'I always leave CDA Cares with renewed pride in my profession'

Q&A with CDA Cares Solano committee chair James Sanderson, DDS

Fairfield native James Sanderson, DDS, was made for his role as chair of the CDA Cares Solano Local Arrangements Committee. Not just because he’s a longtime resident of Solano County, with the extensive community connections that are so critical to creating a successful volunteer-run dental clinic, but also because he’s done this before.

Dr. Sanderson chaired the local arrangements committee the first time the CDA Foundation brought its two-day dental event to Solano County in April 2014. His dedication also makes him an ideal chair: He’s volunteered at 13 of the 14 CDA Cares to date, and his stints in the triage, restorative, endodontic and sterilization areas have given him a broad understanding of how the clinics operate, prepping him for his commitment as chair of a committee that recruits volunteers, raises funds and identifies and secures pharmaceuticals and local dental lab equipment, among other duties. His work as chair began more than a year ahead of CDA Cares Solano.

Here Sanderson offers some additional thoughts about his past clinic experiences and current preparations for the next clinic, which takes place March 8-9 at the Solano County Fairgrounds.

How have your past volunteer experiences at CDA Cares prepared you for your current role as local arrangements committee chair of the Solano clinic?

My experiences at previous CDA Cares clinics have taught me what our clinics can do and how we perform our duties. I have observed and learned from many outstanding leaders who have preceded me. Because of this, I will know who to talk to when issues come up that I don’t have answers for. Lastly, I chaired the previous Solano clinic so I can also draw upon my own experience.

This is CDA Cares’ second visit to Vallejo. Can you speak about the need for this event in Solano County? 

The need in Solano County is immense. Our most recent Medicare utilization report shows that only 6 to 19 percent of eligible patients have seen a dentist despite being eligible for dental care. We provided care to nearly 2,000 patients in 2014 despite our clinic coinciding with a large winter storm. I’m sure that standing in line in a driving rain discouraged many patients. Solano County leaders recognize our unmet dental needs and are extremely supportive of our efforts.

Please give readers a snapshot of your work as chair.

Linda Seifert, a CDA Foundation member, guided me when I was the committee chair in 2014. She was an incredible fundraiser and mentor. I am trying to follow her game plan. She is still very helpful despite her not living in the area anymore. Foundation staff has also been incredible as well. I am hopeful that fundraising will exceed our expectations, and I’m confident that we will meet our volunteer goals. In my experience, dentists are extremely giving of both their time and money.

What is your fondest memory of a past CDA Cares event or of the experience in general?

I have extremely fond memories of CDA Cares clinics. Several times I have had the privilege of watching a patient see themselves in a mirror with new dentures for the first time. I don’t think it’s possible to not be affected by the sight of these patients and their tears of joy. I also enjoy seeing all of the volunteer dental students. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I always leave CDA Cares with renewed pride in my profession.

Is there one thing you’d like to share with a dentist or dental professional who is thinking about volunteering?

I encourage all dentists and dental professionals to sign up and volunteer. I can’t think of a more rewarding experience than volunteering at a CDA Cares clinic. There is a reason that most people who volunteer for the first shift end up staying longer: CDA Cares gets in your blood. Most volunteers travel to clinics throughout the state because they find the experience so rewarding.


In addition to providing dental services at no charge to Californians who experience barriers to care, CDA Cares, the CDA Foundation's volunteer dental program, educates the public and policymakers about the importance of good oral health and the need for continued improvements to the state’s Medi-Cal Dental Program. Dental volunteers help relieve pain and eliminate infection by offering extractions, fillings, limited root canals, cleanings and oral health education. Dentists also provide temporary full and partial dentures on a limited basis.

At the Modesto event in October 2018, volunteer dentists provided more than $1.6 million in care to 1,533 people.

March 8-9 at CDA Cares Solano, volunteer dentists and dental professionals are needed in all areas, including restorative, oral surgery, pediatric, hygiene, triage and routing. Community volunteers are also needed to help register and guide patients, assist with language translation and more.

Register to volunteer at CDA Cares Solano at cdafoundation.org/solano.

About James Sanderson, DDS.
Dr. Sanderson studied wildlife biology and zoology at the University of California, Davis, obtaining a bachelor’s in 1982, before heading east to earn his doctor of dental surgery from Georgetown University in 1986. Returning to Solano County after completing dental school, Sanderson began his dental career as an associate — first in Benicia, then in his hometown of Fairfield. In 1988, he purchased a practice in the farming community of Dixon, where he continues to practice today.

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CDA Cares, the CDA Foundation’s volunteer-run dental clinic, returns March 8-9 to the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif., and volunteers can now register online to provide their oral health care services at the two-day event. General dentists, oral surgeons, dental hygienists, dental assistants, lab technicians and community volunteers are needed to provide services that include extractions, fillings, cleanings, oral health education and language translation.

The CDA Foundation has wrapped up another successful CDA Cares in Modesto. The volunteer clinic provided more than $1.6 million in care to 1,533 people during the Oct. 27-28 event at the Modesto Centre Plaza — the same location as the very first CDA Cares event held in 2012. Nearly 1,800 volunteers donated their time and skills, including hundreds of dentists and dental health professionals who provided fillings, cleanings, extractions, limited dentures and more.