Recipients of 2016 CDA Foundation awards announced

As the philanthropic arm of CDA, the CDA Foundation offers financial support for oral health programs and dental education statewide, thereby enabling funding to reach the local communities where it is needed the most. Two ways the Foundation gives are through community grants and educational scholarships. Over the years, these awards have enabled thousands of people to receive more than $109 million in care.

The CDA Foundation has announced the recipients of four annual awards and educational scholarships. The 2016 recipients are:

  • Student Loan Repayment Grant – Habiba Ismail, DDS
  • Webb Family Grant – Martha De La Pena, DMD
  • Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni Faculty Award – Ronald Mito, DDS, FDS RCSEd
  • CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award – Jeffrey Moses, DDS, FAACS

Read on to learn more about the individual awards and recipients.

Student Loan Repayment Grant – Habiba Ismail, DDS

Habiba Ismail, DDS, graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry in 2013. She is currently licensed to practice in California and employed at Metro Health Station in Los Angeles, where she provides 40 hours per week of hands-on clinical services.

Born in Somalia, Ismail and her family fled the country’s civil war for neighboring Kenya when she was 10. There, she spent most of her childhood in refugee camps that offered only scarce, basic resources, but she learned English by communicating with the camp’s aid workers. Today, she also speaks Kiswahili and Somali and is working on mastering Arabic to better communicate with some of her patients. Ismail said that as a child she was in awe of the aid workers at the refugee camps — they made her feel like she mattered.

Ismail moved to the United States at the age of 19, graduated from dental school and then worked briefly in a private dental office. But it was only after serving in a community clinic that Ismail felt fulfilled in her career.

“I have seen how taking the time to educate my patients has had a positive impact on their oral health,” Ismail said, adding, “I can’t wait to start motivating young minorities to pursue careers in community dentistry.”

Every year, the CDA Foundation awards one new dentist with the Student Loan Repayment Grant — up to $105,000 over three years to help repay the dentist’s educational loan in exchange for a commitment to care for the underserved. Since 2002, the program has enabled 17 dentists to provide more than 80,000 patients in underserved communities with more than $22 million in care.

Webb Family Grant — Martha De La Pena, DMD

Martha De La Pena, DMD, took her first job at age 14 in Mexico, where she was born and raised.

“Early on, I realized that my family needed my help,” she said. De La Pena was the first in her family to receive an education beyond high school. Following a university strike, she left Mexico for better opportunities and a chance to live with her aunt in the U.S., attend school and help support her family.

De La Pena graduated from Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, Ariz., in 2013. After graduation, she went to work at the County of Marin Dental Clinic and has been with the Marin Community Clinic in San Rafael since August 2015.

“I believe that health providers need to be in positions where we can not only advocate for our patients but also help lead the conversations needed to shape the health system of the United States,” said De La Pena, who has more than nine years’ collective volunteer experience with Give Kids a Smile, the Native American Health Center in San Francisco and other nonprofits. She would like to one day become a dental director of a community clinic and perhaps run for public office.

Named for Russell Webb, DDS, and Kathi Webb, the generous donors who created this endowment fund, the Webb Family Grant provides an annual award of up to $5,000 toward educational expenses for the individual selected as runner-up for the Student Loan Repayment Grant.

Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni Faculty Award — Ronald Mito, DDS, FDS RCSEd

Ronald Mito, DDS, FDS RCSEd, graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry in 1976 and completed his general practitioner residency the following year. For the past 40 years, he has been employed by the UCLA School of Dentistry and currently serves as the executive associate dean. He teaches six courses, including a course he co-developed for first-year students.

Mito has served in more than a dozen leadership capacities locally, statewide and nationally, including president of the American Association of Hospital Dentists and member of ADA Council on Government Affairs. Additionally, his community involvement over many years has earned him several awards and honors.

As a governor’s appointee to the Dental Board of California, he had the responsibility of advising the secretary of Health and Human Services and Congress; during his tenure, he initiated the portfolio licensing efforts that involved collaboration between all schools and organized dentistry.

Mito has focused his academic creativity on the management of dental fear and anxiety and the professional development of dental students. He is recognized as an innovator in office-based dentistry under anesthesia for patients with severe phobias and anxieties. He serves as a role model for students through active classroom discussions about the parameters of professionalism and the importance of ethics and integrity, especially when it extends beyond school or practice and into everyday life.

“Dr. Dugoni has been and still is a role model and mentor. To be recognized for emulating all that Dr. Dugoni stands for is the ultimate recognition,” Mito said. He plans to use the funds awarded to further the teaching of professionalism and leadership, and will continue to advocate to students the importance of being actively involved in the dental profession.

In recognition of Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni’s vast accomplishments in dental education and organized dentistry, this award acknowledges and supports individual faculty for their exceptional leadership, innovation, collaboration, compassion, philanthropic spirit and integrity in dental education.

CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award — Jeffrey Moses, DDS, FAACS

Jeffrey Moses, DDS, FAACS, is the founder and current president of Smiles International Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission of “providing excellence in education and charitable surgical care.” He also holds a number of volunteer positions with organizations that share his philanthropic passion.

Moses began providing charitable dental care on surgical mission trips with the Flying Samaritans in 1977, while serving in the U.S. Naval Dental Corps. More than 39 years later, he still coordinates, leads and participates in providing surgical dento-facial corrections internationally for children with disadvantaged backgrounds. His most recent mission trip provided surgical care for children in Cabo San Lucas in April 2016.

In 1985, he helped found the Rotary Thousand Smiles Foundation Clinics in Ensenada, Mexico, and in 1987, he created the Pacific Clinical Research Foundation (which later became Smiles International Foundation) to continue surgical treatments on a global scale. Moses’ efforts have helped thousands of children benefit from free charitable surgical corrections of their cleft facial deformities worldwide.

Moses was honored by the Southern California Pierre Fauchard Academy with its Humanitarian Award. He is likewise admired by his peers for his efforts. One commented, “In my 48-year career, I have seen very few colleagues so beneficent, so giving and unselfish in providing very specialized services to anyone and everyone in need of his talent.” 

After 30 years of academic teaching and clinical practice, Moses retired and sold his private practice, but continues his philanthropic efforts through the formation of medical-surgical mission teams worldwide.

The CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award recognizes California dentists who have distinguished themselves through a lifetime of outstanding, unselfish leadership and contributions to fellow human beings in the field of dentistry.

For more information about the Foundation’s grants and awards, including past recipients, visit cdafoundation.org/grants-awards.

Updated: 11/15/16

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