USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

Three Ostrow faculty members awarded grant to pay off their educational loans

portrait of hrsa grant awardees
L-R: Avishai Sadan, Mehdi Mohammadi, Sanaz “Sunny” Fereshteh, Alexander Alcaraz and Neil Nathason

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant pays off educational loans over five years.

BY JOHN HOBBS MA ’14

Three Ostrow faculty members are sleeping a little easier now, thanks to an HRSA grant that pays off their student loans over five years.

The awardees — Sanaz “Sunny” Fereshteh DDS ’09; Mehdi Mohammadi DDS ’12, MS ’18; and Alexander Alcaraz PEDO ’07 — were selected for the grant funds, which are meant to assist dental schools in retaining faculty members by paying off their educational loans.

“Just as it is important that we attract the strongest dental students by offering $2 million in scholarship funds each year, it is equally important that we recruit and retain the nation’s best dental educators,” said Ostrow Dean Avishai Sadan. “This HRSA grant will allow these faculty members to focus on inspiring the next generations of dental professionals, without worry about debt burden.”

To be eligible, faculty members had to be U.S. citizens or residents with valid work permits, working full-time at the dental school (and must be committed to remaining at the school during the grant’s five-year duration) and not be receiving concurrent financial assistance from any other federally funded program.

The Importance of Giving Back

Additionally, the selection committee sought candidates who had demonstrated their commitment to training dental students, dental hygiene students and residents in the care of multi-ethnic, disadvantaged or otherwise historically underserved communities.

“Providing treatment to underserved communities has long been a pillar of a USC dental education,” said Associate Dean of Community Health Programs and Hospital Affairs Roseann Mulligan MS ’84. “With this grant, we wanted to reward those educators who are doing the most to inspire the next generation of dental professionals to continue this all-too-important work long after they graduate from our program.”

Fereshteh graduated from Ostrow’s DDS program in 2009. Afterward, she began working in Ostrow’s externship community clinics, teaching dental students to provide the best quality dental treatment to underserved populations. In 2015, she became director of the USC Mobile Clinic program.

Mohammadi graduated from the Advanced Standing Program in International Dentistry in 2012. As director of the JWCH dental clinic on L.A.’s Skid Row, Mohammadi oversees dental treatment to L.A.’s homeless population.

Alcaraz earned his doctor of dental medicine degree from Harvard, before completing his pediatric residency at Ostrow in 2007. He is focused on providing treatment to pediatric patients who are medically compromised or who have special needs. Alcaraz is the interim director of pediatric dentistry.

The $937,378 HRSA grant was received by Ostrow’s Division of Dental Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry and will fully pay off the educational loans over the next five years.

This Dental Faculty Student Loan Repayment program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $980,378 with 0.06 percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U. S. Government.

Posted 09172019