Special Olympics North Carolina names Dr. Michael Milano its first Golisano Health Leadership Award Honoree

golisano-health-awardDr. Milano receives North Carolina’s top Special Olympics health honor for his contributions toward inclusive health

Special Olympics North Carolina is honored to announce the selection of Dr. Michael Milano of Apex as the 2016-17 Golisano Health Leadership Award honoree, according to Special Olympics NC President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne.

The Golisano Health Leadership Award was established in 2016, in partnership with Special Olympics and the Golisano Foundation, and is given to an individual or organization that is dedicated to improving the health of people with intellectual disabilities and advancing the health work of Special Olympics.

“Dr. Milano’s dedication to the dental health of Special Olympics athletes is second to none. Throughout his 20 years of involvement in two states, he has screened and coordinated follow up care for thousands of athletes as well as bringing new dental professionals into the Special Olympics movement through Special Smiles. Special Olympics athletes in North Carolina are exceptionally lucky to have health professionals like Dr. Milano in the state,” explained Fishburne.

Dr. Milano has volunteered with the Special Smiles discipline for two decades in Connecticut, Texas and North Carolina.  He became a clinical director in 2001 while working in Texas and has served in that role for North Carolina since 2008, providing free dental screenings, oral hygiene instruction, mouth guards and arranging follow-up care for thousands of Special Olympics athletes. During this time, he has recruited in excess of 1,000 Special Smiles volunteers, the majority of whom have been dental students or pediatric dentistry residents who continue to volunteer their time and expertise with Special Smiles and welcome patients with intellectual disabilities in their dental practices.

As a faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, Dr. Milano has leveraged a partnership with the Dental School to increase access to quality dental care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  His state-wide list of over 50 dental providers who welcome patients with intellectual disabilities is made available at every Special Smiles screening so athletes can find appropriate follow-up care.

“I have been scared of the dentist for as long as I can remember, but I knew that my dental health was not where it should be. Dr. Milano has helped me find a dentist who I feel comfortable visiting and is ready to help me improve my dental health,” explained Kristine Hughes, a Special Olympics Wake County athlete.

In addition to 20 years’ worth of donated time and expertise, Dr. Milano has further contributed to the financial stability of the Special Smiles program by assisting with grant applications.  His work to advance the health status of individuals with intellectual disabilities has led him to serve on multiple committees and advisory groups as well as teaching continuing education courses about providing dental care to patients with disabilities.  He has also conducted and published research in peer-reviewed journals on such topics as dental students’ attitudes regarding treating patients with intellectual disabilities, barriers to dental care for patients with intellectual disabilities and the unmet dental needs of individuals with autism.

Dr. Milano was presented with the Golisano Health Leadership Award at the 2016 Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament Opening Ceremonies in High Point on November 4.  The following evening, he and 40 volunteers he recruited provided free dental screenings, oral hygiene instruction and mouth guards to 165 Special Olympics NC athletes attending Fall Tournament.

Dr. Milano is one of up to 32 individuals or organizations across the Special Olympics movement that will receive the Golisano Health Leadership Award in 2016. Up to seven honorees will be selected to receive the global award to be presented at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria this March. Regional honorees are selected based on their involvement in work related to year-round efforts to increase access to quality health care, programming and resources for people with intellectual disabilities. Nominees will be selected based on the following criteria: 1) expanding Healthy Athletes (health events and exams offered to Special Olympics athletes free of charge); 2) impact on follow-up care and/or wellness programming; 3) increasing the financial sustainability of health programs; and 4) advancement of the health rights of people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Smiles is one of seven non-invasive Healthy Athletes screenings provided free of charge to Special Olympics athletes. With more than 1.6 million free health examinations conducted in more than 130 countries, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program offers health services and information to athletes in dire need. As a result, Special Olympics has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics North Carolina is doing its part to make sure North Carolina will be among the leaders in improving the health of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Over the next five years, SONC seeks to build better, healthier communities through a more holistic approach to health, fitness, nutrition and inclusion. As part of a new strategic plan, SONC will increase existing Healthy Athlete screenings and also offer programs that are more accessible locally with a focus on healthy lifestyles (including nutrition). Healthy Communities programming will also be incorporated into ongoing sports programs which have seen tremendous success throughout North Carolina by involving nearly 40,000 registered athletes.

To succeed in achieving this ambitious vision, Special Olympics North Carolina is assembling partners who also embrace it. If you are interested in joining our health movement, please contact Ellen Fahey, SONC Health Director, at

Since 2012, philanthropist and Paychex Chairman, Tom Golisano, and the Golisano Foundation, have committed $37 million to Special Olympics health program to increase access to inclusive health, fitness and wellness programs to people with intellectual disabilities in the communities in which they live.

People with intellectual disabilities are part of one of the largest and most medically underserved disability groups in the world. Millions with intellectual disabilities lack access to quality health care and experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death in every country around the world.

Special Olympics’ vision of its health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, is to create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics’ 19 years of experience identifying and addressing the unmet health needs of people with intellectual disabilities has revealed the myriad of complex barriers to health faced by this population. Barriers to this vision include lack of access to quality health care, education, and resources.

Through this multi-layered effort, Special Olympics is working to create a tipping point where health becomes inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities globally by changing curriculum, training health care professionals and policymakers, influencing policy, advocating for inclusive health programming, building partnerships for follow up care and harnessing the power of the Special Olympics Movement to build awareness.

About Special Olympics North Carolina

Special Olympics North Carolina offers year-round sports training and competition for nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. These athletes inspire greatness through their success and provide motivation to the thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide.  SONC offers Olympic-type competition in 19 sports on local and state levels as well as health and wellness initiatives to improve the health status and increase access to community health resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Youth become agents of change through Unified Champion Schools, an education and sports based program created by Special Olympics to build an inclusive environment among youth with and without intellectual disabilities as well as empower them to become youth leaders and create change in their community. Visit Special Olympics North Carolina at Engage with us on;, and

About Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation

Tom Golisano — entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader — is the founder and chairman of the board of Paychex, Inc., headquartered in Rochester. With more than 12,000 employees and 100 office locations nationwide, Paychex is a leading national provider of payroll, human resource, and benefit outsourcing solutions for more than a half-million small and medium-sized businesses. Tom’s vision, perseverance and action have left an indelible mark on a broad spectrum of issues that touch our lives – in business, healthcare, education, voter policies, politics, and tax reform. A fierce advocate for dignity and inclusion, Tom Golisano applied his pioneering spirit to establish the Golisano Foundation to help make the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to his personal philanthropic contributions to hospitals, educational institutions and other organizations exceeding $260 million, the Golisano Foundation is now one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1985, the Foundation recently celebrated its 30th year of “Imagining the Possibilities.” With $33 million in gross assets it has awarded more than $21 million in grants, about $2 million annually, to nonprofit organizations that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities., @GolisanoFdn,

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