Juliana Panchura '76

issue 01 | spring 2015
Where Are They Now: Juliana Panchura '76

When she decided 10 years ago to sell her thriving orthodontics practice in Bend, Ore., Julie Panchura figured less time at work would mean more time to volunteer. It didn’t immediately occur to her that her volunteer time would look a lot like work. 

“I love what I do, and I’m good at what I do,” Panchura says. “Finally I said, ‘Why don’t I do something with orthodontics?’” 

Panchura knew that a lot of people who need orthodontic work can’t afford it, and that a lot of nonprofits struggle for lack of volunteers. In that knowledge, she found the intersection of her passion and her career. She sold her full-time private practice and opened Smile! Central Oregon, a unique orthodontic practice that allows customers to pay as much as half of their bills through community service hours. Since 2008, nearly 700 patients have volunteered more than 90,000 hours through Panchura’s program, earning $10 per hour toward the cost of braces, retainers, and headgear. 

Panchura’s inspiration has had a massive impact, and not only on the dozens of nonprofits that have benefited from her patients’ work. “I generally treat middle-school and teenage kids, and just getting them involved in volunteering at an early age is transformative,” she says. “It changes the way they feel about their place in the world, and what kind of impact they can have.” Panchura says the high cost of orthodontic care means that “just one day I work translates into something like 700 or 1,000 hours of community service.” 

Beyond the obvious altruistic benefits, it’s smart business, too: While Panchura forgoes as much as 50 percent of the payment on a procedure, she says she’s opened herself up to a massive customer base—many of them recent immigrants or first-generation Americans—who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford her services. The win-win nature of Smile! Central Oregon inspired Panchura to start Kahoot, a website that allows other businesses to follow Panchura’s model. “I expected it to go viral,” she says. Instead, only about two dozen companies have signed up. “I’ve found that a lot of businesses are reluctant to do this. Many come from a paradigm of scarcity, this idea that they can’t give it away.”

That disappointment does nothing to overshadow the success of her own practice, where scarcity—of willing patients and nonprofits grateful for their work—is not a factor. Panchura has long understood the need: Her first job was in Los Angeles, where she worked with underserved communities at the Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center, named to honor the support of Michael Eisner ’64. Thirty years later, she still travels to Southern California one week each month to volunteer at the center.

Back in Bend, the only flaw in the system at Smile! Central Oregon is that the numbers don’t always add up. For some reason, the number of volunteer hours worked tends to outpace the maximum Panchura accepts for her discount. “A lot of that,” she says, “is people doing more than they need to.”    

Published July 2015
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