Dr. Cheng, a retired periodontist, is the founder of Everyone for Veterans (EV4), which aims to improve the quality of life of low-income combat veterans by connecting them to their communities for goods and services, including access to dental care from qualified dental professionals across the country.
Prior to her retirement in 2014, Dr. Cheng provided free dental care to family members caring for veterans returning from combat after hearing the story of a local veteran gravely injured in Iraq and his mother’s experience as his caretaker. Years later, in 2016, Cheng founded EV4 with the goal of expanding comprehensive care to low-income veterans and those returning from war zones.
“I learned quickly that most veterans do not get dental benefits,” said Dr. Cheng. “At EV4, we call dentists around the country where the qualified veterans live and let them know about what we do, and many have answered our calls.” She added, “For these veterans, dentists and staff are not just fixing their teeth, we are feeding their souls.”
As a result of EV4’s community outreach efforts, more than 480 low-income, combat veterans in more than 30 states have received free comprehensive dental treatment to date. EV4 also networks with dozens of specialists and dental labs across the U.S. that have agreed to provide volunteer services to low-income veterans. In addition, dental schools from the University of Iowa to the University of Washington serve veterans through EV4.
First established in 2008, the ADA Humanitarian Award annually honors an ADA member for creating a legacy of volunteer works, and is one of the ADA’s highest honors. Criteria for the Humanitarian Award include significantly improving the quality of life and oral health, demonstrating significant leadership and serving as an inspiration to others both in the dental profession and the general population.
“Dr. Cheng’s program has touched the lives of veterans across the country,” said ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D. “I am impressed by how she has inspired her dental colleagues, dental students and community members to get involved. The American Dental Association is proud to honor Dr. Cheng for selflessly serving those who have served our country so loyally.”
“It's great to be able to use our skills to give back to those that have made such great sacrifices for our country,” said Warren Libman, D.D.S., a prosthodontist in Bellevue, Wash., involved with the program. “The ADA Humanitarian Award almost seems like it was created with Theresa Cheng in mind, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient.”
For more information about the ADA Humanitarian Award, please visit https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/humanitarian-award.