Dental students and recent graduates interested in providing care in a community clinic have the opportunity to do the work they love and get help with their student debt at the same time, thanks to the CDA Foundation's Student Loan Repayment Grant.
The grant awards selected recent dental school/specialty graduates funding to help repay their educational loans of up to $35,000 per year for a maximum of $105,000 over three years in exchange for a commitment by recipients to care for the underserved.
The application for the Student Loan Repayment Grant is now available at cdafoundation.org.
Since 2002, the CDA Foundation's Student Loan Repayment Grant program has helped 14 dentists work in community clinics where they've seen nearly 72,000 patients and provided more than $18 million in care for individuals who would otherwise go without.
Kongsab Hatlavongsa, DDS, is one of those dentists. He received the grant in 2012.
"It really encourages a particular type of student, one who really loves dentistry, secondly, one who wants to serve an underserved community and thirdly, one who is concerned about having a lot of debt coming out of dental school," Hatlavongsa said.
Hatlavongsa and his family came to the United States as refugees from war-torn Laos when he was just six months old. Living below the poverty level, Hatlavongsa and his family struggled to overcome cultural, economic and social obstacles. He now practices in a United Health Centers community health clinic in Mendota, Calif., where he works to provide accessible dental care to primarily farm worker families and others who experience barriers.
Siri Ziese, DDS, was the 2009 recipient of the Student Loan Repayment Grant. She works at Diamond Springs Dental Center and her patients are predominantly from indigent communities and some, because they lack access to dental care, travel more than 100 miles to see her. Providing care to these patients is something she takes pride in, and the Student Loan Repayment Grant allowed her to practice at the Diamond Springs Dental Center, while reducing her debt at the same time.
"After I received the Foundation grant and I started to pay off some of these loans, I realized that instead of having a 20-year loan I would be able to pay off those debts much sooner, that has reduced the amount of time it is going to take me to pay off those loans by half, which is really amazing," Ziese said.
James Forester, DDS, 2007 recipient of the Student Loan Repayment Grant, reminds dental students and recent graduates that it doesn't take much to complete the application.
"It's a very simple process, simple application. They do interview you and they go through and find out who's going to be the best person for the job, and if you do have that good story that tells why you feel like this is important, you're going to be given a really good chance to receive the grant," said Forester, who is currently the dental director for the Tolosa Children's Health Center (formerly Clinica de Tolosa), a nonprofit pediatric dental clinic located in Paso Robles.
To be eligible for the CDA Foundation's Student Loan Repayment Grant program, applicants must meet the following criteria (among other requirements):
- Graduate from an American Dental Association accredited dental school with a DDS or DMD degree or a dental specialty program within the last three years of the award cycle year or positioned to graduate in the next three months at the time of application.
- Be eligible to practice dentistry in California.
- Secure employment with an eligible work site.
- Be a legal citizen or resident of the United States.
The deadline to apply for the grant is July 31. For the program's additional requirements and to apply or donate to the program, visit cdafoundation.org/scholarships-grants.