A dentist who has focused his career on care for clients who are very poor, affected by HIV and AIDS, or undocumented clients has joined Multnomah County Health Department as dental director.
Dr. Len Barozzini oversees the county’s six dental clinics, the School & Community Oral Health program and dental services in the county correctional facilities. Multnomah County is Oregon’s largest safety net provider of dental care. About 50 providers care for more than 26,000 clients each year, mostly those with no health insurance or those on the Oregon Health Plan.
“My vision is that all persons, regardless of economic status or education, should have all facets of health care,’’ said Barozzini, who started work on Jan. 13. “It’s a right, not a privilege and I’m looking forward to being a small cog in helping the Affordable Care Act succeed.”
The son of a Pittsburgh attorney, Barozzini grew up hearing his dad say that dentistry was a good path to a comfortable life. Barozzini did his undergraduate work at the University of California at Los Angeles and received his dental degree from Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery. He completed a general practice residency at the VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif.
But afterward, he steered sharply away from a practice focusing on affluent patients toward Los Angeles’ most vulnerable residents. He cared for HIV-positive clients at the AIDS Project Los Angeles Dental Clinic for six years, then took over as dental director for the nonprofit QueensCare Family Clinics, also in Los Angeles.
Barozzini oversaw five dental clinics for QueensCare, which was founded in 1987 for the “abandoned and neglected children of Los Angeles.”
“I am very fortunate,‘’ Dr. Barozzini said. “I grew up in a healthy environment with good parents who taught me it’s a lot more important to help others than to help yourself.’’
Barozzini, 48, said he was drawn to Multnomah County by the size of the program, Portland’s walkability and by Integrated Services Clinic Director’s Vanetta Abdellatiff’s vision for dental and health care.
“Oral health is paramount,’’ he said. “If you don’t have a healthy, happy smile, it’s very difficult to put a good face forward in a job, in meeting people, in friendships, anywhere."
"And now science has also realized it’s also an intrinsic part of overall health,” he said.
Abdellatiff said the county sits on the cusp of important changes as more people qualify for health insurance and have access to dental care.
“Dr. Barozzini is known for being organized, patient-centered, flexible and smart,’’ Abdellatiff said. “We look forward to his leadership.’’
Barozzini’s duties have been covered by Deborah Cockrell, interim dental operations director, and Dr. Beverlee Cutler, dentist at Multnomah County’s Billi Odegaard Dental Clinic. They have served in these roles since July 2013 and have “led the dental program with great skill and professionalism,’’ Abdellatif said.
Dr. Alyssa Franzen was the previous dental director. She left the position to return to clinical work at Rockwood Dental Clinic.
“Dr. Franzen has demonstrated an impressive commitment to the dental program, and her ongoing support means that Dr. Barozzini is taking over a program that is strong and thriving,’’ Abdellatiff said.