Who We Are




The Problem

There is an oral health crisis in North Carolina that impacts North Carolinians of all ages in every county. Poor oral health results in more than just tooth decay. Its consequences dramatically lower quality of life, impact overall health, increase health care costs, negatively shape one’s ability to learn, and can hinder employability.

The Causes

1. Inequities in access to dental care.

2. High out-of-pocket costs.

3. A lack of understanding of the principles of basic prevention among the general public (and even health care providers).

A Few Statistics

1. More than one in four adults ages 20-64 have untreated dental caries. (CDC, 2015)

2. By ethnicity, 42% of African-American adults and 36% of Hispanic adults have untreated disease, compared to 22% of Caucasians.

3. In North Carolina, 37% of children entering kindergarten have already been affected by tooth decay. These rates almost double in some ethnic, rural, or low-income communities.

The Solution

Through heightened public awareness, better access to care, and more coordination between the medical and dental communities, the painful and limiting consequences of this crisis are almost entirely preventable. There is a real opportunity for North Carolina to show leadership in tackling the issues of oral health disparities and implementing solutions that will result in lower health care costs down the road.

Learn more and get involved!

Sign up for NCOHC’s email list today to stay up-to-date and get involved in creating a positive oral health future for North Carolina.

What We Do

Stakeholder Meetings

NCOHC hosts meetings with stakeholders across North Carolina. Our regional convenings bring providers, public health professionals, and local leaders together to discuss the most pressing issues facing their local communities.

NCOHC also works closely to bring diverse groups of students in the dental and public health fields together to prepare our next generation of heath care professionals with the tools they need to work toward a more equitable oral health future.

Speaker’s Bureau

NCOHC is committed to serving as a resource to the community. We strive to take advantage of dynamic health education opportunities like the Speakers’ Bureau, which provides organizations with free access to local experts who can offer valuable insight in the area of oral health.

If you are looking for a speaker to address oral health care in North Carolina at your next conference, meeting, or event, please contact us today!

Capacity-Building Mini-Grants

NCOHC’s mini-grant program directly engaged communities most impacted by oral health disparities. We provided seven community-based nonprofit organizations with funding necessary to build capacity and directly address oral health needs.



Western North Carolina

The Western North Carolina Steering Committee works to improve the oral health of children in Western North Carolina. The steering committee includes oral health and medical providers, community partners, and other stakeholders.

Strategic Plan

Our five-year strategic plan sets ambitious goals and identifies actions we will take to advance oral health access and equity in North Carolina. Read it Here

Our Staff

Steve Cline, DDS, MPH

Vice President

Dr. Cline currently serves as interim vice president for the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative.
He is the former vice president for strategic partnerships at Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC), where his responsibilities included exploring and developing opportunities with provider networks, dental health providers, and other healthcare organizations. He is also an advisor to the North Carolina Health Information Exchange. Prior to joining CCNC, Dr. Cline was the Assistant Secretary for Health Information Technology at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Spending most of his career in public health, his last position in public health was as Deputy State Health Director at DHHS, where his responsibilities included formulating division policies and priorities as well supervising all programmatic areas of the Department, including Epidemiology, Women’s and Children’s Health, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, Oral Health, and Public Health Preparedness.

From 1999 to 2006, Dr. Cline served as Chief of the Epidemiology Section at the North Carolina Division of Public Health where he led the state’s public health response to bioterrorism, SARS, Hurricanes Fran and Katrina, and other public health emergencies. Prior to that, Dr. Cline spent 13 years in local public health with the Wake County Health Department where he held the positions of Dental Director, Deputy Health Director, and finally Acting Wake County Health Director. In 1996 he moved to the state health department where he was the State Dental Director for three years before becoming the Chief of Epidemiology.

Dr. Cline received his Bachelor of Science from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and both his Doctor of Dental Surgery and his Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is married with four children, living in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Crystal Adams, MA, CDA, RDH

Cell: 828-638-6719

Crystal Adams joined the Foundation in 2021 as the Associate Director for the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative. Prior to joining NCOHC, she was the Department Head of the Dental Hygiene Department at Catawba Valley Community College where she shared her passion for oral health care and educated dental hygiene students. During her tenure at CVCC, she implemented the ADA Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) program and a National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) program to serve the workforce needs of the dental community.

Crystal serves on several committees, such as the North Carolina Dental Society Council on Prevention and Oral Health, the North Carolina Dental Hygienists’ Association (NCDHA) Legislative Committee, and the North Carolina Dental Public Health Leadership Institute’s Advisory Committee. She is a Past President of the NCDHA and has been involved with policy changes for the dental hygiene profession.

