These Special Olympics Health Champions are building better, more inclusive health care systems for people with intellectual disabilities
2016 Golisano Global Health Leadership Award Honorees
Dr. Mohamed Askar, a Healthy Athletes Clinical Director at Special Olympics Egypt, is one of the most active clinical directors in SOE. He has made significant contributions to the program since he started three years ago. He participates in all health events held by SOE and invites his colleagues to come and join and encourages them to know more about our athletes and how they can help. Dr. Askar also recruits and trains volunteer health professionals during the events and in his private orthopedic clinic. Dr. Askar’s clinic also provides free medical care for athletes. By doing this he encourages families to bring their children for follow up, referrals and treatment if needed. Dr. Askar uses his connections with medical companies and universities to secure equipment, supplies and free medical balls and wheelchairs for athletes during the events. Dr. Askar's dedication and support makes him a role model for all other clinical directors. SEE VIDEO
Korea International Cooperation Agency
The Korea International Cooperation Agency has had a great impact on the Special Olympics Uganda Health program. The organization has supported SOU during Healthy Athletes screenings by providing both medical supplies and volunteers to support the screenings. KOICA has also provided fitness training equipment, medical equipment and also healthy meals during the screenings. KOICA supported SOU by providing 2 full time volunteer staff in the areas of medical and sports and holding free medical camps in the communities where athletes live. KOICA has many medical experts that are based in different hospitals and have participated in screenings to support the healthy work of Special Olympics. KOICA also has a mobile health program that provides medical screenings and treatment for the community. To date more than 400 athletes have benefited from this partnership. SEE VIDEO
Lions Club International MD 112 Belgium
Lions Clubs International MD 112 Belgium supports Belgium’s Healthy Athletes program financially by covering costs for the necessary supplies for multiple Healthy Athletes events. Lions Clubs International MD 112 Belgium supports the Belgium's Healthy Athletes Program also on a logistical level. Each year they gather almost 4000 giveaways. Each year, they also come with 100-120 volunteers to support and help where they can. Lions Clubs International MD 112 Belgium has also helped with finding new sponsors for Healthy Athletes. Lions Clubs International MD 112 Belgium has helped SOB to create awareness about the Healthy Athletes program and health problems in people with ID. Lions Clubs International MD 112 Belgium has played an important role, thanks to their financial and logistical support. SEE VIDEO
Rajanukul Institute, Ministry of Public Health
The Rajanukul Institute, Ministry of Public Health has been a partner of Special Olympics Thailand since 2008. The institute’s healthcare and educational personnel have developed screening tools specific to the needs of athletes, prepared training resources for health care professionals and special educators, as well as providing healthcare advice to athletes and families. The Rajanukul Institute has expanded the Healthy Community model from 6 pilot schools to the remaining 14 schools across the country. The Rajanukul Institute has provided services to over 5,000 athletes and trained over 140 health care professionals. Rajanukul Institute employees also serve as Clinical Directors for Special Smiles and MedFest. SEE VIDEO
In his work as the Co-Director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, Dr. Stephen Sulkes has championed Healthy Communities work and has been an incredible resource and advisor. He has secured grants from organizations such as the Special Hope Foundation to improve the fitness of Special Olympics New York athletes. He founded the Rochester student chapter of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) and encourages students to get involved with Special Olympics both through Healthy Athletes but also as event volunteers and coaches. Dr. Sulkes’ work is also reflective of the unique commitment of the University of Rochester to make inclusive health a part of its strategic plan - advancing access to care in multiple arenas - from the Complex Care Center and enhanced access to oral health, to training the next generation of clinicians to care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. SEE VIDEO
Beijing Tongren Hospital, Capital Medical University
Beijing Tongren Hospital has supported Special Olympics’ Health program since 2002. They consistently provide medical equipment, health professionals, and help on promoting the Special Olympics Health initiatives to the public. They have selected their most experienced medical experts as Clinical Directors and created opportunities for its team to engage with various Special Olympics health events. Beijing Tongren Hospital coordinates the medical professionals throughout China and ensures sustainable eye health and treatment access are available to Special Olympics athletes. They have committed to provide 300 free medical check and consultation for people with ID who need follow up care every year. Since Beijing Tongren Hospital has engaged with Special Olympics Opening Eyes, over 3,000 athletes have been screened. SEE VIDEO
Universidad Cientifica del Sur – Escuela de Estomatología (FCS)
Universidad Cientifica del Sur is a long-term partner of Special Olympics Peru. Throughout this partnership, Universidad Cientifica del Sur has sponsored and participated in many Special Smiles events. Residents of the Pediatric Dentistry Residency Program frequently attend the events. Universidad Cientifica del Sur also provides dental care for people with intellectual disabilities for free. A dental clinic is open 3 days a week for athletes to visit. The academic curriculum of the dental program has been updated to include 8 mandatory hours to train students how to approach and interact with patients who have special needs. This model will be replicated with other medical schools at the university. SEE VIDEO
Dr. Kelly Pritchett has served as the Nebraska Healthy Hearing Clinic Director since being trained in February 2009. Since that time, she has organized the Healthy Hearing screening event at the Nebraska Summer State Games every year. Over the past 7 years, SON has been successful in screening over 1200+ athletes. SON has also expanded services at state games by providing hearing aid care and maintenance for those athletes who are currently wearing hearing aids. With her work at the university, she draws her volunteers from the Doctor of Audiology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Because of their involvement during their education, students have gone on to volunteer their time with local Special Olympics screening events. Dr. Pritchett also coordinated the venue and volunteers for the 2010 US Special Olympics National Games, which were held in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has also served as an international volunteer for the 2011 Special Olympics Summer World Games in Athens, Greece. Since that time, Dr. Pritchett has taken on a role of Regional Clinical Advisor for the Healthy Hearing Program. She has trained 7 individuals to be Clinical Directors in their respective states.
