Whether styling haute couture in NYC or sporting scrubs at one of several dental clinics where she dedicates her talents, Dr. Pearl Ambrosio Caligiuri is never without two treasures: her signature sweet smile, and a heart that overflows with kindness.

The 35-year-old general dentist spends her workday at Northeast Valley Health Corporation in Los Angeles, and what seems like every other waking moment, eliminating barriers to care in Southern California one patient at a time.


Dr. Pearl Ambrosio Caligiuri and husband Dr. Matt Caligiuri volunteer at University of Southern Carolina.

“As a pre-dental student in San Diego, I saw how much of an impact a dentist can have in a person’s life.  I was grateful to be able to return to the clinics once I finished dental school,” said Dr. Pearl, referring to Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of the University of Southern Carolina, where she earned her dental degree.

“I moved to Los Angeles after getting married in 2012 and wanted to continue my volunteer work. It was at a local dental society event where I met Dr. Susan Fredericks who spoke about MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) and how being a volunteer dentist there has changed her life. She invited everyone to be a part of this wonderful organization.”

In January of 2013, Dr. Pearl began volunteering at Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND), which opened its doors in the early 1970s “with the goal of providing stability and dignity for members of its community — the northeast San Fernando Valley.”  There she realized early on that her efforts were having an impact.

“One patient stands out in my mind. One of the volunteer dental assistants brought her father into the clinic because his front teeth were severely broken down. This volunteer also assisted in a private practice and she was working toward going to dental school. Her father’s damaged front teeth were severely impacting his quality of life, and he was excited by the prospect of having them fixed.

The patient was one of the nicest, most grateful people I have ever met, and even before he saw the repair of his front teeth he loved knowing his smile was restored.

Once I handed him the mirror, he admired his new front teeth for several moments and said it was perfect—he gave me a big hug. Both he and his daughter were thankful for the time I spent and the care that was provided to improve his self-esteem,”  said Dr. Pearl Ambrosio Caligiuri. 

“The patient population at MEND consists of low-income individuals who cannot qualify for any government assistance; without MEND they would not have access to care. Every patient that I treat is so thankful for the services that I am able to provide.”

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Meet Each Need with Dignity, or MEND, receives an average of 37,000 client visits to the center in Pacoima, California (shown) each month. (Photo Courtesy MEND)

I look forward to volunteering at MEND each month because of the patients I am able to care for and the new generation of dental and assisting students that I meet.

One of my favorite aspects of dentistry is the opportunity it provides to build a rapport with my patients and I am happy that I can provide care for people who otherwise would not be able to receive dental treatment.

As mentioned before, volunteers staff the clinic and most of my assistants are in dental assisting school. My dental assisting students are so excited to finally assist chairside, and I enjoy being able to help guide them on their journey.”

Also a Clinical Assistant Professor at USC in the Department of Public Health and Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Pearl makes every effort to  volunteer at their off site clinics when her schedule permits. 

“I realized my passion for dentistry after volunteering with the UCSD Student Run Free Dental Clinic Project.”


Dr. Pearl Ambrosio Caligiuri, at right, shown during her time as a pre-dental student volunteer in San Diego.

How can you contribute to MEND?

View A Day in the Life of MEND for the best 6:56 in your day:

MEND offers its patrons food, clothing, medical and dental care and tools for self-reliance, such as job training, computer and ESL classes. MEND is unique in that it is 99% volunteer driven and its volunteers give MEND life.  There are two ways to donate:



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