that have a meaningful impact on people's lives.”

Lisa Heaton, PhD

Science Writer

“It both acknowledges the current inequities in the oral health system and provides a clear, forward-thinking goal that imagines an oral health system that works for everyone.”

Lisa Sall

Marketing Manager

“I have had the opportunity to volunteer at free dental clinics for the underserved and talk to people about their challenges to access care. I met a 17-year-old Black man who drove several hours from rural Michigan and slept overnight in his car to be sure he was among one of the first in line to see a dentist in Chicago. He was having tooth pain, making it hard to sleep, eat, and go to school. Because he was a minor without a guardian, he did not see a dentist that day either. I still think about him and wonder: Did he ever get the care he needed? No one should have to go to these extremes to get health care, and it’s important to me to work for an organization that is trying to change that.”

Malcolm Carter-Harris

Director, Organizational Learning & Culture

“I believe that the CareQuest mission aims at the transformation of oral health culture in the United States. Driven by equity, collaboration, and innovation, which impacts every aspect of our operations and colleague experiences. Subsequently, our mission would challenge us to consistently create a positive impact on all stakeholder communities.”

Mari Houlihan

Grants & Programs Associate

“Working in the nonprofit health care sector, I’ve seen how breakdowns in our health care system have limited the potential of so many. Working with CareQuest Institute’s grantees nationwide to better their communities’ access to oral health is important to me because by breaking down barriers to care and advocating for systems level change, we can make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Michael Briddon, MA

Director, Education & Content

“We are focused on improving the system. We know it’s not about blame or bad actors; we know it’s a systemic problem that requires all stakeholders — providers, policymakers, payors, and partners — to put the patient at the center and give everyone the opportunity to live a healthy life.”

Wai-Sum Leung, MS, RDH

Project Coordinator, Health Transformation

“I have seen firsthand how much unmet need there is for oral health and I want to do my part to bridge the gap. As a clinician and in previous roles, I’ve worked with patients who have to go through unbelievable trials to receive care. I’ve worked with patients who had to undertake extreme commutes to go to a clinic that accepted their insurance, patients and patient guardians who would opt to have their teeth pulled because there were too many barriers in place to receive care, patients who cried on the phone when I told them how much their procedure would cost. Everyone deserves to receive care regardless of their income class, location, race, or identity.”

Executive Leadership

CareQuest Institute executives pose for group photo in front of mantle


Patricia Ma, Esq., Chief Legal Officer, Executive Vice President | Denise W. Marks, MBA, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President | Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, President, Chief Executive Officer | Leslie Carver, MHA, Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President | Grandy Cody, MBA, Vice President, Chief of Staff | Kaz Rafia, DDS, MBA, MPH, Chief Health Equity Officer, Executive Vice President

Board of Directors

Andrew Agwunobi, MD

Andrew Agwunobi, MD

CEO & EVP Health Affairs, UConn Health Systems

Kathleen Betts

Kathleen Betts

President, Prizm Advisors LLC

Roderick King, MD, MPH

Roderick King, MD, MPH

SVP, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, University of Maryland Medical System

Todd Marshall, DDS, MBA

Todd Marshall, DDS, MBA

Independent Advisor and Consultant

Evelyn Henry Miller, CPA

Evelyn Henry Miller, CPA

Board Director, TDIndustries

William Mills

William Mills

Chairman of the Board of Managers, Ascension Ventures IV, L.P.

Pam Reeve, MBA

Pam Reeve, MBA

Board Chair

Bob Weyant, MS, DMD, DrPH

Bob Weyant, MS, DMD, DrPH

Professor & Chair, Dental Public Health, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pittsburgh

Jessica Zeaske, MHS, PhD, MBA

Jessica Zeaske, MHS, PhD, MBA

Echo Health Ventures, Partner

Call to Action

A Statement from Our Chief Health Equity Officer and Executive Vice President

“If we really zoom in on our mission-centered work from this past year, from 2023, we realize that we have an immense potential to improve the system. And when we see it like that, it is incredibly empowering.”

— Kaz Rafia, DDS, MBA, MPH

One of the things I often think about is the unique position of CareQuest Institute and how we're positioned to change not just the narrative around oral health as part of overall health, but also the landscape as a whole. The more I thought about it, I realized that truly and genuinely at its deepest level, we're only beholden to the communities that we're advocating for.

At its core, that's really our mission and our charge, and really, I think it stands on our shoulders. It is our task. This is our responsibility. We're in this space and it's a privilege. Showing up in a space with a certain and healthy degree of humility, it really forces us to acknowledge that thankfully, we're not the only ones.

We better not be the only ones, because that monopolizing a solution and that feeling like it is only up to us leads to solutions that are going to either not fit or really have less impact.

And we need solutions that are rooted in the community. We need additional voices at the table. And the fact that we have partners, the fact that we have additional advocates in this space, and that we have grassroots organizations and activists that really feed into the fire, all of that, all of it collectively allows us to have a broader front. We can go after issues that involve access, equity, medical and dental integration. We can talk about policy, we can talk about Medicaid adult dental benefits. We can explore pathways to have dental benefits that are meaningfully within Medicare. Really, it creates a multipronged approach. And if we really zoom in on our mission-centered work from this past year, from 2023, we realize that we have an immense potential to improve the system. And when we see it like that, it is incredibly empowering.

Click play to hear from Kaz

CareQuest Institute staff pose in front of ocean at staff retreat