May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Where Are They Now? Past Recipients of the Samuel D. Harris Research and Policy Fellowship Part 1

July 2015 Volume L Number 4

 Seeing emergency response teams in a hurricane, doing media interviews, going to Capitol Hill, conducting research with seasoned investigators, making lasting friendships. Previous Harris Fellows share different perspectives of their Fellowship year, but one theme is clear: It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience they won't forget. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Samuel D. Harris Research and Policy Fellowship, this article reviews what the past recipients are doing now and how the Fellowship has affected their careers, volunteer efforts and views on the profession. AAPD Past-President Dr. Paul Casamassimo created the Fellowship as an opportunity for pediatric dental residents to participate in research and advocacy activities of the Academy. The Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children Foundation has sponsored the Fellowship since its inception, joined in 2012 by Preventech. The award is named in honor of Dr. Samuel D. Harris, founder of the American Society of Dentistry for Children and the Academy and College of Pediatric Dentistry.


2004-2005 Dr. Sona J. Isharani Greensboro, N.C.

"I gained a broader view of a world beyond clinical dentistry and a deeper appreciation of how volunteers contribute to the profession," Isharani said. "You can't get these insights just by reading dental journals." A part of the broader view Isharani acquired relates to her commitment to public health advocacy. In addition to going to Capitol Hill, she successfully spoke before the Maryland Legislature on increased reimbursement levels for Medicaid patients.

Along with her legislative experiences, Isharani conducted research examining the quality and demographics of applicants to pediatric dental residencies. Her results showed a trend of high-quality applicants based on increases in grade point averages and exam scores. She also found significantly more females than males apply to pediatric dental residencies. Her findings were published in Pediatric Dentistry in 2006.

Isharani's current advocacy efforts are focused on helping other families in her community. "The Fellowship brought home the importance of giving back. I work with a number of programs to provide care to as many underprivileged children as possible." In addition to educating local groups about oral health, Isharani promotes the importance of membership and advocacy on a grassroots level.

Isharani received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002. After a fellowship at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, she completed her pediatric dental residency at the University of Maryland in Baltimore in 2005. Isharani is in private practice with her husband, Dr. Steven L. Hatcher, at Triad Dentistry in Greensboro. 


2005-2006 Dr. Tyrone Fernando Rodriguez Moses Lake, Wash.

Rodriguez brought a background of service to his Fellowship with a track record of volunteer activities, mission trips and career outreach. He said, "The Harris Fellowship allowed my desire to investigate, serve and educate to become a reality." His most memorable experience was first-hand exposure to the emergency response for the 2005 gulf coast hurricane. "Seeing how a dynamic and preemptive group of leaders worked together helped shape my involvement in organized dentistry."

Since the Fellowship, Rodriguez has played leadership roles in national health organizations. He gave testimony at the White House about the ACA and debated Dr. Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, on access and workforce issues. Last year he was president of the Hispanic Dental Association, noting that, "The real-world skills I learned as a Fellow gave me a pattern for leadership I used virtually every day as HDA president." In 2015, he will receive the Leadership Award from the National Hispanic Medical Association.

Rodriguez is a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas at Houston and completed his pediatric dental residency in 2006 at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He practices in two pediatric dental offices in Central Washington.


2008-2009 Dr. Courtney Alexander San Antonio, Texas

Alexander said, "I knew little about the Academy or the Foundation when I started. The best part of the experience was listening to varied viewpoints on national issues and getting a deep understanding of how both organizations advocate for children." By allowing her to interact with volunteer leadership, the Harris Fellowship propelled Alexander to further work in public policy and advocacy. Her enthusiasm grew through connections with individual leaders and solidified her desire to serve in a leadership role within the Academy and the Foundation.

Alexander's research project was "The Age One Dental Visit: A National Survey of General Practitioners on Current Practice and Potential for Continuing Education to Increase Providers." The results were presented as a poster at the AAPD meeting in 2009. In addition to her research activities, Alexander enjoyed other training opportunities. "Media training was a memorable experience, learning to represent pediatric dentistry in a positive way." Alexander has since been interviewed several times in San Antonio as an advocate for children's oral health.

Alexander has been on the Board of Trustees for Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children (HSHC) since 2010. She is chair of the Marketing Committee and past chair of the Grants and Programs Committee. In addition, she is a member of the AAPD New Dentist Committee.

Alexander graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio in 2005 and received a Certificate of Pediatric Dentistry from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio in 2009. She is currently a partner with two women dentists in two pediatric dental practices, Stone Oak Pediatric Dentistry and Dominion Pediatric Dentistry. 


2009-2010 Dr. Erin Stuewer Hinze Frisco, Texas

"I came to recognize not only the power of a unified voice in effecting change, but also the power of a single voice," Hinze said. She began her Fellowship with solid legislative experience from working in Washington, D.C., as the ASDA National Health Policy Extern. She built on this knowledge of legislative strategy in her Fellowship year.

In keeping with her interest in health policy, Hinze's research project assessed the knowledge, penetration and support among pediatricians of the American Academy of Pediatrics' oral health policy statement. She also investigated pediatricians' perceived value of oral health compared to other health issues. Her results show that while the majority of pediatricians are implementing parts of the AAP's oral health policy, the perceived importance of oral health remains low. A project report was published in the May-August 2014 issue of the Journal of Dentistry for Children.

Hinze has served as chair of the AAPD Residents Committee and is an active member of the AAPD, Texas Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Dallas County Pediatric Dental Society. She looks forward to participation in leadership at the AAPD in the future to be "a passionate voice in support of my profession and for children."

Hinze graduated from the Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas in 2008 and completed her pediatric residency from Baylor in 2010. She is a part-time faculty member of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, part-time clinical faculty of Baylor College of Dentistry, and most important, a full-time mom of two daughters who may well become part of the next generation of pediatric dentists.


The September issue of PDT will cover five more Harris Fellows: Drs. Mary Catherine Correll Wurth, Jacqueline Hom Burgette, Barrett W. R. Peters, Juan Fernando Yepes and Catherine Ashley Orynich.

Interested candidates for the 2016-2017 Harris Fellowship should contact AAPD Educational Affairs Manager Scott Dalhouse at sdalhouse@ 

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