Meet Your Board Member: Dr. Nowlen

February 22, 2024
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The CDA Foundation’s board of directors plays an important role. The board’s guidance leads ongoing efforts to support dental professionals, reduce barriers to care and improve Californians’ oral health. Today, get to know Alyssa N. Nowlen, DDS, a member of the board.

Volunteering at CDA Cares started her career path

“My first time at a CDA Cares event was in San Jose in 2013, and I was just in high school,” Dr. Nowlen recalls. “Not knowing much about dentistry, my role was directing patients to their appropriate places. I was in awe seeing the magnitude of this event, both by the sheer volume of individuals seeking dental care but also the number of volunteers who took time away from their offices or gave up their weekend to share their expertise with the community. This experience solidified that if I wanted to pursue a career that made a difference, dentistry would be an exceptional choice.”

Nowlen’s experience at that 2013 Cares event was clearly a formative one. Motivated to become part of a professional community that shared her passion for service, she went on to graduate from the UCLA School of Dentistry. Currently, Nowlen cares for patients in the Greater Los Angeles area at Chinatown Service Center’s Dental Clinic. 

Foundation involvement continues to shape her career

During dental school, Nowlen was active in the American Student Dental Association, which gave her additional opportunities to become familiar with CDA and the role it plays in the professional lives of California’s dentists. Upon graduating, Nowlen wished to continue her involvement with organized dentistry and was accepted into the CDA Leadership Discovery Program. There, she began working with the Foundation as a guest on the board, which evolved into her current role as its associate director.

“In joining the Foundation, I was eager to be a part of a group that shared my own passion for service and addressing the needs of the community within the scope of dentistry,” Nowlen explains. “For someone like me who is early in their career, it has been incredibly inspiring and empowering to be in a room of individuals with unique perspectives and backgrounds all working toward this common goal. It is a gift to be a part of a group where people bring so much heart and devotion to their work, and our colorful discussions, intentional decisions and innovative ideas can have tremendous impacts on both individuals and larger communities in California.”

Looking forward to new ways to serve

When asked what she would like to share with her dental peers about getting involved with the CDA Foundation’s mission, Nowlen points to the new model of care that the Foundation has adopted for the events.

“As CDA Cares evolves from its legacy event, being a part of the smaller clinic is a great way to give back and address access to care,” she notes. “More Californians utilize the Medi-Cal dental benefits than any other insurance plan, so accepting any number of these patients into your practice helps to ensure they are receiving the quality care they need and deserve.”

Nowlen also wants California dentists to recognize the impact they can make as individuals within their communities. “There is need all around us. In some cases, you may need to look for it, but more often it is right in your backyard,” she says. “Counseling patients on nutrition, hygiene and the connection between oral and systemic health is critical to creating a healthier community.”