Crystal holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education from Appalachian State University and a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership from Mountain State University. She earned her Applied Science of Dental Hygiene degree from Central Piedmont Community College and her Dental Assisting Diploma from Wilkes Community College, and is a Certified Dental Assistant.

Sarah Heenan, MA

Program Coordinator

Sarah Heenan joined the Foundation in 2021 as the Program Coordinator for the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative.

Prior to joining NCOHC, Sarah Served as the Conference and Outreach Manager at NC State University. Sarah’s experience includes over 13 years in higher education, working with varying constituent groups while serving the mission of the University.

Sarah is a mission-focused professional who is grounded in work that challenges systems and makes processes and policies more efficient. Her love for people is evident in her varied professional experience, and she is looking forward to continuing the valuable work that NCOHC stands behind for the people of North Carolina.

Sarah holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education from Appalachian State University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Peace College (now William Peace University). In her spare time, Sarah enjoys playing in the garden, building furniture, and spending her days alongside her partner, two pups, and lots of wonderful family members.

Heather Edly, JM, RDH, BSPH, CHES

Programs Manager

Heather Edly joined the Foundation in 2023 as the Programs Manager for the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative. Prior to joining NCOHC, she was a practicing Registered Dental Hygienist in private practice, in Charlotte. Clinical care is a passion for Heather, especially educating patients about their oral health as it relates to their overall health.

Heather serves the public through her participation in the National Disaster Medical System of the Department of Health and Human Services, on the DMORT Region IV team. She actively participates as a fellow in the National Network for Healthcare Hygienists, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

As a Past President of the North Carolina Dental Hygienists’ Association, she used her clinical and educational experiences to guide North Carolina hygienists through the COVID-19 pandemic and was instrumental in representing them at the state level through legislative efforts and public health advisory committees.

Heather holds a Juris Master of Healthcare Law from The Liberty University School of Law and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. She earned her Applied Science of Dental Hygiene and Associate in Fine Arts degrees from Catawba Valley Community College. She is currently a Certified Health Education Specialist and a proud, licensed, practicing Registered Dental Hygienist in North Carolina.

Brady Blackburn, MA

FHLI Director of Communications

Brady Blackburn joined the Foundation in 2019 as Communications Associate and Content Marketing Specialist for the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative. Brady brings significant experience in nonprofit and caused-based marketing, with an emphasis on content creation, social media management, video development, and marketing.

Prior to joining NCOHC, Brady served as the key communications specialist for Representative Joe Sam Queen, both in his successful campaign for the North Carolina House of Representatives and in his legislative office. He has also managed marketing and communications campaigns for The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina.

Brady holds a Master of Arts in Media and Communications and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ben Popkin, JD, MPH

Political Strategist

M. Benjamin Popkin offers government affairs services to stakeholders in the health, insurance, and legislative affairs areas through his consulting firm, Popkin Strategies, LLC. He is owner of The Law Office of Maurice B. Popkin, Esquire, PLLC, through which he provides related legal services as appropriate to the needs of his clients.

Before leaving public service as a career State employee, Ben served as Assistant Secretary for Legislation at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and was Legislative Counsel and Director of the DHHS Office of Government Affairs.

Before joining DHHS, Ben served as the Director of Government Affairs and Legislative Counsel to NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin at the Department of Insurance (DOI). Ben was project director for North Carolina’s Affordable Care Act Planning and Establishment Cooperative Agreement-funded activities, managing approximately $90 million in funds and coordinating the Department’s Affordable Care Act activities.

Prior to joining DOI, Ben was a staff attorney at the North Carolina General Assembly in both the Legislative Drafting and Research Divisions where he was responsible for drafting and analysis of health and insurance legislation. He was also a staff attorney for the General Assembly’s standing Health and Insurance Committees and all related study committees, and he was named Staff Vice Chair to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Standing Committee on Health.

Ben has a Master of Public Health in health policy and administration from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, a Juris Doctorate from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Advisory Team

Daijah Davis, MPH

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation

As Program Officer, Daijah Davis leads the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation’s focus on oral health, working to ensure that everyone in North Carolina has access to quality, affordable oral health services.

Daijah joined the Blue Cross NC Foundation in April 2022. Most recently, she worked as the Oregon State Director for Family Connects International, where she supported the Oregon statewide roll out of the Family Connects postpartum nurse home visiting model.

Daijah received her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science – Health and Society from Michigan State University and a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Katie Eyes, MSW

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation

As Vice President, Program and Strategy, Ms. Eyes supports the program team to develop, implement, and adjust strategy across the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation’s priority areas. In addition, she manages grantmaking related to the BCBSNC Foundation’s focus on improving oral health. She works closely with her team as well as external and corporate stakeholders to broaden the BCBSNC Foundation’s perspective, build partnerships to accelerate its progress, and deepen its commitment to those communities that experience the greatest inequities.

