A Passion for Patient Care: Marques Bland, Smart Smiles supervisor
Marques Bland speaks at the
Marques Bland’s job is to make children smile.
No, he is not a photographer. But he focuses on putting good
health in the picture for youngsters -- and they can look good for the
camera when the work is done.
Marques is supervisor for Smart Smiles, the school-based oral health program that Columbia St. Mary’s sponsors for impoverished children in private and public elementary schools in the Milwaukee area.
Now in its 11th year, Smart Smiles serves 6,000 children in kindergarten through eighth grade in participating Milwaukee public schools and private schools. The program sends a dentist into schools to assess children for care needs, followed by a dental hygiene team who teaches them how to keep up good oral health and brings them services such as tooth cleaning, fluoride treatments and dental sealants.
Smart Smiles also helps connect children to local dentists for ongoing care and, for children without insurance, arranges for care at Seton Dental Clinic. It is the largest program of its kind in Wisconsin. Implemented by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic in Milwaukee, the program meets the youths’ great and growing need for preventive oral care and dental care.
Keeping Smart Smiles running smoothly keeps Marques busy with tasks that include planning schedules, delivering supplies, talking with school officials and parents, and helping the caregivers -- “whatever needs to be done to keep schools and keep kids in the program,” he says. Often, he is called on to do what he can to calm frightened children so the dentists and hygienists can do their work. “I don’t know how I do it, but I get it done,” he says.
A Milwaukee native, Marques graduated from Riverside University High School and knew that he wanted to continue learning. “School has always been the number one priority in my household,” he says, so from an early age, “it was instilled in my mindset that college was the next phase after high school, not necessarily an optional thing to do.”
He went on to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and along the way started at CSM through the INROADS internship program, spending four summers working in Marketing and one summer in Women’s Services. He received an INROADS Scholarship and an Estil Strawn Sr. Scholarship for minority students training for healthcare jobs from Columbia St. Mary’s Foundation. And it was at CSM that Marques “found my passion” by discovering “what I wanted to do to help other people.”
Marques graduated from La Crosse in December 2008 with a major in spanish and a minor in sociology. The next month, he started with Smart Smiles as an Oral Health Advocate. As an Advocate, he promoted the program by educating school leaders and parents about the importance of oral health, helped Smart Smiles register more children for services, worked with area dentists to find ongoing care for youths who needed it, and assisted the supervisor. About a year and a half later, in June 2010, Marques was promoted to supervisor.
Poor children frequently come to classrooms suffering from toothaches that robbed them of sleep the previous night. It is almost impossible to educate youngsters in this condition. But Smart Smiles, targeting children at risk for tooth decay, helps them maintain the oral health they need to concentrate on learning.
Marques spent his college
Marques and his Smart Smiles teammates help children in schools that
serve a large percentage of impoverished pupils. Many of them have
no dental insurance and no access to the preventive care -- such as
dental sealants, fluoride treatments, tooth cleaning, and education --
that the federal government recommends for children.
Poor youths have twice the tooth decay of more affluent peers, yet their disease is more likely to be untreated. The city has reported that 54 percent of city youths have untreated dental decay -- 15 percent of them requiring urgent care. Smart Smiles has found untreated decay in 60 percent of the children it screens, and urgent-care needs in about 6 percent.
Also, the program lays a foundation of good overall health for children, as its services help prevent serious long-term problems that are linked to poor oral health, among them cardiac, respiratory and chronic diseases such as diabetes. The children, and their parents, learn important lessons about oral health that they can take into the rest of the community as well.
It is no wonder that the work makes Marques smile, too. His job brings the satisfaction of being “one of the people who help get treatment done for kids,” says Marques, who is pursuing an MBA at Cardinal Stritch University and hopes to attend law school.
Smart Smiles has been honored with a 2010 Excellence in Education Award from Milwaukee Public Schools, which recognized the effectiveness of the long partnership between the school district and CSM in providing dental services to needy children. Earlier, the program received a 2009 Wisconsin Promising Practices Award from the state of Wisconsin Office of Minority Health.
Click here for more information about Smart Smiles.
Click here for more information about making a donation to Smart Smiles.
(left to right) Sr. Mary Elizabeth
Cullen, D.C., St. Elizabeth Ann Seton