School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

South Carolina’s PASOs Named 2017 Health Equity Hero by DentaQuest and Receives Exemplary Designation by W.K. Kellogg Foundation

What began as a field placement project for Ms. Julie Smithwick’s master of social work program at the University of South Carolina back in 2005 is now a cornerstone of the Latino community in South Carolina, and it has the accolades to prove it. Now in its 12th year and with an annual budget of $1.3 million, PASOs is a thriving community-based organization that specializes in connecting Latino families with critical education and resources in areas such as maternal and child health and early childhood development.

“PASOs exemplifies the university’s commitment to being responsive to the needs of the state by partnering with leaders from our fasted growing population, the Latino community, to improve health outcomes,” says Dr. Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina President. “PASOs is an outstanding model showing that we are not just the University of South Carolina; we are the University for South Carolina.”

Through custom programming and collaborative partnerships with the Latino community and hundreds of service providers, the Arnold School of Public Health-based organization was founded by Ms. Smithwick to educate, support, and empower families. Their community health workers educate families about preventive health care, parenting, and childhood development to promote equity and improve health.

Over the past decade, PASOs has been recognized both locally and nationally for its expertise in working with Latino populations and facilitating advancements in health and family support throughout the state. In 2017 alone, the grassroots organization has received the Health Equity Hero Award from DentaQuest and was identified with Exemplary Designation by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

DentaQuest, the nation’s leading oral health enterprise and largest Medicaid dental benefits company, annually selects a handful of leaders across the United States who exhibit exceptional work in removing barriers and developing innovative programming to improve health outcomes and access to health care for underserved populations. As a 2017 Health Equity Hero, PASOs will receive a $1,000 donation to promote health equity.

“We are honored to recognize these pioneers for their decades of service and unparalleled leadership in improving the health and equity of their local communities,” said Mr. Steve Pollock, president and CEO of DentaQuest. “As we strive to improve the oral health of all, this work is core to our organization’s efforts and demonstrates the opportunities for each of us to create change in our communities.”

The University of South Carolina nominated PASOs for the 2017 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award. This awards program is designed to recognize outstanding community-university engagement scholarship work.

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