Centro Medico ABC
Centro Medico ABC, a private hospital in Mexico, supports Healthy Athletes events by providing a mobile cardiology unit and dentists to participate in local Healthy Athletes events. All athletes who are screened receive follow-up health care at Medico Centro ABC, free of charge. All athletes and their families are welcomed and accepted. Medico Centro ABC has also included athletes in a unified 5k run, hosted Family Forums, and provided materials for athletes on topics like sun protection, hydration, and health risks of smoking. At Centro Medico ABC, families and athletes have a place where their athletes can have the clinical follow up they need. From these screenings and follow up care, athletes have learned how important it is to take care of themselves and that doctors are there to help them.
Lynda Christel has been volunteering with Special Olympics Arizona since 2012. She started and currently maintains the Health Leadership Committee for the SOAZ Board of Directors, Medical Advisory Committee and works continuously to recruit physicians and medical volunteers to further the goals of the Healthy Athletes Program. Thanks to Lynda the Healthy Athletes screenings have some of the most highly recognized physicians in their field treating our athletes and advising our clinical directors. With her relationships with children's hospitals and Mayo Clinic, Lynda continues to create and lead a vast health network that provides SOAZ with resources for better access to care for athletes. Lynda has been instrumental in furthering the reach of our Year-Round Wellness/ Fitness Program, Healthy LEAP. Healthy LEAP (Lifestyle, Education, And Practice) is a series of health lessons that range from nutrition, fitness, and safety delivered by coaches as part of weekly sports practices. More athletes have had the opportunity to participate in Healthy LEAP around the state of Arizona as a result of Lynda's leadership.
Dr. Marc Colaluce has volunteered for Special Olympics for approximately 9 years. He has represented Special Olympics Fit Feet on the Local, National and World levels as a Volunteer Clinician providing clinical evaluations to Special Olympic Athletes and Podiatric Care when needed. Dr. Marc Colaluce serves as the Statewide Volunteer Clinical Director for Special Olympics Florida and the Regional Clinical Director for Special Olympics International. Since the day Dr. Marc Colaluce started screening with Special Olympics Florida he has worked to improve and expand Special Olympics Florida’s Fit Feet program. His quest for excellence and desire for growth is apparent in the amount of time he gives lovingly to Special Olympic Florida Fit Feet. In addition to the screenings and recruitment of screeners and Clinical Directors, Dr. Colaluce has also worked with two programs in the state affiliated with Podiatric Medicine. Dr. Colaluce is dedicated to finding follow-up care for our athletes and consumers statewide and has worked tirelessly at professional meetings giving updates, recruiting in the halls and volunteering at our Special Olympics Fit Feet Booth at conferences and meetings. His recruitment pitch is: “You will increase your practice with the nicest and most appreciative patients ever!” Dr. Colaluce has welcomed athletes and individuals with ID into his practice with open arms. His practice has flourished with the addition of many intellectually disabled athletes. His practice is open to athletes, group homes, family members and friends of Special Olympics.
Dr. Augusto Diaz Escobar
Augusto has been involved with Healthy Athletes since 2014. During this time, he has supported Opening Eyes through his leadership. Augusto is the Director of the Optometrist Faculty at Universidad Latina. He has worked with the university to add curricula so students can learn to work with people with ID before they graduate. This initiative has allowed more than 300 students to become volunteers for Opening Eyes. Thanks to Augusto’s input, the new professionals feel more confident attending people with ID. Previously, many of the athletes couldn’t get a screening because doctors didn’t know how to treat them or they were scared of how to proceed. Now with his support, students feel more comfortable and the next generation of professionals will be more than able to attend our athletes. Augusto has also supported the creation of two very important agreements for financial sustainability: one with the biggest providers of optical products in Costa Rica: Essilor providing frames and lenses for our athletes; and also with Opticas Vision, which the biggest Optic in Costa Rica, with more than 140 clinics in each community in Costa Rica providing follow-up care for all the registered athletes.