Ms. Eyes joined the BCBSNC Foundation in 2009 as Operations Manager after working several years to promote best practices in food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency food outlets. After a year in the operations role, where she guided implementation of the BCBSNC Foundation’s outcomes framework, she joined the program officer staff in what was previously known as the health of vulnerable populations focus area. Ms. Eyes is a member of the 2014 Terrance Keenan Institute for Emerging Leaders in Health Philanthropy, a board member for the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers (NCNG) and was previously co-chair for the NCNG annual meeting. She has an undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan.

Darlene Leysath

The Cornerstone CDC

Ms. Leysath is an accomplish businesswoman with vast experience. Ms. Leysath is a highly successful motivational speaker and presently serves as Executive Director of The Cornerstone Community Development Corporation. Ms. Leysath is dedicated and determined to making a difference in the lives of others as an expert in Mental Health Disaster Case Management/Relief and Community Engagement. She has spent the last 20 years building partnerships and coalitions to meet community needs. Ms. Leysath has a very diverse background with over 35 years’ experience as a clinical social worker, a partial hospital day program director, a program manager, a mental health crisis consultant, a long-term care facility administrator, a special education instructor, a bereavement and volunteer coordinator, an oral health outreacher, and a disaster relief director.

Elaine Loyack, MBA

Delta Dental of North Carolina

Elaine is the vice president of community engagement and government relations for Delta Dental of North Carolina (DDNC). She joined DDNC in March 2015 as director of community and public relations. Elaine earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with a minor in French from Wake Forest University and a Master of Business Administration in Global Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Elaine brings a wide range of experience to DDNC. She worked in outdoor air quality, owned a pre- and post-natal fitness company, and managed accounting and operations for World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. She serves on the Board of Directors for Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines, WakeEd Partnership and the American Lung Association – North Carolina. She is an alumna of Leadership North Carolina Class XXI.

Caroline McLeod, RDH, MS

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

Caroline McLeod, RDH, MS, is the value-based solutions manager for CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. She supports education, research, and health improvement program implementation centered on value-based care approaches for oral health.

Caroline’s dental hygiene experience ranges from traditional practice to school-based and mobile programs, and clinical teaching. She is a member of the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) and serves as a delegate for her local district of the North Carolina Dental Hygienists Association (NCDHA).

Caroline is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BS in Dental Hygiene and a Master of Dental Hygiene Education. She worked previously as a teledentistry specialist and educational trainer for MouthWatch.

Juvencio Rocha-Peralta, BSBA

Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN)

Juvencio Rocha-Peralta is Executive Director of the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN). A native of Veracruz, Mexico, he has lived in North Carolina since 1980. He has served on a number of task forces and boards, including the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project and the Eastern North Carolina Latin-American Coalition, Inc. (ENCLACO).

Rhonda Stephens, DDS, MPH

NC DHHS, Oral Health Section

Dr. Rhonda Stephens is a board certified Dental Public Health specialist, currently serving as the Acting Section Chief and State Dental Director for the NC Division of Public Health, Oral Health Section. She is a proud alumna of the University of Michigan, where she earned her dental degree in 2004. She then completed a General Practice Residency in hospital dentistry and MPH degree at Indiana University and subsequently received a certificate in Dental Public Health from the NC Division of Public Health. Prior to relocating to NC, she served 10 years as an FQHC dental director in Indiana.

In her current role at the Oral Health Section, Dr. Stephens provides direction and general oversight to the development and implementation of the state’s dental public health programs and services. She also directs the Division’s Dental Public Health Residency Program to educate and train future dental public health specialists. In her time with the Section, Dr. Stephens has secured and administered grant funding, most often to support oral health workforce development initiatives in collaboration with partners across the state. She has also had the opportunity to work with the NCDHHS Historically Marginalized Populations Workgroup on equity-driven pandemic response efforts, and now co-chairs efforts to strengthen public health workforce capacity through training and other supports. Dr. Stephens is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, National Dental Association, American Dental Association and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, for which she serves as co-chair of the Council on Educational Affairs. Outside of public health, she loves food of all kind, outdoor festivals, action-sci fi movies and her 14-year old Westie, Sasha.

Rachel Stewart, MPH-D, RDH

East Carolina University

A native of Eastern North Carolina, Rachel Stewart graduated with a B.S. in Dental Hygiene from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005. She worked in private practice for 14 years and became familiar with patients of various backgrounds and demographics, as well as many aspects of general dentistry and practice management.

Her interest in public health began with participation in NC Missions of Mercy clinics, the Give Kids a Smile program, and various mobile dental clinics. In 2019 Rachel earned her MPH-D from A.T. Still University. In 2019, she began her employment with East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine as a public health dental hygienist working as a case coordinator for a school-based oral health prevention program.

