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DentaQuest Contributes $20,000 to LSU Health New Orleans for New Rural-Focused Dental Programs

Investment will establish a coordinated strategy to encourage and prepare more dental students to practice in rural parishes

BOSTON — January 16, 2024 — DentaQuest, part of Sun Life U.S. and the nation’s second-largest dental benefits provider by membership, today announced a $20,000 contribution to Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center to support solutions designed to bring oral care to rural areas of the state. DentaQuest currently provides dental benefits to more than 1.3 million people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid and CHIP programs and has served the state through Medicare, Marketplace and Medicaid adult value-add programs for more than 11 years.

This donation is DentaQuest’s most recent investment to support efforts to diversify and expand the dental workforce in this and other states. “We know that oral health is essential to overall health, so ensuring that every Medicaid member has access to a dental provider is crucial,” said Steve Pollock, president of DentaQuest. 

To do that, we need to expand opportunities and create a more inclusive pathway for people to enter the dental profession, as well as expose Louisiana students to practicing in rural parishes and meeting the needs of a variety of communities.

Dr. Janet Southerland, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and chief academic officer at LSU Health Sciences Center, agrees. “We need to get more students from rural areas into the LSU dental program and encourage them to return to their home communities and practice,” she said. “We need to provide opportunities for advanced training because our state is in desperate need of more pediatric dentists and oral surgeons.”

In her current role as Interim Dean for the School of Dentistry, Dr. Southerland will establish a public-private planning committee to develop action plans for strategies including a scholarship program specific to rural care delivery, partnerships with community colleges in high-need regions to enable increased LSU enrollment and evaluating curriculum to ensure all dental graduates have competency in pediatric dentistry and basic oral surgery. Dr. Southerland is also on the board of Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit that hosts free health clinics, and is working to bring at least one of these comprehensive care clinics to counties with the highest unmet dental needs.

DentaQuest previously supported an interprofessional learning project at LSU Health that involved 10 students from various dental and medical degree programs. The two-year program focused on strengthening team coordination and oral cancer screenings.

“As a dental student, I learned that it is essential for dental professionals to communicate the importance of oral health as it relates to systemic health to other members of the health care team,” dental student participant Ragan Delrie said when the program concluded. “It was encouraging to witness the eagerness of non-dental students to learn more about how to perform an oral cancer screening and the importance of oral health. It was also very helpful to learn from my team members how different health professions assess and approach the oral health of their patients.”

In line with its commitment to improve the oral health of all, DentaQuest will continue investing in the future of Louisiana’s dental workforce and specifically plans to provide additional support in 2024 as the program focused on rural parishes develops.


The Sun Life U.S. dental business, including DentaQuest, is dedicated to improving the oral health of all through purpose-driven, outcomes-based solutions. We make dental benefits better for everyone through Preventistry® – an inclusive approach centered on preventive, quality care, expanded access and solutions built on valued relationships across the health care ecosystem. We manage dental and vision benefits for approximately 36 million Americans. For 30 years, we have delivered cost-effective benefit plans and services for employer groups, individuals, health plans, and government-sponsored dental programs. We are the largest Medicaid and CHIP dental benefits administrator in the U.S., by membership. We also support direct patient care through an expanding network of 80 dental practices in underserved communities across the United States. Learn more about the Sun Life U.S. dental business at and

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