Stockton-based dentist with ‘huge heart for the underserved’ receives humanitarian award

Not even an oral cancer diagnosis in 2012 could slow down Lester Low, DDS, recipient of the 2017 CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award. Early diagnosis and treatment helped Dr. Low beat squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, but throughout his treatment he continued to volunteer his time and services for several organizations in the San Joaquin Valley, a few with which Low has been volunteering for more than 20 years. Now cancer free, Low continues to educate the public, both in his private practice and at speaking engagements, about the importance of oral cancer screenings by dental professionals.

A native of Stockton and 1986 graduate cum laude of the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry, Low has since spent his professional life volunteering for numerous organizations based in and around Stockton. This work is in addition to managing his private practice.

Edward Figueroa, CEO of St. Mary’s Dining Room in Stockton, calls Low a “strong advocate for the importance of oral health, particularly among the homeless and working poor of San Joaquin County.” Low has volunteered his dental services at St. Rafael’s Dental Clinic, a program of St. Mary’s Dining Room, since 1993. He accepted an additional responsibility in 2008 when he became the clinic’s volunteer director. In this capacity, Low recruits and screens volunteers, mentors staff and student volunteers, solicits donations of dental equipment and supplies and helps ensure donated funds are utilized efficiently. Under Low’s leadership, St. Rafael’s Dental Clinic provided free dental care to 1,693 patients in 2016. And recently, he conducted an online charity auction that raised more than $56,000 for the clinic. 

In addition to his ongoing commitment at St. Rafael’s Dental Clinic, 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. He has also volunteered for more than 20 years at Donated Dental Services of California — a program that “provides free, comprehensive dental treatment to individuals with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile.” Low volunteered as a dentist at the Su SALUD Health Fairs in Stockton for 10 years, serving also as the fair’s dental division consultant for seven of those years. Additionally, he was the dental clinic director for San Joaquin Veterans Stand Down for four years and has volunteered his dental services at two CDA Cares clinics — Modesto in 2012 and Stockton in 2016.

Low has held numerous positions in the San Joaquin Dental Society, including as president in 2008. The society’s immediate past interim executive director, Kathy White, says Low is “most deserving of the CDA Foundation Humanitarian Award.” In addition to praising him for his longtime volunteer work both in and outside of dentistry — such as with the North Stockton Kiwanis Club, as a youth music director in his church, on an IT committee to establish a video broadcasting system and in a career internship program at a local high school — White calls Low “a very kind and tenacious family man and dentist.”

“Anyone who has been involved in charity efforts in dentistry in Stockton and San Joaquin County knows Dr. Lester Low,” adds Janice Scott, DDS, past-president, San Joaquin Dental Society. “I consider Lester a friend and fabulous dentist with a huge heart for the underserved, and this award would be privileged to have his name associated with it.”

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

Learn more about the CDA Foundation’s awards and grants, find application and nomination guidelines and see a list of past recipients at cdafoundation.org/awards.

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