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New KDHE dental director meets with advocates

By Trevor Graff | April 24, 2014

Kansas' new director of oral health was welcomed today at a reception held in her honor by Oral Health Kansas, a Topeka-based advocacy group.

Dr. Cathy Taylor-Osborne, who heads the two-person Bureau of Oral Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said she would start the job with a focus on promoting collaboration.

Dr. Cathy Taylor-Osborne

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“I’m really, at least early in my time, working on collaboration with our different agencies, advocacy groups and the financial sector with Medicaid and the KanCare division of our department,” Taylor-Osborne said. “We are trying to collaborate with a lot of people and get our message out as consistently as possible for the better health of Kansas.”

Taylor-Osborne is the former dental director of Cabot Westside Medical and Dental Center, a safety net clinic in Kansas City, Mo.

In 2011, she opened a dental clinic in Bangalore, India, while on an extended mission trip and operated a private dental practice in Overland Park between 2001 and 2011. Prior to dental school she worked for 15 years as a dental hygienist.

“She brings a wealth of experience and it’s exciting to have her here now to help us with policy work,” said Tanya Dorf Brunner, executive director of Oral Health Kansas. “She’s certainly seen the issues from the other side.”

Taylor-Osborne received her doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Master of Arts degree in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University in Chicago.

She said she is working to organize the state’s third Oral Health Summit and to develop state plans to improve overall oral health in Kansas. The summit, scheduled for May 30, will help identify the department’s priorities through 2018.

Access to oral health care is among the various issues slated to be discussed at the conference.

Taylor-Osborne said her department has been working alongside the Kansas Dental Association to promote grants and scholarships for dental students from Kansas who wish to work in the state’s rural areas. She said the incoming class of student dentists at UMKC will include 22 Kansas residents.

She said she was still familiarizing herself with some of the issues surrounding Medicaid and KanCare’s role in dental coverage. According to Oral Health Kansas statistics, only 25 percent of Kansas dentists actively participate in Medicaid.

“It’s really a sticky issue right now and it’s something I’m learning a lot about right now,” Taylor-Osborne said. “I think just by working with some of the red tape and paperwork, we could help quite a bit. Because the process is kind of labor intensive.”

She fills the vacancy left by the September 2013 exit of Dr. Kathy Weno, who is now the director of oral health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Atlanta.

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