Loan repayment grant recipient’s life experiences define passion to serve

The CDA Foundation has named Andrea Ustarez, DDS, the recipient of its 2018 Student Loan Repayment Grant. Awarded annually to a recent dental school graduate, the grant assists with repayment of education loans in exchange for the recipient’s commitment to care for the underserved. Dr. Ustarez will receive up to $105,000 over three years to put toward repayment of her student loans while she realizes her goal of working in public health.  

“The dedication and commitment Dr. Ustarez has shown to her community along with her efforts to eliminate barriers to dental care make her a worthy recipient,” said CDA Foundation Chair Ron Mead, DDS. “We are confident she will extend our reach to improve the oral health of Californians.”

Ustarez, a 2016 graduate of the UCSF School of Dentistry, credits her personal experiences with oral health care disparities as the driving force behind her interest in community dentistry. She is currently working at AltaMed in Los Angeles, a health clinic with the mission to provide care to underserved communities in Southern California. The desire to break down health care barriers is a goal Ustarez shares with her sister, Adriana Ustarez-Oji, DDS, who received the Foundation’s 2011 Student Loan Repayment Grant.

Nearly 30 years ago, Ustarez and her family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in the poverty-stricken MacArthur Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. With limited resources and no health care insurance, her family sought care only when it was necessary. 

“As a child, my family traveled to various free or low-cost clinics to obtain basic health care services,” said Ustarez. "The lack of education, minimal dental knowledge and lack of access to health care is a recurring cycle in my community that has detrimental consequences.”

Over the years, Ustarez has pursued her goal of eliminating gaps in the health care system by volunteering at a variety of health fairs and outreach programs across the state. Having spent time bridging the gap in dental care for patients in Ecuador, Jamaica and Honduras, she also recognizes that the lack of access to oral health care is a barrier that Americans do not face alone. 

“I would advise minorities dealing with health care barriers to become proactive in educating themselves,” said Ustarez, who has hopes of one day becoming a clinical director and serving as an advocate for underserved communities. “Information on healthy life choices, such as nutrition, exercise and hygiene, can help reduce their needs and prevent some of the most common health conditions affecting this population.”

The Foundation’s grant program aims to improve the oral health of all Californians by supporting the dental profession in its efforts to meet community needs. Ustarez is the 19th recipient of the grant. Since 2002, the program has enabled 18 dentists to pursue their passion of working in public health where they have helped nearly 100,000 patients and provided more than $24 million in care for individuals who experience barriers to care. Almost all of those dentists have remained not only in public health but also in the communities where they first served.

Southern California dentist named Webb Family Grant recipient

Ivy Fua, DDS, has been named this year’s Webb Family Grant recipient. The grant provides a $5,000 award to go toward education expenses to the runner-up of the Foundation’s Student Loan Repayment Grant.

As the child of immigrant parents with limited resources, Dr. Fua was the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry in June 2018. Fua has dedicated her career to serving the Hispanic community of Los Angeles and has hopes of eliminating obstacles for children with special health care needs.

Learn more about the Foundation’s Student Loan Repayment Grant and Webb Family Grant and see a list of past recipients at cdafoundation.org/grants-awards.

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