Meet Dr. Yvonne Truong
Yvonne Truong was an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz when she visited a friend in dental school and watched her fabricate dentures for an HIV patient who had lost his teeth due to malnourishment. She was hooked!
“Becoming a dentist was almost an immediate decision – I could see myself doing this. I liked to work with my hands, and I wanted to make a difference,” shared Dr. Truong. She practiced as a dental assistant for a couple of years and then graduated from the Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University.
While in dental school, Dr. Truong completed an externship at the Dorchester House, a community health center in a low-income neighborhood of Boston. There she discovered a passion for working in a community clinic setting, supporting underserved populations: “I saw that I could really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Dr. Truong joined VMC in 2004, working for many years in the mobile dental clinic, providing dental services to high-need areas throughout Santa Clara County. She now staffs the dental clinics at Valley Health Centers Sunnyvale, Milpitas, and Tully.
Dr. Truong shared that her typical day “is very fast paced! I see at least 16 patients each day – doing exams and cleanings, taking dental impressions, giving oral hygiene instructions, and performing extractions, fillings, and other procedures. Every day is different because our patient population tends to have a lot of dental emergencies.” Indeed, the dental clinics serve a combination of patients with appointments and those who walk-in with urgent needs.
“The best thing about my job,” says Dr. Truong, “is seeing immediate results. If a patient comes in with pain, most of the time I can make them feel better right away.”
Take, for example, a recent patient of Dr. Truong’s. A male in his 30s, he hadn’t seen a dentist in five years after losing his job and his dental insurance. The patient traveled by bus from Palo Alto to Valley Health Center Tully to attend a walk-in clinic because he had severe tooth pain. Dr. Truong informed the patient that the tooth had decayed and that he would need a root canal and crown, but the patient didn’t have the money to pay for the procedure so he requested that the tooth be extracted instead. Dr. Truong did some research and found that the patient lived in the catchment area of VHC Sunnyvale, and that funds were available to help pay for his root canal and crown – no extraction needed! The patient was extremely grateful and has been coming back to VHC Sunnyvale for comprehensive treatment ever since.
With financial support from the El Camino Healthcare District, the dental clinic at VHC Sunnyvale expanded to offer one evening dental clinic per week so patients with daytime jobs and family responsibilities could better access care. Dr. Truong shared, “We wanted to be better able to accommodate patients who can’t miss work, those who don’t have insurance, and those who walk in with emergency needs. Without the grant funding, these patients would not have the oral health they need to lead a healthy and comfortable life.” The evening dental clinic is consistently booked at least 2-3 weeks in advance and demand far exceeds the current capacity of the clinic.
Still, Dr. Truong is inspired by the work she does, sharing, “I feel honored and privileged to be part of VMC, working here with such a dedicated groups of dentists. This is a challenging job – we have a lot of medically-compromised patients with financial limitations and language barriers. But I love coming to work every day because of how rewarding it is.”
When Yvonne Truong isn’t practicing at VMC, she is operating her own part-time private dental practice or spending time with her 4-year-old son at her home in San Jose.
You can learn more about El Camino Healthcare District’s investment in the health of our community in their 2014 Community Benefit Report.