SACRAMENTO, California--The California Dental Association Foundation recently awarded three California dentists with more than $300,000 in grant money to help offset student loan debt in exchange for service in a community clinic.
The CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant program assists graduating dental students with a maximum of $105,000 in loan repayment grants in exchange for a three-year commitment to work in an underserved community.
The recipients include Teri Ly, DDS, of La Clinica de La Raza at Children's Hospital in Oakland; Isaac Navarro, DMD, of Family Healthcare Network in Orosi; and Alvaro Ochoa, DDS, of Riverside San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc. in Banning.
Seven grants have been awarded since the program's inception in 2002. In past years, the CDA Foundation was able to award two grants, but due to additional funding from the Maurice Amado Foundation, was able to award three in the 2008 funding cycle.
It is estimated that the first four CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant recipients provide more than $500,000 each in dental care on an annual basis.
"We are fortunate that some of the best and brightest have chosen to work in underserved populations, where their services will be an asset to the overall health of the community," said CDA Foundation Executive Director Jon Roth.
Ly practices at La Clinica de La Raza at Children's Hospital in Oakland that serves a largely indigent population--more than 95 percent of the patients receive government assistance. Aside from the dental aspect, Ly says that she enjoys interacting with a diverse ethnic population and learning about new cultures.
"I do not believe that any child should be denied care, and all children should be entitled to optimal care regardless of their socioeconomic background," she said.
Navarro practices at a community clinic in Orosi, the Family Healthcare Network, close to his hometown of Visalia. The patient base at Family Healthcare constitutes more than 20 percent of the population. The clinic serves Tulare and Kings counties.
"I see no better way to be able to reach out to my hometown community and affect the lives of individuals who wouldn't necessarily have the means and ability to seek healthcare elsewhere," Navarro said.
Ochoa also understands firsthand the hurdles there are in health care, as well as the financial burden a recent graduate carries with them.
"I am so fortunate to receive the CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant," he said. "It helps to alleviate a significant financial constraint from my dental school loans, which are by far my largest monthly expense, and allows me to devote more time to the Indian Clinic."
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