All 72 College of Dental Medicine students at Western University of Health Sciences became “Friends of the California Dental Association Foundation,” the first time an entire class has done so.

“No other dental school has done that to date,” said Darren J. Penny, development director for the California Dental Association (CDA) Foundation. “We certainly hope Western will be an inspiration to others to get on board.”

The CDA Foundation works on behalf of dentists to further the practice of dentistry and increase access to care for underserved populations, said Penny, who was invited to talk to the class by College of Dental Medicine Founding Dean James Koelbl, DDS, MS, MJ.

“This represents the quality of students that Western has attracted in its very first year,” Penny said. “Dr. Koelbl wants students to understand the power they have – not just the clinical skills they get from Western, but their heart, their life connection to oral health care. They’ve been given a tremendous opportunity to serve people.”

These donations support all of the foundation’s programs, including the Student Loan Repayment Grant Program, which significantly reduces the amount of debt load for graduating dental students in exchange for service in an underserved community dental clinic.

“I felt that my donation, though small, will go towards a good cause giving people who otherwise do not have access to proper dental care the help that they need,” said Josh Carpenter, DMD ’13. “Our class is committed to improving the dental profession and that is why we are all part of this inaugural dental class, and we want to set an example for future classes that follow us that giving back to the profession of dentistry is extremely important.”

The CDA Foundation collected more than $1,500 from the College of Dental Medicine. Students responded in a positive way to this opportunity to give back, Koelbl said.

“Part of being a professional is the obligation to take a leadership role, to work with colleagues to help make the profession better and advocate on behalf of patients,” he said. “We’re proud of our students. They are young professionals who are showing us they understand what that means. It’s important not only that they’re good dentists, but that they are good people as well.”