Retired periodontist to be honored for service to veterans at Auburn Veterans Parade

Dr. Theresa Cheng has received the 2017 Washington State Outstanding Service to Veterans – Superior Award from the Governor’s Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee.

Cheng will be presented with the superior service award at the 52nd Auburn Veterans Day Parade on Sat., Nov. 11.

The award recognizes “clearly superior accomplishments, achievements and outstanding performance.”

Cheng is a retired periodontist and affiliate faculty member of the University of Washington School of Dentistry. She is the founder of Everyone For Veterans, a nonprofit organization that has delivered an estimated million dollars in free dental care to low-income combat veterans.

When Cheng volunteered a decade ago to help the family caretakers of a veteran who had been seriously wounded, she learned that most veterans don’t have dental coverage. From that point forward, she focused first on finding free dental care for combat veterans, then expanded her efforts to include finding whatever else individual veterans needed.

Along the way, Cheng got to know the veterans themselves.

“There is a gap,” she said, “between veterans’ stories and the awareness of the larger community.”

Hearing their stories, finding resources, she realized most people were willing to help once they learned of a local veteran’s need.

In addition to dental care, Everyone For Veterans works to create stronger community links for returning combat veterans through its Wingman Program, in which volunteers help veterans find additional needed resources close to home. Cheng was nominated for this award by the University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative.