Dr. Karen M. Yoder, director of Civic Engagement and Oral Health Policy at Indiana University School of Dentistry and a longtime champion of underserved populations in Indiana and elsewhere, is one of three individuals who received prestigious 2012 IUPUI Alumni Leadership Awards during ceremonies at University Place Conference Center and Hotel on Feb. 23.
The Maynard K. Hine Medals honor the memory of IUPUI’s first chancellor (1969-1973), who was also longtime dean of the IU School of Dentistry (1945-1968). The other recipients are Stephen A. Brinegar, whose affiliation is with the Mike Carroll Golf Outing; and Tonja C. Eagan, Liberal Arts and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Dr. Yoder's contributions to this campus, to this school, and to the community are enormous. In less than a decade, which began with her transition from the part-time faculty to full time to become director of Community Dentistry in 2002, Dr. Yoder, to quote a recent article in the IU dental school's Alumni Bulletin, “turned the ripples IUSD was making locally in community outreach into waves with a global reach.”
She worked with Drs. Timothy Carlson and Angeles Martinez-Mier to initiate the school’s International Service-Learning Program, which started in Haiti and Mexico and today sends volunteers to sites in eight nations on three continents. In 2003 she collaborated with the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Dental Association to launch the Seal Indiana mobile dental program, which to date has served more than 23,000 Hoosier children statewide while helping dental students realize there’s a wider role they can play in community wellness when they become practitioners.
Dr. Yoder has made important contributions to AMPATH, the organization representing Moi University and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kenya and a consortium of North American academic health centers led by Indiana University working in partnership with the Government of Kenya. In 2010, she established and led the first of what are to be annual visits by dental teams of IU students and professors to Eldoret, Kenya, where a dental school is being built. Dr. Yoder is working with her colleagues in Kenya to establish teaching and research activities that are mutually beneficial to IU and Moi universities.
She has helped inspire the creation of many other projects that connect IUSD to the greater community on an ongoing basis, such as the Shelter Sealant Program for homeless persons; screenings and mouth guard fabrication for athletes in Indiana’s Special Olympics; IUSD’s student-managed partnership with the HealthNet People’s Health and Dental Clinic in which dental students volunteer their Saturdays to see patients in need for free; the Oral Health Policy Forum that engages students in discussions about policymaking and introduces them to legislators and the Indiana State House; and student volunteer service at a northern Indiana clinic serving primarily the Amish community.
In her new role as director of Civic Engagement and Oral Health Policy, which she accepted in 2011, Dr. Yoder is working to further raise IUSD’s profile and impact, aligning the dental school’s civic engagement program with IUPUI’s RISE initiative, which focuses on increasing student participation in research, international, service, and experiential learning programs.
February 1, 2012