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High Honor For a "Quiet Hero"

He's been called one of health care's "quiet heroes," but Dr. William R. Cinotti would shout from the rooftops to draw attention to his cause: Providing dental care to New Jersey's underserved populations.

For his leadership in this area, Dr. Cinotti received the Pew Health Professions Commission's 1997 Primary Care Achievement Award in Patient Care. The award, which honors exemplary primary care practitioners, is given in cooperation with the U.S. Public Health Service.

Dr. Cinotti, associate dean of the Office of Interdisciplinary and Extramural Programs, is the first dentist to receive the award, which has been likened to "primary care's Pulitzer Prize." He was nominated by Dean Robert Saporito, who accompanied him to the awards ceremony last September in San Francisco. Dean Saporito also spoke about how NJDS and the dental profession address the public's oral health needs.

"I'm very humbled to receive this award, but no one wins an award alone," Dr. Cinotti says. "It was a team effort. It's been wonderful being recognized for what we've done, and we want to do more."

What Dr. Cinotti and his teammates have done is create a program for the dentally underserved­the handicapped, AIDS patients, migrant workers, and the poor­that is considered a national model. Dental care centers are coordinated by the Statewide Network for Community Oral Health Care, a coalition of health policy and health care organizations from the private and public sectors.

Since 1989, 11 centers have been established in southern New Jersey, an area where reimbursement schedules for Medicaid are especially low. One is located in an Atlantic County Housing and Urban Development high rise. Another teams each summer with Gloucester Educational Services to evaluate and treat migrant farmers' children. "The most frustrating part is securing funds. Money is becoming harder to get," says Dr. Cinotti. "The most rewarding part is treating a population that is not being served. In 1996 alone, we had approximately 50,000 patient visits."

There are plans to expand the program by providing reduced-fee services to the working poor. These people earn just above the Medicaid level, notes Dr. Cinotti, and do not have the money to pay a private dentist.

Dr. Cinotti, an NJDS faculty member since 1965, received the UMDNJ University Excellence Award for Service and Outreach to the External Community in 1993. In 1996, he became the UMDNJ Endowed Professor of Community Dentistry and Dental Public Health. This was the university's fourth endowed chair for the Hunterdon Health Fund, which was established by Johnson & Johnson.