Surani Kwan recently walked into what she thought was going to be an administrative meeting at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital only to find a room full of flowers, family, colleagues and a catered meal in her honor.
“What’s my mom doing here?” was Kwan’s first reaction.
The fanfare was well deserved as Kwan learned HealthImpact and The DAISY Foundation™ named her as one of four winners of the 2021 DAISY Nurse Leader Award in Policy. Kwan, Sutter’s director of Professional Practice & Nursing Excellence, was selected by a national panel of healthcare policy experts.
As board president of nonprofit Pediatric Dental Initiative of the North Coast (PDI), Kwan led a campaign that convinced Gov. Gavin Newson to retain Proposition 56 funding that, if cut, would have decimated dental care for low-income patients enrolled in Denti-Cal.
“We had to retain the funding to save dental care for children on Medi-Cal,” Kwan said. “We sent letters to all of our legislators. We got the message to the right people and, low and behold, Gov. Newsom kept the funding.”
According to a Daisy Foundation press release highlighting Kwan’s efforts, restoration of these funds impacted more than 32,000 children and special needs patients who receive dental health services through the Denti-Cal program in California.
Caring for the community
As a nurse practitioner working in community health for almost 20 years, Kwan feels strongly about healthcare equity.
Children from low-income families often do not receive timely treatment for tooth decay, Kwan says. She explains that with increased oral health disparities for low income children and special needs patients, coupled with fewer dentists opening their practices to Denti-Cal patients, children with the most complicated and severe cases of tooth decay suffer most.
Kwan joined the PDI board in 2016. PDI is a critical dental surgery resource for children from underserved families, as well as children with developmental disabilities. Since 2008, PDI Surgery has treated more than 23,000 disadvantaged children from nearly half of the counties in California and even some from outside the state.