Although there are many dental benefits to orthodontics, perhaps some of the greatest are the improvements to self-esteem that a beautiful and healthy smile can create. Dr. Cook has witnessed and participated in thousands of smile transformations during his career. It is rewarding to see all patients’ smile transformations, but perhaps some of the most rewarding are for those recipients who have a great need for orthodontic treatment, but lack the means to address those needs. Dr. Cook has taken the opportunity to provide smile transformations for a number of patients in this situation, on an individual basis, who would not have been able to receive orthodontic treatment otherwise.
As rewarding as these opportunities can be, it was hard to determine the best possible candidates without a structured system for selecting them. Dr. Cook wanted an organized program for selecting candidates, one that was fair and finds the people truly in need.
Dr. Cook evaluated several existing programs and found several limitations to selecting the best candidate. These limitations included only being able to look at one individual’s circumstance at a time, lacking the ability to distinguish those with true needs, and lacking the ability to contrast varying levels of financial and orthodontic needs which would ensure that those with the greatest needs are served.
In May of 2009, the Pay It Forward (formerly Smiles of Hope) Scholarship Program was conceptualized and founded by Dr. Cook. Beginning 2014, the formerly known Smiles of Hope Scholarship was renamed the Pay It Forward Scholarship. Dr. Cook felt this name better suited the program, and the reason behind starting the program in the first place. Dr. Cook has always felt very blessed by the many people that have helped him in his life, and along his journey to become an orthodontist. He hopes that by serving people in this way, he can try to “pay it forward” and continue the tradition of helping others. Of course, Dr. Cook hopes that in the future, our Pay It Forward recipients will take the opportunities in their lives to continue this same tradition and “pay it forward” to someone else.