Unselfishly volunteering time, resources and professional skills is a commendable act that bridges the barriers to care for underserved populations and makes a difference in the lives of others. Established in 2008, 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. This award honors the late Dr. Andrew Soderstrom, CDA past president and co-founder for the CDA Foundation’s flagship program CDA Cares.
The CDA Foundation will accept online nominations from April 1 to June 30 each year.
Dr. Herbert Yee, who graduated in 1948 from what is now the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry, has helped pave the way for students pursuing a career in health care. He served on the university’s board of trustees for 34 years and established a scholarship endowment for students at the UOP School of Dentistry. He and his son, Dr. H. Wesley Yee, also created a scholarship fund for students of California State University, Sacramento, who are accepted into U.S. dental schools. Additionally, the elder Yee led the building of a school in his hometown in China, Kee Sui District, Sing Tong Village, and ensured scholarships were available for high-achieving and need-based students.
“I’ve had a tremendous amount of accomplishments throughout my lifetime,” said Yee. “Being honored as this year’s recipient means a lot to me because I love my profession and I’m happy to be recognized for all I’ve done.”
Yee served on the California Board of Dental Examiners and the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation. Joseph R. Kenneally, president of the U.S.A. section of the International College of Dentists, said that in 1996 Yee helped create the Vietnam region of the ICD and placed service above himself as “a man for all seasons who has a special passion for service.” ICD awarded Yee with its highest honor for his work in establishing relations with China and Vietnam during a hostile political climate.
Additionally, Yee, a U.S. Army veteran, has committed himself to a lifetime of generosity and service that reaches beyond dentistry. He served on boards with the Sacramento County American Cancer Society and the California State Railroad Museum. Yee and his family also established the Dr. Herbert and Inez Yee Foundation, which supports more than 30 nonprofits in the Sacramento community.
Lester Low, DDS, fully embodies everything for which the humanitarian award stands. He has dedicated his life to helping others, even when his own health was at risk.
Dr. Low has volunteered his dental services at St. Raphael’s Dental Clinic, a program of St. Mary’s Dining Room, since 1993. In 2008, he became the clinic’s volunteer director and continues to recruit and screen volunteers, mentor staff and student volunteers, solicit donations of dental equipment and supplies and help ensure donated funds are utilized efficiently. Under Dr. Low’s leadership, St. Raphael’s Dental Clinic provided free dental care to 1,693 patients in 2016. In 2012, early diagnosis and treatment helped Dr. Low beat squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. Throughout his treatment, he continued to volunteer as director of the clinic.
“Dr. Low is a strong advocate for the importance of oral health, particularly among the homeless and working poor,” said Edward Figueroa, CEO of St. Mary’s Dining Room in Stockton, Calif.
In addition to his ongoing commitment at St. Raphael’s Dental Clinic, Dr. Low has been a volunteer dentist at Give Kids a Smile Day — a one-day dental clinic held at the University of the Pacific — since 2003 and has served as its dental clinic director since 2010.
Jeffrey Moses, DDS, FAACS, is the founder and 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.
Dr. 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. Four decades later, he still coordinates, leads and participates in providing surgical dento-facial corrections internationally for children with disadvantaged backgrounds.
In 1985, Dr. Moses 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. His efforts have helped thousands of children benefit from free charitable surgical corrections of their cleft facial deformities worldwide.
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.
Andrew Soderstrom, DDS, is a pediatric dentist in Modesto who continuously serves the dental needs of children, regardless of their families’ economic situation. He strives to improve the quality of care of infants, children and patients with special medical and developmental needs. His concern for the public’s dental health includes a long-fought battle to fluoridate community water in Modesto, his hometown. Having served as CDA president in 2011, Dr. Soderstrom also brought the first CDA Cares event to Modesto.
Russ Webb, DDS, is a retired oral surgeon in Sacramento. The moment he graduated from dental school, Dr. Webb began his humanitarian efforts. He was one of the first volunteers to take a lead role in developing the CDA Cares events and is currently a key member of the management team, providing wisdom, experience and passion through countless volunteer hours.
He and his wife, Kathi, provide their expertise in many venues including the dental operatory they developed for the Gathering Inn — a nonprofit that supports the homeless and where Dr. Webb provides dental services. In addition to his community work, he supports and inspires the next generation of dentists by providing scholarships at his alma mater, the University of California, Los Angeles.
Of all the deﬁnitions for the word humanitarian, the most appropriate for the 2011 recipient, Terry Tanaka, DDS, is from the Collins English Dictionary: having the interests of mankind at heart.
