All in for veterans All in for veterans All in for veterans

Dentistry professor Theresa Cheng leads a nonprofit organization that connects veterans with resources and employment opportunities.

By UW Magazine Staff | September 2021

Theresa Cheng, '85, is a periodontist and founder of Everyone for Veterans, a nonprofit organization that connects veterans with resources and employment opportunities. Cheng, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Dentistry, said she was hooked on science at a young age.

“I chose the science track and was sent to a boys’ school, where I had classes in biology, physics, chemistry and calculus. My dad encouraged me to look into dentistry. Luckily, I really liked it,” she said.

We talked to her about how she works to build community support for veterans:

“Veterans need community. Often there is a disconnect for veterans returning from combat. Having a dentist in their own neighborhood offers a psychological perk—that there are people in my community who care for me.

“Through my own practice in Issaquah, which I had for almost 25 years, I would offer a free day and see low-income veterans and their families.

“I realized these are very tough, very able people, but they have major challenges. In addition to treating them, I started asking them about what would make their lives better. One said a gym membership. Another, a single parent raising two teens, said he would like a free parenting class. That’s when I realized we have to set up a nonprofit. I can call dentists in communities around the country to help out veterans, but with the help of “wingman” volunteers calling other business and resources, we can connect the veterans with food, clothing and other local offerings.

“We know about depression and PTSD and high rates of homelessness. Our vision is to have our veterans return and feel safe. We can improve veterans’ lives by connecting them with services and good in their communities.”

“After I wrapped up my private practice, the UW came to me and asked if I would teach clinical dentistry. Since 2015, I’ve been working with clinical faculty teaching third- and fourth-year residents in periodontics. Now UW faculty and students are joining with Everyone for Veterans to volunteer their skills to support veterans with acute and comprehensive care. And the UW has set up a fund so donors can support the work.”