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Montgomery College Alumna Receives 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award
Montgomery College graduate, Dr. Usa Bunnag, has been selected to receive the 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges. The success and achievements of five outstanding community college alumni were recognized recently during the 90th annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Seattle.
The honorees include Dr. Bunnag, a dentist who founded a nonprofit organization to improve conditions in Thailand, a domestic violence survivor turned scholar, a community-centered billionaire, an internationally-known brain surgeon, and a five-member family who all attended the same community college and now work for healthcare access.
After five years at Montgomery College, Bunnag was able to skip getting a bachelor’s degree and go directly into the Howard University College of Dentistry, where she earned her D.D.S. a semester ahead of her classmates. She graduated in 1994 and established a thriving general dentistry practice in Bethesda, Md.
In 2003, she founded Smiles on Wings, Inc., a nonprofit organization that sends aid missions to remote villages in northern Thailand. Along with dental care, Smiles on Wings provides medical care, dental education, and funds for local schools to obtain educational materials, mosquito nets, blankets, clothing and personal hygiene products. In 2005, Smiles on Wings embarked on an emergency mission on behalf of victims of the devastating tsunami, serving as dentists, doctors, and grief counselors to many of the 4,000 survivors in the Khaolak refugee camp. Until recently, Smiles on Wings held two yearly missions to Thailand. But a recent $70,000 grant from the American Dental Association Foundation now allows the nonprofit to undertake four, two-week missions a year.
Usa Bunnag left her native Thailand and arrived in the United States as a teenager. After leaving home, Bunnag joined the workforce as a dental assistant. She eventually enrolled at Montgomery College because it could accommodate a full-time worker with an infant child.
“The program had classes for someone like me who could still work during the day and go to school at night,” Bunnag said. “They even had some courses on Sundays.”