CDA Foundation awards student loan repayment grant to former refugee
December 07, 2016
The California Dental Association Foundation announced Dec. 1 it awarded Dr. Habiba Ismail — a Somali refugee who graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry in 2013 — a $105,000 Student Loan Repayment grant in exchange for her commitment to provide dental care in an underserved community in Los Angeles.
"The story of Dr. Ismail is truly remarkable," said Dr. Jean Creasley, CDA Foundation chair, in a news release. "And her dedication to following her dream of giving back and serving her community makes her a very worthy recipient."
Born in Somalia, Dr. Ismail and her family fled the country's civil war for neighboring Kenya when she was 10 years old. She grew up in refugee camps that offered scarce, basic resources.
When she was 19, Dr. Ismail moved to the United States and attended the UCLA School of Dentistry. She had learned English by communicating with the camp's aid workers.
In addition, Dr. Ismail speaks Kiswahili, Somali and is working on mastering Arabic — all to better communicate with some of her patients.
"I have seen how taking the time to educate my patients has had a positive impact on their oral health," said Dr. Ismail, who works at Metro Health Station in Los Angeles where she provides 40 hours per week of hands-on clinical services.
With a mission to improve the oral health of all Californians by supporting the dental profession in its efforts to meet community needs, the CDA Foundation offers its Student Loan Repayment program to give dentists the opportunity to work in public health.
The Student Loan Repayment Grant program has placed 17 dentists, including Dr. Ismail, into community clinics where they have helped more than 80,000 patients and provided $22 million in care for individuals who experience barriers to care.
Dr. Ismail said her work in the community clinic, she said, has allowed her to feel fulfilled in her career.
"I can't wait to start motivating others to pursue careers in community dentistry," she said.