Sharing Smiles

Foundation supports St. Jude care and research.

By Zack McMillin

Philip Wenk stands beside a bust of Danny Thomas

Philip Wenk

For Philip Wenk, appreciation for the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital began 45 years ago when he was a student at the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry.

St. Jude had recently announced a dramatic increase in childhood leukemia survival rates and a major hospital expansion was underway.

“It really had that startup feel,” Wenk recalls.

Now, as president and CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee, Wenk marvels at what generous people across the nation have helped build.

“I tell my friends, ‘You need to tour St. Jude,’” Wenk says. “When I walk through St. Jude, I get that tingle in my back, because you know you are in the presence of greatness.”

Delta Dental and the company’s Smile180 Foundation have provided about $2 million in support of treatment, research and awareness:

  • Support for the hospital’s onsite dental clinic, including a renovation, helps St. Jude control and minimize patients’ dental problems.
  • A $1 million gift for the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences helps ensure the training of tomorrow’s scientists.
  • Sponsorship of several St. Jude events, including benefit concerts This Show Saves Lives and the St. Jude Jam, raises funds and awareness for the hospital.

Because Delta Dental and Smile180 have helped increase access to dental care in underserved communities, Wenk identifies closely with the hospital’s commitment to freely share its research.

“It sends the message to the world: Don’t hide your light under a basket,” Wenk says. “When people think about giving to St. Jude, I hope they think about everything St. Jude is giving to the world.”

Wenk’s son survived non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a young man. Having seen firsthand how those medical bills added up, Wenk says it means the world that families never receive a bill from St. Jude.

“I know these parents are so scared of their child dying,” Wenk says. “To know there is no cost for treatment has a huge effect on their psyche. Instead of worrying about finances, they can focus on helping their child heal.”

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From Promise, Winter, 2019

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