A commitment to the underserved distinguishes Maria Augello, RDH, 2023 Webb Family Grant recipient

December 6, 2023
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Maria Augello, RDH, a recent graduate of the Shasta College Dental Hygiene program in California has received the CDA Foundation’s Webb Family Grant for 2023. Augello currently works as hygienist in the cities of Redding and Red Bluff.

The spirit of giving is the impetus behind the Webb Family Grant. As founding contributors of the CDA Foundation, Russell Webb, DDS, and his wife, Kathi Webb, demonstrate a generosity and commitment to volunteerism that inspired the dental community to fund this annual award.

This year, the grant expanded eligibility to include (1) students or recent graduates of a board-approved dental assisting or hygiene program and (2) educational programs approved by the Dental Board of California or Dental Hygiene Board of California. As in prior years, a deserving recipient may receive up to $5,000 for educational or program expenses.

Commitment to underserved communities

Augello’s childhood experiences gave her a unique understanding of the importance of oral health care access for underserved populations. The daughter of immigrants, Augello, along with her sister, was raised by her single mother and lived in low-income housing in rural Susanville, in California’s Lassen County, with limited access to medical and dental care.

“Very few local dental offices would take low-income dental insurance, leaving us to travel out of town to receive dental care,” she explains. “It was incredibly difficult for my mother to afford travel and accommodations, which led to infrequent dental care for all of us.”

That personal connection to rural patients motivated Augello to begin her career as a registered dental hygienist in two rural California towns: Redding and Red Bluff. Both are considered Health Professional Shortage Areas. In her capacity as a hygienist, she hopes to demonstrate compassion and educate patients to improve their oral and systemic health. She says she understands how difficult it is when patients have limitations.

“I want to offer a safe space to my patients that will motivate and encourage them to overcome challenges and guide them in the right direction while sharing my knowledge of available resources,” Augello says.

Augello explained the grant’s positive long-term impact, noting that the awarded grant money will be applied directly to the student loan needed to obtain her dental hygiene education and licensure.

“The awarded grant money will significantly lessen my financial burden of student loan debt and allow me to reach the long-awaited financial stability and security I have worked so hard to obtain sooner than I anticipated when I began my dental hygiene career goal,” she says. “In return, I can continue to reach my next goal, obtaining my bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene as I seek to advance my career with confidence, determination and ongoing education to better serve my patients.”

As Augello diversifies and expands her clinical education and skills, she looks forward to serving her local community and surrounding rural communities, partnering with Shasta County Public Health to provide screenings at rural elementary, middle and high schools that have a limited access to care.

Volunteering is a priority

For Augello, volunteering is not just a future aspiration — it’s a core element of her past and present. Currently, Augello is planning a volunteering-based mission trip this summer with a local church that provides care to individuals in HPSA communities. Along with 35 other health care professionals, Augello will travel to San Vincente, Mexico to provide care to hundreds of people in surrounding villages with a focus on dental hygiene services and education.

In addition, Augello looks forward to partnering with International Medical Relief to provide focused oral health care and education to communities all around the world.

A bright future

A first-generation college graduate, Augello graduated with honors from Shasta College. She was awarded the Colgate STAR award for compassion in patient care, enthusiasm for community service and dedication to and enjoyment of the profession of dental hygiene. “I am proud of where I came from, and I look forward to building a better and stronger path for my future,” Augello says.

Along with acknowledging the efforts of influential educators, Augello offers her thanks to the CDA Foundation and the Webb family.

“While words cannot truly express the gratitude within my heart for this opportunity and experience, it is important for the CDA Foundation and members to know that this opportunity will continue to have a remarkable effect on my life and goals.” Augello adds, “This award enables me to be a catalyst to shape and change the lives of those in need with oral hygiene, education, compassion, and care.”

Augello’s motivation to serve within the community, provide compassionate care and bring oral health to underserved populations embody the spirit of the Webb Family Grant. The Webb Family and CDA Foundation look forward to seeing Augello’s professional and philanthropic efforts flourish in the future.

The Foundation will accept applications for the 2024 Webb Family Grant beginning April 1until April 30. Awardees will be notified in October 2024. Learn more about the award and see a list of past recipients.

The CDA Foundation offers financial support to dental professionals and community-based organizations statewide that provide dental care to underserved communities. Visit the Foundation website to learn more about other grants, awards and programs.

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