Gift of the Givers
Gift of the Givers, a NGO in South Africa has consistently been one of the largest donors to SOSA’s Healthy Athletes program. The organization has provided catering, water, dental and hygiene care packets, and blankets, among other supplies to Healthy Athletes screenings, Family Health Forums, and South Africa’s National Games. Gift of the Givers also provides speakers for Family Health Forums, provides emergency medical support including ambulances at national events. Gift of the Givers also interacts with athletes outside of Healthy Athletes events. The organization involves athletes in a program that allows athletes to grow their own vegetables and learn about sustainable nutrition. Through the VIK support of Gift of the Givers, SOSA is able to extend the reach of the Health program and provide more services and experiences for athletes and family members.
Dr. Jiří Jandl and Dr. Olga Jandlova
Drs. Jandl and Jandlova, a married couple, both dentists in Czech Republic, have volunteered for over 13 years with SOCR. They are both Clinical Directors for Special Smiles. Since becoming Clinical Directors, Jiří and Olga have participated in Special Smiles events every year. They have screened over 1,800 athletes and have worked to make sure each athlete encounter is pleasant and not scary for athletes. Jiří and Olga also donate awards to athletes who have completed Special Smiles, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, and cartoons with information about keeping teeth clean.
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities they serve, including people with ID. Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has hosted Special Olympics Hawaii’s MedFest events since 2010. They have provided the facility, staff, equipment and supplies. Over the past 7 years, they have provided 428 medical screenings for new and existing athletes. These screenings have opened the door for athletes to receive health screenings. Athletes also receive referrals if needed, to continue care. Having MedFast screenings at Kaiser locations has enabled athletes access to a positive, professional and warm atmosphere. Kaiser’s staff is enthusiastic and familiar with athletes with ID and welcome them with open arms. Kaiser has also participated in different ways, participating in the 1500 leg of the Unified Relay Across America and participating in the 2015 Rose Parade float.
Layton Rehmatullah Benevolent Trust Eye Hospital
Layton Rehmatullah Benevolent Trust (LRBT) Eye Hospital has been an asset to Special Olympics Pakistan since 2011. LRBT has provided volunteers, support staff and free follow up care to all SOP athletes. Since 2011, over 700 athletes have been screened through Opening Eyes and close to 350 athletes have received eye glasses. LRBT has also trained over 81 volunteers to assist at events. LRBT is present in all 4 provinces of Pakistan and Azad Jamu and Kashmir with a network of 19 fully-equipped hospitals, 55 Community-Eye-Care centers and 4 outreach clinics. With LRBT’s generous donation of eyeglasses athletes are able to see the world like everyone else.
Dr. Michael Milano acts as a direct provider of care to the thousands of Special Olympics North Carolina athletes that he has worked with during his 16 years as a Clinical Director for Special Smiles. Besides attending state-level games, Dr. Milano also focuses on smaller local SO events so he can reach athletes who may not be able to attend state-level events. This care includes dental screenings, oral hygiene instruction, and creating mouth guards and arranging for dental treatment for athletes. Dr. Milano has also personally recruited 4 Clinical Directors during his time, and over 120 Special Smiles volunteers per year. Dr. Milano doesn’t stop at participating in Special Smiles events, he also works on grants that fund programs that create better access to dental care. Finally, Dr. Milano has published research on topics such as barriers to dental care for patients with ID and attitudes regarding treating patients with ID.
Warren has been involved with Healthy Athletes for the past ten years. He has been the clinical director of Special Olympics Arkansas’ Health Promotion program, screening between 250 and 450 athletes each year on a one day event. Warren was the first Clinical Director to add another Healthy Athletes clinic; because of his dedication we are able to run Health Promotion events twice a year, allowing us to reach an additional 200 athletes. Warren energizes new volunteers when they attend their first Health Promotion event. He has been able to secure numerous avenues for partners. Just recently we were able to add Unity Health, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Sleep Center, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Association to our Health Promotions partners. Warren is also consistently educating health care professionals on working with our athletes. He is one of our biggest advocates as he travels. He takes time to explain the importance of why health care professionals need to be involved in our program. He is able to smash their stereotypes and get them over their fears so that they make that commitment to attend one Health event.
