Gift will provide dental care at no cost for veterans with blood cancer who are not eligible for dental care through the VA

Veteran in dental chair smiles at dentist wearing PPE
The Veterans Oral Care Access Resource (VOCARE), part of the VA’s VETSmile pilot program, provides comprehensive dental services to veterans in the New York City area that the VA is unable to provide.

NYU College of Dentistry has received a significant gift from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to create a pilot program to provide financial support for dental care for U.S. military veterans with blood cancer. Care will be provided at the NYU Dentistry Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities, where the staff are trained with special skillsets to ensure quality treatment and holistic care for people with disabilities and complex medical conditions.

Cancer patients have unique oral health needs and may require dental care before starting treatment or after to address treatment-related issues. Before beginning cancer treatment, and especially prior to undergoing a stem cell transplant, which suppresses the immune system, blood cancer patients may need to see a dentist to address existing dental issues such as infections. Unresolved dental issues can result in serious complications, including sepsis, and can compromise treatment. Moreover, many cancer patients are at high risk for oral complications—including mouth sores, bleeding gums, and tooth decay—that result from cancer treatment.

Only a small subset of veterans, including those with a service-connected dental disability or former prisoners of war, are eligible for dental care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As a result, most veterans who receive medical care through the VA—and, when faced with a blood cancer diagnosis, undergo cancer treatment at the VA—may not have access to dental care that they can afford.

The gift from LLS will establish a patient care access fund at NYU Dentistry to enable veterans with blood cancer to receive comprehensive dental care at no out-of-pocket cost. The financial assistance will cover the cost of dental procedures required to begin cancer treatment or needed because of treatment.  With this pilot, NYU Dentistry expects to provide 250-300 patient visits for veterans within a 12-month period. Based on the success of the pilot, LLS, in consultation with NYU Dentistry, plans to expand the program to additional sites for care.

“Facilitating lifesaving dental care for veterans with blood cancer is critical for this especially vulnerable population,” said Charles N. Bertolami, DDS, DMedSc, the Herman Robert Fox Dean of NYU Dentistry. “NYU Dentistry is honored to be the recipient of financial support from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and to help advance its mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and myeloma, and improve the quality of life for patients and their families,” he added.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is pleased to partner with NYU College of Dentistry to help veterans with blood cancer get critical dental care so that they can safely receive lifesaving blood cancer treatment,” said Gwen Nichols, MD, Chief Medical Officer at LLS.  “Together we can remove the affordability barriers facing veterans, so they can receive comprehensive dental care without incurring out-of-pocket costs.”

The new program builds on and expands NYU Dentistry’s successful pilot program for veterans that began in July 2021, when NYU Dentistry was selected by the VA to implement the Veterans Oral Care Access Resource (VOCARE) as part of the VA’s VETSmile pilot program. VETSmile/VOCARE provides comprehensive dental services to veterans in the New York City area that the VA is unable to provide. During the first year of VETSmile/VOCARE, NYU Dentistry provided dental care to 1,022 veterans over 5,643 visits, and completed 10,821 procedures.

The VA New York Harbor Healthcare System—which includes campuses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island—refers eligible veterans to NYU to receive dental services through the VETSmile/VOCARE program. This referral arrangement will continue with the new LLS-supported program for veterans with blood cancer.

Michael O’Connor, EdD, executive vice dean of NYU Dentistry and director of the VETSmile/VOCARE project, said, “Our referral arrangement with the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System is at the heart of NYU Dentistry’s ability to expand access to necessary dental care for veterans with blood cancer and other veterans who are not eligible for dental care through the VA. We are extremely fortunate to have both the VA and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as our strategic partners on behalf of veterans in need who have nowhere else to turn for dental care.”

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the global leader in the fight against blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has regions throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

About NYU College of Dentistry

Founded in 1865, New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the US, educating nearly 10 percent of the nation’s dentists. NYU Dentistry has a significant global reach with a highly diverse student body. Visit for more.

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