Rachel has previously served as vice president of the North Carolina Dental Hygienists’ Association (NCDHA) and as a North Carolina delegate to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. She currently serves as a component trustee for the NCDHA.

Kaylan Szafranski, MSW

NC Child

Kaylan Szafranski is the Health Programs Director for NC Child and leads the organizations Medicaid and oral health policy agenda. Prior to her role at NC Child, Kaylan championed children’s health in Illinois, serving as the head policy analyst for Legal Council for Health Justice. In this role she led statewide efforts on children’s Medicaid policy including access to EPSDT, infant and early childhood mental health, environmental health reforms, and expanding eligibility and services for infants and pregnant persons. Kaylan also served as the Manager of Health Reform for EverThrive Illinois, focusing on maternal and child health policy at both the state and federal levels. In addition to her deep knowledge of Medicaid policy, Kaylan is a former early child educator and Developmental Therapist, spending nearly 7 years serving families in her hometown of Greensboro, NC. She holds her Masters of Social Work and Masters of Child Development from Erikson Institute.

Hugh Tilson, JD, MPH

North Carolina Area Health Education Centers

Hugh Tilson is the Director of the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) Program and Associate Dean and Assistant Professor in family medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. Mr. Tilson has extensive experience in health care, including particular experience in hospital and provider issues, health policy development, and North Carolina’s Medicaid Transformation.

Over the course of more than 20 years, Mr. Tilson served in roles of increasing responsibility at the North Carolina Hospital Association. He first joined the organization in 1996 as director of legal and regulatory affairs, eventually becoming the group’s executive vice president and chief operating officer and ultimately spending a year as interim president. Upon his departure, he was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor Roy Cooper for his proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Most recently, he operated Tilson Solutions, offering strategic planning, public affairs, and other consulting services to a range of clients.

As director of NC AHEC, Mr. Tilson provides overall direction for the statewide program, oversees the organization’s budget and program office, manages health workforce planning and development initiatives across a range of health professions, fosters collaboration among academic programs and organizations across the state, and represents the organization on the state and national level.

Mr. Tilson is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and the UNC School of Law. He holds a Master of Public Health from Harvard.

Stacy Warren, M.Ed

The Duke Endowment

Ms. Warren is a Program Officer at The Duke Endowment.  She joined the Endowment in 2014 after working at the North Carolina Office of Rural Health and at Community Care in Raleigh, where she was responsible for managing programs focused on improving the quality of health care for children. Ms. Warren has also worked at an assessment center for foster children and at a Raleigh-based nonprofit that provides mental health services to children and adults across the state.

Jane Weintraub, DDS, MPH

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Dr. Jane A. Weintraub, former Dean of the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, is widely recognized for her expertise in oral epidemiology, dental public health, and clinical research. She is a leader in research to understand and prevent oral health disparities.

Dr. Weintraub earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery from the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine in 1979. She received her graduate training in public health and dental care administration from Harvard University and practiced dentistry in neighborhood health centers in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1982, Dr. Weintraub began her career in academia at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, followed by several years at the University of Michigan.

In 1988, Dr. Weintraub began her first appointment with the UNC Adams School of Dentistry as an assistant professor in the Department of Dental Ecology. After seven years at UNC, Dr. Weintraub received an appointment at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry, as the recipient of the school’s first endowed chair, becoming the Lee Hysan Professor of Dental Public Health and Oral Epidemiology. She served as the principal investigator and director of the Center to Address Disparities in Children’s Oral Health, also known as “CAN DO.” The Center focuses on preventing early childhood caries, a condition that is difficult and expensive to treat. She also served the UCSF School of Dentistry as the chair of the oral epidemiology and dental public health division in the school’s preventive and restorative dental sciences department until her departure.  

Dr. Weintraub returned to UNC in 2011 to serve as dean of the Adams School of Dentistry. During her tenure, the school’s research funding increased 50 percent and moved up from number seven to the number two ranking among dental schools in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research. The number of applications to the school’s Doctor of Dental Surgery program increased 32 percent. 

Dr. Weintraub’s focus and research in public health dentistry helped shape scientific guidelines regarding sealants and fluoride that have become a part of mainstream dental and public health practices. She is a past president of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and the International Association of Dental Research’s behavioral sciences and health services research group. She was one of the scientific editors and contributing authors for the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health.


Mini-Grant Recipients

NCOHC is proud to have engaged in productive partnerships with these community-based organizations to help them make real impacts, improving oral health in their local areas.

Become a Member Today

Join NCOHC’s diverse group of members and member organizations working together to advance our common goal: increasing access and equity in oral health.

NCOHC Member Organizations