Edith Nthiga hasn’t been involved in Healthy Athletes for a long time but has already left her mark on Special Olympics Kenya. She focuses her time on teaching athletes about physical fitness, hygiene, and nutrition. From her lessons, athletes now take morning wellness walks around the compound, keep their classroom clean and wash their hands before meals. She also ensures that athletes referred for follow up care are taken to local hospitals to receive treatment. Edith has worked with local schools to incorporate Unified Sports into PE classes in primary schools. Athletes have ceased to become idle observers and can participate in PE.
Paraguay Ministry of Health
The Paraguay Ministry of Health has been integral to Special Olympics Paraguay by providing professional volunteers to events, donating supplies, and attending trainings about people with ID. In Caacupé, the Ministry of Health has partnered with the Third Health Region to monitor and assist athlete’s health. This arrangement allows athletes to schedule appointments in hospitals close to home. These athletes now have personalized attention, special appointments, and access to doctors who are not afraid to serve them. Ministry of Health has also participated in FUNfitnes Healthy Athletes events. The organization is an important resource for Special Olympics. They are excited about progress in the care of people with intellectual disabilities and dedicated to train health professionals to work with people with ID and ultimately promote the inclusion of health.
Chisomo Tumeo, a clinician in Malawi, manages a local health center and is a member of a Special Olympics committee in the Salima District. Chisomo helps manage all health issues of Special Olympics Malawi athletes, including first aid and counseling. Chisomo provides preventative medical care and also helps athletes with physiotherapy skills. He is quick to refer athletes for additional follow up at local hospitals and tries to ensure athletes receive medication free of charge. Chisomo doesn’t just stay in the health center, he also conducts home visits to athletes who can’t journey to the center. Chisomo promotes high self-esteem in all athletes and encourages them to try their best in all they do.
University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine
The University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine has been involved with the Special Smiles program at Special Olympics Connecticut since the mid-1990s. Students from UCONN have been providing screening and preventive care to Connecticut athletes for about two decades. Special Olympics Connecticut and the Special Smiles program is now included in the UCONN School of Dental Medicine's curriculum. UCONN School of Dental Medicine has been instrumental with our follow-up care initiative. Dental students created a referral form with a comprehensive provider list of community health centers and hospital-based dental clinics around Connecticut that athletes could use when seeking follow-up care. This provider list also includes other resources that families/caregivers and athletes can utilize when seeking follow-up care. The dental students have been hands on with assisting athletes. Each year, UCONN School of Dental Medicine provides a minimum of $15,000of VIK services. Without the dental school and the student's services we would not be able to offer dental screenings to our athletes twice a year. UCONN School of Dental Medicine has been instrumental with the inception of Special Smiles here in Connecticut. Their continued dedication to the program has not only provided screenings and preventative care to athletes in need but has also giving dental student's hands-on experience providing care to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Kaja Wichrowska-Rymarek, a dentist in Poland has been a volunteer with Special Olympics Poland since 2003. Kaja is passionate about her clinical work and values being in good contact with her patients who have ID. In 2008, after five years of service, Kaja became a Special Smiles Clinical Director. She has participated in Poland’s National Games. In 2012, Kaja received training and became a Special Smiles Regional Clinical Advisor with SOEE. Working with Special Olympics has allowed Kaja to work with many patients with ID, develop scientific research, educate future dentists on working with people with ID, and most importantly to Kaja, administering follow-up care to patients after Special Smiles screenings.
A dental hygienist and educator with more than 20 years’ experience, Carol Yakiwchuk serves as one of three provincial Special Smiles Clinical Directors. Currently the Oral Health Manager for the First Nations Health Authority, Yakiwchuk has practiced as a clinician, educator, researcher, administrator, and community health dental hygienist. She has worked as the Dental Hygiene Practice Consultant for the British Columbia Dental Hygienists’ Association, and has served as an Educator at Vancouver Community College and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia. Yakiwchuk holds a diploma and a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene from the University of Manitoba and a master’s degree in health studies and leadership from Athabasca University.
Dr. Jeffrey Zlotnick
Through his time with Special Olympics New Jersey, Dr. Zlotnick (Dr. Z for short) has organized and run 16 MedFest events, each screening over 100 athletes. Dr. Z also trains over 250 Family Medicine residents. With the introduction of the SONJ Mobile Health Vehicle in 2014, Dr. Z has traveled to more than 30 different medical screenings located throughout the state of New Jersey. On the Mobile Health Vehicle alone, Dr. Z has screened almost 600 athletes. More Special Olympics athletes are able to compete thanks to Dr. Z and his understanding of the ID population. Dr. Z has changed the way athletes receive care as he makes all visits personal and enjoyable for the athletes.