A first-year student at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco has received a $360,000 full-tuition scholarship from the EMC Health Foundation to fund her doctor of dental surgery (DDS) program.
Jaskirth Pamma of Atwater in Merced County, California, started her studies at the dental school in July. In exchange for the grant, she will spend four years practicing dentistry in the Central Valley to serve the health needs of local residents, particularly the uninsured and Med-Cal and Medicare patients.
“I am truly humbled and honored to receive the EMC Health Foundation scholarship,” said Pamma. “This rare opportunity to receive recognition of my worthiness and hard work and commitment to providing equitable healthcare empowers me to achieve a lifelong dream. I’m excited to begin my journey and serve my community in the Central Valley.”
Central Valley residents will benefit from this grant, which will ultimately bring Pamma to provide dental care to low-income residents in Merced and Stanislaus counties. Oral disease is prevalent in the region, the school said, with a severe shortage of dental practitioners in Merced County that limits access to preventive and other dental services.
According to a December 2018 report from the Merced County Department of Health, 25% of kindergartners screened in the county had tooth decay, 28.8% of adults reported having a cavity that needed filling, and nearly 42% of adults had lost one to five teeth.
A 2018 report from the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency Public Health Division noted that 24% of kindergartners screened in the county in 2017 showed evidence of untreated or previous dental decay, 29% of adults had a cavity that needed filling, and nearly 36% of adults had lost one to five teeth.
Scholarship funds from this grant will provide rigorous academic and experiential learning opportunities to Pamma and other dental students, the school said, while addressing the needs of this population and lowering the barrier to access for uninsured and low-income patients.
“We are thrilled to partner with the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry to create this scholarship opportunity. It is the first step in helping ensure that every citizen in Northern Merced County has access to quality and affordable dental care,” said Jeffrey Lewis, president and CEO of the EMC Health Foundation.
The EMC Health Foundation was created to promote and expand healthcare as well as mental and spiritual health for people living in southern Stanislaus County and northern Merced County.
“This is a life-changing scholarship that will have a real impact on the health of some of California’s most in-need communities,” said Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry. “We thank the EMC Health Foundation for their partnership and strong support of Jazz Pamma, our school, and the wider community.”