A group of dental students, including Katherine Ong, set up at a volunteer event. One volunteer is dressed as the tooth fairy
Katherine Ong (second from left) volunteers with her fellow dental students

On July 14, we announced our Delta Dental Community Care Foundation 2020 Student Leadership Award winners. These graduating dental students exemplify our value of service, and we are proud to provide support as they embark on their careers. Katherine Ong from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry dedicated herself to helping others since she was a teenager, and she continued to serve as she excelled in dental school. Mark Reynolds, DDS, PhD, dean and professor at the School of Dentistry had this to say:

“While a dental student, Katherine Ong showed a commitment to helping educate, mentor, and provide oral health care for the underserved that was exemplary. Whether volunteering at Mission of Mercy events, tutoring Baltimore public school students in math and science, helping international students acclimate to their new academic home, or preparing cavity prevention kits for elementary school children, she is clearly deeply committed to expanding access to and knowledge about oral health. I am very pleased and appreciative that she has been selected by Delta Dental for this prestigious honor.”

We spoke with Katherine about her passion for service and future plans.

What are your plans for the future?

In the future, I hope to stay in the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) or Delaware area and work in a community health clinic similar to the one where I did my fourth-year externship at (Northern Virginia Dental Clinic). Wherever I end up, I hope to work with the low-income or impoverished population.

Can you talk about the importance of service in your life?

Since high school, service has always been important to me. I not only enjoy becoming involved in the community, but I also like meeting new people at those events who are like-minded and love giving back to others. As Booker T. Washington stated, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” I agree that it is an indescribable feeling to do something for someone who may not remember your name but will never ever forget your kindness.

I really enjoy volunteering at Mission of Mercy projects, which provides free dental care to the underserved; Project Jump Start, which provides free lunches to the homeless community of Baltimore; UMB CURE, which offers mentorship to middle and high schoolers who aspire to join the health profession; and at various events to provide oral hygiene instructions and oral health screenings with the Maryland Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Chinese Student Association and Korean American Student Dental Association organizations at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.

A group of dental students smiling at a volunteer event where they have large models of teeth and toothbrushes as well as stuffed animals with large, prominent toothy smiles
Katherine Ong (far right) with her classmates at a community volunteer opporutnity

I have also volunteered for the International Student Mentor Program at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, which provided a mentee with resources to help them adjust to life in Baltimore; Helping Up Mission where we served dinner to men fighting addiction and homelessness; U.S. National Brain Bee Championship where we conducted the brain anatomy portion for the competitors; Canoe n’ Scoop to clean up Baltimore waters; and directed runners and managed water stations at several 5ks in Maryland.

Katherine Ong and her fellow volunteers making sandwiches for hungry individuals
Katherine Ong (center) with other volunteers making sandwiches for hungry members of the Baltimore community

What does it mean to you to be recognized as a Delta Dental Student Leader?

To have the opportunity to be recognized as a Delta Dental Student Leader is an honor, and there are no words to accurately describe the depths of my appreciation. The monetary award will allow me to focus more on my endeavors in my general practice residency and in giving back to the community.