Friday, June 10, 2011

Philanthropy in Dentistry: Creating a Career by Helping Others

I was recently asked by a dental student 'What is the true calling of a doctor?' This caught me a little off-guard and I had to think for a minute. I recalled a promise I made to myself the day I graduated from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry-to improve the oral health of my community-. 'In my mind a doctor's true calling is to place service above self' I answered the dental student.

We may not mention it but when we are called 'doctor' we are filled with pride. When our patient says to us 'Thank you doctor, for stopping my pain' and 'Thank you for my smile' we are filled with gratitude. As dentists, we feel compelled to give back to our communities and volunteering is a great way to do this.

Volunteering Local

Volunteerism is part of the humanistic spirit that my instructors in dental school inspired in me and it is a large part of who I am now. The American Dental Association and its local chapter, the San Francisco Dental Society, encourage members to actively give back to our communities. Fortunately, there is no shortage of opportunities to volunteer in San Francisco, including pro bono work at the office, kindergarten screening programs, and helping out with Project Homeless Connect, just to name a few.

Project Homeless Connect

Every 2 months 1,000 community volunteers partner together to meet the medical and dental needs of San Francisco's estimated 8,000 homeless people. The volunteers include health care professionals, students, non-profit organizations and people that simply wish to help out.

For me the volunteer day began at 8am, screening patients at the Bill Graham Civic Center. There was a long line of eager and ill patients but my colleagues and I, along with help from local University and Dental School students, successfully triaged the needs of the homeless participants. The afternoon was spent providing dental treatment, including emergency extractions, fillings and dental cleanings.

Ultimately, we were able to accomplish in one day what might normally take months. Volunteering with PHC was the type of rewarding experience I will carry with me throughout my entire dental career. I encourage my dental colleagues, as well as San Franciscans, to come give a helping hand and serve your community.

About the author: Dr. Josh Berd is a San Francisco General and Cosmetic Dentist, a graduate of the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry, and a member of the San Francisco Dental Society. To learn more or to contact Dr.Berd visit

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