College of Dental Medicine Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care Timothy Martinez, DMD, will receive an award recognizing his contributions to making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

Martinez is receiving an award at the 21st Annual Access Awards Luncheon on Oct. 15, 2012, organized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Commission on Disabilities. His award comes from Supervisor Gloria Molina.

“It’s not about me. It’s really about the University and our students’ work,” Martinez said. “It’s their efforts that did this.”

The luncheon, which has the theme “Disabled does not mean unable,” funds scholarships for students with disabilities transitioning from high school to college as well as veterans, said Commissioner Janet Neal, first vice president of the County Commission on Disabilities and event committee chairwoman.

“So those that are being honored are those who have promoted that concept, treating us all with dignity and respect,” she said.

The College of Dental Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences is partnering with community organizations such as the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center to bring dental care to people with disabilities. CDM students are participating in a variety of health fairs to identify children who need dental care.

Martinez and the College are developing a permanent site at the Maclaren Center in El Monte that will triage and treat children and adults with disabilities.

An important goal of the College’s outreach is for students to become comfortable treating all patients.

“These patients are denied access to dental services if they are refused appointments by a general dentist who may feel uncomfortable treating special needs patients. Sometimes such decisions may prevent critical dental visits for months and serious infections in the oral cavity may go untreated,” Martinez said. “I tell my students to get them in, take the X-rays, and give a diagnosis because they may need to be on medication. Just because they’re disabled and you haven’t worked with them, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see them.”

CDM students provide care at the Special Olympics and at community events.

“I’m trying to get students comfortable seeing these disenfranchised populations that dentists don’t feel comfortable treating,” Martinez said. “So we can in their formative years change behavior. I cannot change behavior for dentists that have been out working 20 or 30 years.”

Third-year College of Dental Medicine student Wade Banner, DMD ’14, has worked with Martinez on several outreach efforts.

“These special needs opportunities and Dr. Martinez’s curriculum has helped me to understand the unprecedented need there is for dentists to become comfortable in treating this population and the real barriers to care that is present for this population in accessing dental services,” Banner said. “One of his main goals is to have all of his students become fully comfortable in treating this unique population to decrease their barriers to care. By having exposure to the special needs population early in our careers, it is hoped that we will see the impact we can make in individual lives. I cannot thank Dr. Martinez enough for his selfless dedication in teaching and exposing myself and my classmates to this rewarding aspect of dentistry.”