Recognizing a dedication to dentistry and a commitment to improving the oral health of Californians, the CDA Foundation recently selected its 13th Student Loan Repayment Grant recipient as Kongsab Hatlavongsa, DDS.
The Student Loan Repayment Grant program exists to relieve new dentists of a portion of their debt in exchange for a three-year commitment to practice in an underserved community.
Hatlavongsa and his family came to the United States as refugees from war-torn Laos when he was just 6 months old. Living below poverty level, Hatlavongsa and his family struggled to overcome cultural, economic and social obstacles.
“My parents always stressed the importance of hard work, higher education, and optimism,” said Hatlavongsa, who achieved great academic success as both a 2001 UC Berkeley School of Law graduate and a 2011 graduate of the UCSF School of Dentistry.
“I saw dentistry as an opportunity for me to impact more lives,” said Hatlavongsa. “I wanted to start my new career by returning to my community to provide quality care to patients, regardless of their financial status,” added Hatlavongsa.
He now practices in a United Health Centers community health clinic in Mendota, California where he works to provide accessible dental care to primarily farm worker families and the underserved.
The weight of student loan debt can make a career in public or community health nearly impossible for new dentists. The CDA Foundation’s Student Loan Repayment Grant Program provides up to $105,000 over three years toward repayment of student loans in exchange for a commitment to care for underserved individuals.
Since 2002, the Student Loan Repayment Grant program has placed 13 dentists into community clinics where they’ve helped more than 46,000 patients and provided nearly $13 million in care for individuals who experience barriers to care. And, virtually all of those dentists have remained not only in public health but in the communities where they first served.
For more information or to donate to this program, visit cdafoundation.org.