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Encouraging dentists' passion to serve

March 03, 2014

Dr. Stephanie Calvillo: A California Dental Association Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant that helps pay her student loans is giving the new dentist a chance to work in a clinic that treats underserved patients.

Redlands, Calif.—Dr. Stephanie Calvillo, a new dentist who practices at a community dental clinic that serves low-income patients, knows what it can be like on the other side of the dental chair.

Born to immigrants from Mexico and raised in a rural, highly minority community, Dr. Calvillo was the first of her family to attend college. She spent her dental school years at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry generously donating her time and skills to help the less fortunate, both in the community and internationally.

Thanks to a grant from the California Dental Association Foundation that will provide up to $105,000 to repay her student loans, she can continue to help the less fortunate without worrying about the heavy burden of student loan debt.

"This grant is a blessing," said Dr. Calvillo. "As a recent graduate, I know that the large amount of debt acquired during dental school can be overwhelming. This grant has brought some financial relief and allowed me to work in a non-profit clinic while still being able to support my family. It is great to be able to be a part of a clinic that does so much for our local community."

Since 2002, the CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant has enabled 14 dentists to embrace their dream of working in public health and helped more than 62,000 patients in underserved communities receive more than $16 million in care.

CDA Foundation awards selected graduates with grants to repay student loans of up to $35,000 per year and a maximum of $105,000 over three years in exchange for a commitment to care for the underserved. The program's goals are to immediately reduce barriers to access to dental care in underserved communities and to establish an opportunity for new dentists to reduce financial burdens while serving those in need.

"The CDA Foundation works tirelessly to support the dental profession in its efforts to meet community needs, and the Student Loan Repayment Grant recipients are committed to doing just that," said Dr. Don Rollofson, CDA Foundation chair. "The program lessens the burden of student loans by awarding new dentists who are committed to working in an underserved community and providing quality care to their patients."

In addition to working as a staff dentist for the Assistance League of Redlands-Dental Center, Dr. Calvillo also spends time volunteering in the community.

"I am currently on a committee with Tri-County Dental Society called Give Adults a Smile, which provides dental treatment for the underserved at host clinics," said Dr. Calvillo. "I have participated in six events hosted by my mentor, Dr. Vijay Patel, and will be hosting an event at the dental center where I am employed."

All six dental schools in California provide opportunities for dental students to help bring dental care to the underserved, and Dr. Calvillo got her start at Loma Linda dental school.

"I have wanted to work in a clinic that treats the underserved since I was a dental student," said Dr. Calvillo. "We visited low-income clinics as part of our service learning curriculum requirements and I saw first hand the great need there was in the community."

LLUSD provides service opportunities for local clinics and events in the community as well as abroad, she added.

"You are surrounded by students and faculty who share a common desire to serve, so it is easy to be motivated and to get involved," said Dr. Calvillo. "The alumni association also provides funding to help with some of the costs of international mission trips."

Her most memorable experience as a volunteer was a two-week mission trip to Nicaragua.

"We set up the clinic at an elementary school," said Dr. Calvillo. "The group leader, Dr. Mark Carpenter, has held clinics in this location for many years and for most of our patients this was the only dental treatment they could have all year. We set up our portable units in the open-air auditorium and saw students as well as parents. This was an unforgettable experience and only solidified my passion of serving the underserved."


Dr. Siri Ziese: A CDA Foundation Student Loan Repayment Grant gave her the opportunity to make a difference in her hometown.
Another Loma Linda graduate, Dr. Siri Ziese, was a grant recipient in 2009, and has not only completed her three-year commitment to provide care at the Diamond Springs Dental Center, but chose to stay on at the clinic.

"After I graduated from dental school in 2007, my husband and I had some difficult decisions to make because of the enormity of my financial debt," Dr. Ziese said. "We considered moving out of California to escape the high cost of living, even though we are both native Californians."

Dr. Ziese said the CDA Foundation grant significantly reduced her loans and enabled her to pay off the remaining balances at a faster rate.

"The generous grant has given me the freedom to stay and work at a great office without the need to find a more financially lucrative position," said Dr. Ziese. "I would like to thank all of the donors to the CDA foundation. Your donations have made a huge impact on my life and allowed me give back in my hometown."

Before dental school, Dr. Ziese worked for Dr. Mitchell A. Goodis at Diamond Springs Dental Center, a practice that focuses on treating patients with state-funded insurance programs.

"I could clearly see the amazing service that he provides to all his patients," Dr. Ziese said. "There is a huge demand in our area for quality dental care for those that qualify for Denti-Cal. We have an amazing group of patients and it is my honor to take care of them. Now that I have children of my own I realize how special it is when a parent trusts you to care for their children. I enjoy being able to provide my patients the same time and care that they would receive at any preferred provider organization office."

"These and in fact all of our grant recipients are perfect examples of what is great about our profession," said Dr. Rollofson. "They are dedicated to serving the public, love dentistry and have a passion for helping the underserved."

For more details about the grant program, visit the CDA Foundation website, cdafoundation.org.