When we first met Thay Lay a few years ago he was an engineer interested in volunteering at Sonrisas Dental Health. He liked our non-profit mission of providing excellent oral healthcare to all kinds of people, from children to adults to seniors, especially those who have barriers to access, such as people with special needs or busy farmworkers.

“I wanted to learn more about community dentistry and I leapt at the chance to volunteer at Sonrisas Dental,” Thay says.

Now, several years later Thay (pronounced Ty) is about to become a dentist himself!
Sonrisas Dental Health is proud of Thay and that he was inspired by our work and our mission.

“Thay was curious about dentistry and asked good questions. And he found surprising ways to help the clinic, including crunching data and fundraising. His heart was really in it,” says Dr. Torrey Rothstein, our Coastside Center Dental Director. Thay is one of a small number of volunteers who have worked in our dental clinics. As a nonprofit, Sonrisas Dental also has worked with hundreds of dental students over the years from the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and typically one dental resident each year.

We met Thay shortly after he and his wife moved to the Bay Area from Arizona. He was seeking an opportunity to acquire more skills and make a difference. He heard about Sonrisas Dental in Half Moon Bay, our Coastside Center.

Thay assisted our dentists as well as office personnel. For one major project he helped analyze information from the Sonrisas Dental Health Farmworker Project, delivering dental care to farmworkers who might not otherwise be able to visit a clinic. It’s a big undertaking that includes moving equipment via the Sonrisas truck and scheduling trained dentists. There’s a lot of overhead involved. Thay saw it up close.

Thay also played a key role with our nonprofit work – he helped raise $10,000 toward a Smile fund to restore an individual’s smile at the clinic. That kind of effort helps Sonrisas Dental Health meet the gap in uncompensated care.

He volunteered overseas as well. He recently traveled to Jamaica for a week with a program called “1,000 Smiles,” which bills itself as the world’s largest international humanitarian dental project.

Of all the second careers to choose, why did Thay choose dentistry? Thay says, “I like the combination of artistic and actual science in one type of pursuit. Also there’s instant gratification – when a patient is in pain and you can relieve their pain, that’s very fulfilling.”

We’re grateful for Thay’s volunteer work and we wish him success as he finishes up dental school at the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and embarks on a year-long dental residency with UCSF.

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