Dentist brings craft and heart to CDA Cares

Stephen Abbott, DDS, an 11-time CDA Cares volunteer, came to the San Mateo event last April bearing gifts — hand-carved wooden hearts.

The Chico-based dentist parted with typical gift-giving custom and gave twice at the San Mateo Event Center. He provided his volunteer dental services in the restoration department, then ended every procedure by presenting each of his patients with the gift of a hand-carved heart and a hand-written note. “We appreciate your patience and willingness to allow us to participate in your care today,” read one message in the personalized notes, which were addressed to each patient by name.

Abbott began working with wood in high school and never stopped. “Like most dentists, I like to work with my hands,” he said. Months before CDA Cares San Mateo, Abbott began making wood-branch boxes for his wife, Judy Abbott, who uses them in her own craftwork. The box-making process generated waste wood, but Abbott found he didn’t want to throw it away. “It’s such beautiful wood … so I started carving hearts out of it for her,” Abbott said, adding that he then thought of carving extra hearts to bring down to CDA Cares.

The gifts were well-received. “I got such a nice surprise,” said Carla, who drove from Burlingame to the San Mateo Event Center to receive a much-needed root canal. “After I was done, my doctor said he had something for me and he gave me a heart, which was amazing. He was so nice.”

Abbott has not missed one CDA Cares since the inaugural event in Modesto in 2012. He plans to volunteer again in the restorative department at the next CDA Cares, Oct. 6–7, in Bakersfield.

CDA and the CDA Foundation host CDA Cares. The program allows volunteer dentists, with the assistance of other dental professionals and community volunteers, to provide dental services at no charge to approximately 2,000 people at each event. The events also serve to educate the public and policymakers about the importance of good oral health and the need for an adequately funded dental safety net.

“I’ve not met a volunteer down here that didn’t get more out of this than the patients that they’ve treated,” Abbott said. “The patients are all very grateful, they’re all very cooperative, and it’s just a very rewarding experience for everybody who’s involved.”

Learn more about this story on the CDA Cares Facebook page or on CDA’s YouTube channel. Register to volunteer at CDA Cares Bakersfield.

Related Items

Retired dentist Bob Chiurazzi, DDS, and his daughter Heather Chiurazzi, a first-year dental student at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry, volunteer side by side at CDA Cares and have missed volunteering just once since CDA Cares held its first event in Modesto in 2012. The pair looks forward to working together again in the oral surgery department at CDA Cares Bakersfield, Oct. 6–7.