Dr. Tanaka, a practicing dentist in Chula Vista, was the driving force behind a trip to Mexico to treat children with cleft lip and palate. A trip that evolved into the Thousand Smiles Foundation, a two-story permanent clinic in Ensenada, Mexico, that provides treatment without cost to patients with maxillofacial deformities who would otherwise go untreated. That effort alone changed the lives of thousands of children who now live free from pain and the stigma of facial deformity.
“Dr. Tanaka is an inspiration to dentistry and exempliﬁes a selﬂess dedication to our profession,” said Donald Rollofson, DMD, chair of the CDA Foundation.
The Humanitarian Award was established in 2008 by the CDA Foundation to honor California dentists who have distinguished themselves through selﬂess leadership and contributions to humanity in the ﬁeld of dentistry.
It has been said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. If true, then Irvin Silverstein, DDS, MSEd, is a man who found himself years ago.
The roots of Dr. Silverstein’s service began in the late '70s when he provided pro bono care to special needs patients from the Home of the Guiding Hands, a San Diego residential facility for the developmentally disabled. But Dr. Silverstein is probably best known for his tireless efforts at the University of California San Diego Student-Run Free Dental Clinic.
Prior to Dr. Silverstein’s involvement, the clinic, which began in 2002, was opened sporadically with very little treatment performed. Dr. Silverstein reorganized the system and was instrumental in turning it into the success story that it is today. In fact, from 2002 to 2010, the clinic has provided more than $3.2 million in dental care to homeless and working poor throughout San Diego. Students have volunteered more than 49,000 hours in the clinics, and they have seen nearly 10,000 patients. Not bad for a school-run system that doesn’t even have an associated dental school.
In fact, the clinic is the only undergraduate program in the country that runs and manages three free dental clinics for the underserved and gives students considering a career in dentistry valuable experience as well as an understanding of the value of volunteerism and social responsibility. And for his tireless dedication, Dr. Silverstein has created a legacy of selfless commitment that will inspire students and young dentists for generations to come.
It is said that a generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are what renew humanity. And if true, then Dr. Guillermo Vicuña, through more than 32 years as an advocate for the underserved, is responsible for an unprecedented wave of renewal.
In 1983, he cofounded Su Salud, or “Your Health,” to provide heath education and disease prevention to tens of thousands of the most needy in the San Joaquin Valley. He was also instrumental in mobilizing students from the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry to provide volunteer dental services every Saturday to those who otherwise lacked access to care. He volunteered once a week at St. Mary’s Interfaith Community Services providing free dental services and he co-founded the Disease Prevention Center and the Tour of Life Education Program, both in Stockton. All of which put his philosophy, “It’s always easier and more affordable to prevent problems then to treat them,” into action.
Dr. Vicuña’s list of selfless accomplishments is lengthy and includes a Point of Light Award earned in 1991 from President George H.W. Bush. But what is truly inspiring is his dedication to helping others and the legacy he has created to improve the health of his patients through preventive care. He is a humanitarian role model. His passion and perseverance inspire students, physicians and dentists to join him in volunteerism. And together, they accomplish the not so simple task of renewing humanity.
“Charlie had such an incredible heart. He was a model of a true servant leader. Those around him were compelled to follow his example. His legacy will live on in the lives he has touched so deeply,” remembered CDA President Carol Summerhays, DDS, who nominated Dr. Charles (Charlie) Goldstein as the inaugural recipient of the CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award.
Established in 2008, the CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award recognizes California dentists who have distinguished themselves by outstanding, unselﬁsh leadership and contributions to fellow human beings in the ﬁeld of dentistry. Dentists like Dr. Goldstein, who was presented with the award at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family, friends and colleagues on Saturday, May 10, 2008. Sadly, Dr. Goldstein passed away the following day.
Dr. Goldstein was chosen for his leadership to the profession of dentistry, his efforts with the University of Southern California (USC) Mobile Dental Clinic program, and a career of other philanthropic oral health activities that have helped 500,000 underserved men, women and children.
Dr. Harold C. Slavkin, DDS, former dean of the USC School of Dentistry said of Dr. Goldstein, “His entire life was dedicated to championing the cause of the poor and working poor in California. Through ‘service-learning’ our residents, dental students and dental hygiene students have learned clinical dentistry and experienced the needs of the underserved.”
In addition to the presentation at his home, Dr. Summerhays presented the Humanitarian Award posthumously to Dr. Goldstein’s daughter at the CDA House of Delegates meeting in November.
As a reflection of Dr. Goldstein’s efforts, a $2,500 contribution was given by the CDA Foundation to the USC Mobile Clinic in Dr. Goldstein’s name.