UCLA student’s website links dental volunteers to the world.
Los Angeles, CA (6/1/2006) - - UCLA dental student Neil Patel created the DentalVolunteer website that offers volunteers the ability to search opportunities in numerous ways including by organization, location and procedures primarily performed. (Photo courtesy of Neil Patel)
California dental volunteers now have an easier way to locate volunteer opportunities, thanks to one UCLA student who recently created an online nonprofit database for dental volunteers and volunteer organizations.
Neil Patel, second-year dental student, created DentalVolunteer in response to a shortage of useful volunteer search databases. The site, www.dentalvolunteer.com, lists about 300 volunteer opportunities around the world, including nine in California.
Since its creation only five months ago, DentalVolunteer has become the world’s largest nonprofit dental volunteering site on the web and has received worldwide responses and support from several national dental associations. It offers volunteers the capability to search for opportunities by organization, location, activity, religious affiliation and procedures primarily performed. Not all volunteer opportunities listed are clinical; some provide oral hygiene instructions and education, and others distribute supplies to underserved areas. The site is formatted to elicit as much information as possible from the organizations posting opportunities so that the volunteer’s search can be very specific. Unlike many volunteer search sites, nonprofit organizations are allowed to post opportunities with DentalVolunteer for free. The site managers filter out job postings and verify that all volunteer opportunities are legitimate.
There are nearly 300 organizations listed with DentalVolunteer. Approximately 35,000 volunteers have searched the site since its inception, and approximately 500 have selected organizations within the past month and a half.
“I didn’t expect that there would be so many people searching in such a short amount of time,” Patel said when asked about the immediate response to the site. “I didn’t think it was going to be this popular at all, especially from an international perspective.”
Recently, the site has expanded to the creation of another organization, Healthcare Volunteer, which can be found online at www.healthcarevolunteer.com. Healthcare Volunteer places volunteers of any health care background. Patel recognized the worldwide need for both medical and dental services and in sending dentists and physicians together to volunteer locations. He is in the process of merging the two sites. There are more than 580 opportunities listed between the two; dental opportunities are included on the Healthcare Volunteer site as well.
The next step for the organization is to address the problems confronting volunteers heading overseas: maneuvering government bureaucracy, obtaining proper licensing and becoming informed about local and international volunteer malpractice laws. The website has begun an initiative intending to list legal requirements for all states and countries, as well as government contacts that can provide help in each location.
“We are trying to increase the amount of dental volunteering opportunities for people no matter what sort of training they have, whether they are a dentist, a hygienist or a peace worker,” said Patel, who is currently pursuing an accelerated joint degree in dentistry from the UCLA School of Dentistry and a master’s in business administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Now that the website is growing and quickly gaining momentum, Patel has several ideas of what he would like it to remain, and what he would like it to become. The main motivation behind the creation of the site was to make something specific that would be a well-known resource and free to everyone. Eventually, he hopes that once the health care and dental sites are combined into one, it will be able to track where organizations are needed the most and where people are looking to volunteer, and match the demand with a supply. He hopes to use the dental volunteer site to foster and create new dental volunteer organizations, funded by donations and dental companies, in areas with little access to care, where there are no current volunteer opportunities, and where volunteers desire to go.
To learn more about dental volunteering, or to search volunteer organizations and locations, visit the website at www.dentalvolunteer.com. Select “Volunteers” and enter your criteria. If you are involved with an organization, you can select “Organizations” and register your organization with the site. There is no charge to search, apply or register.
Republished with permission from CDA Editor