The Journey Toward Oral Health Equity in Virginia

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February 5, 2024

A particular moment stands out to Sarah Bedard Holland, the CEO of Virginia Health Catalyst, as when she realized she wanted to work in health care: 

“When I was in high school, someone who was very close to me was diagnosed with AIDS, and I had the opportunity to see firsthand how my community reacted to that,” Bedard Holland says. “I saw how the health care system responded to him, his diagnosis, and ultimate death. . . . I think it was that general injustice and inequity that really cemented for me that there was an opportunity to change things.” 

Then, while working in the health care industry, she experienced another wake-up call: She heard the story of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old boy in Maryland who died in 2007 from an infection in his tooth that spread to his brain. 

Bedard Holland realized that many people faced significant barriers to accessing oral health care — barriers that she helps communities overcome in her work at Virginia Health Catalyst

Bedard Holland has been with the organization for about 14 years. The statewide nonprofit’s mission is to ensure all Virginians have equitable access to comprehensive health care that includes oral health. Their work includes provider education, public awareness, and advocacy, with a helping hand from CareQuest Institute, which has awarded grants to the organization since 2010. 

“It has always felt like a relatively strong partnership that doesn’t have the same power dynamics that you sometimes see with other large organizations when there’s kind of a grantee/grantor situation,” Bedard Holland says. 

In this video, Bedard Holland dives deeper into how Virginia Health Catalyst is improving the oral health care system in Virginia and their ongoing partnership with CareQuest Institute.

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