OPCA Annual Awards of Excellence: Access & Sustainability

Silver Marquez (she/her), Preventative Health Program Manager, One Community Health

Silver is a Registered Dental Hygienist and our Dental Preventative Health Manager who leads OCH’s School Dental Services Program, providing free oral health services to all students in the Hood River County School District. Silver Marquez has been leading this program since 2017 and it has more than quadrupled in size.

Silver Marques accepts her Access & Sustainability award during OPCA's Annual Award ceremonyFor the first five years of the program, OCH offered sealants, fluoride varnish, and screenings and Registered Hygienist Silver Marquez initially shouldered all of the work herself. With the help of a dental assistant, she expanded the services offered in 2022 to include silver diamine fluoride (which can help stop or slow a cavity from growing on a tooth); betadine (povidone-iodine) topical applications, which help remove bacteria in the oral cavity; and preventative fillings used to help mitigate any tooth pain until kids can get in to see a dentist. The program continues to grow in both scope and size. During the 2021-2022 school year, OCH saw 794 kids. The program saw more than 850 students during the 2022-2023 school year and for the first time has scheduled more than 50 kids during summer school.

What sets Silver apart is her relentless pursuit of excellence and her willingness to go above and beyond her job duties. Silver ensures that all students who participate in our program receive oral health education and take-home oral health bags which include an electric toothbrush (clinically proven to reduce plaque and the risk of caries). Silver performs all the school exams and when she does encounter children who do require follow up care, she informs the parent or guardian immediately, communicates with the child’s oral healthcare team (i.e., other dental practices in the community), and helps to schedule any follow up appointments. This level of service goes above and beyond what other comparable programs offer in Oregon.

Silver has built long-lasting relationships with teachers and administrators in the Hood River County schools and she is a local celebrity in that regard. Clear communication with school administrators and teachers has contributed to the success of the program. Parents/guardians must understand the services so they can consent to them, teachers must be enlisted to coordinate schedules and allow kids to leave class for these services, and administrators must provide the space and time for the program.

Silver understands that oral health starts with prevention at an early age and that good oral health is a vital component of overall health. She was also born and raised in the community she serves, and thus understands its strengths and challenges. Data collected through the U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Survey in 2018 indicated that 40% of the population had not received a dental visit in the past year in our service area. Furthermore, the Columbia Gorge Community Health Assessment conducted in 2019 and the Regional Community Health Improvement Plan Progress Report published in 2022 highlight the need for equitable access to dental care. The program directly responds to a need identified by the community. Notably, there is no fluoride in the water in Hood River County and as a result, the caries rate in the community is much higher compared to other areas benefiting from fluoridated water. In the Columbia River Gorge, like many areas, dental practices shut down during the pandemic and experienced lower volumes during 2020 and 2021; people delayed care and the community is now faced with an even greater backlog of needs. According to the World Health Organization, dental caries is the most prevalent health condition in the world; nearly half of the world’s population is affected by it. School dental sealant programs are an evidence-based practice recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School-based dental sealant programs can reduce cavities by 50%.

Silver began her career at OCH in 2009 as a dental assistant and while working at OCH, obtained her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene at the Oregon Institute of Technology in 2015 and earned her master’s degree in allied health from the Oregon Institute of Technology in 2020. She is bi-racial both Native American and Latina, bilingual, and passionate about improving oral health outcomes in populations with the greatest disparities. She actively engages with the community, participating in outreach events for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and the Native American community. By connecting with underserved populations, Silver ensures that vital dental care reaches those who need it most. Her commitment to equity and inclusivity is evident in her efforts to eliminate barriers to care, such as language and cultural differences, by providing bilingual and culturally competent services.

Furthermore, Silver actively mentors and supports her colleagues, sharing her knowledge and expertise to elevate the entire clinical team. Silver is passionate about clinical integration. OCH tried many times to train medical assistants and providers to apply fluoride varnish during medical visits and the practice didn’t stick. Silver took it upon herself to personally train each of the providers and medical assistants at OCH’s sites and OCH has seen great. Her leadership is admired by her peers, and she is frequently consulted in both medical and dental.

She continuously seeks opportunities for professional growth and development, attending advanced training courses to stay at the forefront of dental hygiene practices. Silver recently received her restorative endorsement while 8 months pregnant and working, to help OCH expand the program into Washington state.

Silver’s exceptional dedication to her profession and her commitment to OPCA and OCH’s values are undeniable. She embodies the spirit of a leader and serves as a role model for her peers. Her passion for equitable and accessible oral health care has been the driving force behind OCH’s extraordinary oral health achievements in the community. It is with great enthusiasm that I support Silver Marquez’s nomination for the Oregon Primary Care Association Award in the Access and Sustainability category. She is undeniably deserving of this recognition for her remarkable contributions to One Community Health and the Hood River community.

OPCA's Annual Award winner for 2022-2023 pose together with OPCA Executive Director, Joan Watson-Patko and By-Laws and Nominating Committee Chair, Andrew Suchocki

From left to right: Joan Watson-Patko, Shanta Frisbee, Silver Marquez, Jason Villanueva, Penny Pritchard, Ruth Ann McGovern, Angie Amundson, and Andrew Suchocki

Submission written by Angela Michalek, Chief Innovation Officer, One Community Health