JUST FOR GRINS: Dr. Karin Irani (front row, second from left) with Beverly Hills mayor Julian Gold (front row, left) and others during Veterans’ Smile Day

DR. KARIN IRANI SOLD HER PRACTICE NEAR LOS ANGELES TO SPEND MORE TIME VOLUNTEERING. SHE’S NEVER BEEN HAPPIER OR MORE FULFILLED.

“WE CAN ALL give one day a year of our life to a cause,” says Dr. Karin Irani, and she herself embodies that credo to an extraordinary degree: After 12 years in practice in Southern California, she had something of an epiphany after attending a series of events hosted by the likes of Remote Area Medical — which helps treat patients in the planet’s most inaccessible areas — and Mission of Mercy.

“I realized that this is where I truly belong: providing dental care for the underprivileged,” she says. So she sold her practice. “I decided to dedicate more time to humanitarian efforts, and I’m so much happier with my professional life.”

Her particular focus: veterans, of which her late father was one. “I’ve always had special respect for veterans’ sacrifices,” she says — and two years ago she reconnected with a dental-school classmate, Dr. Deryck Pham, who practices in Mays Landing, New Jersey, just outside Atlantic City. “A [Navy] veteran himself, he informed me that just 2 percent of veterans qualify for dental benefits,” Dr. Irani says. “They’re being neglected and need help.” Veterans’ Smile Day — now sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Henry Schein and others — was born.

Dr. Irani and Dr. Pham have since expanded the event into a national extravaganza; last year more than 300 dentists from all over the country provided $300,000 worth of on-the-house treatment to some 2,000 veterans.

She also gives her time to causes of a more Lucy Hobbs nature: As president-elect of the San Fernando Valley Dental Society, she’s instrumental in planning the group’s fifth annual Afternoon Tea Party this September, an event during which women in the industry gather to network and share insights about the profession.

“The dental community really has an opportunity to make a difference,” Dr. Irani says, imploring practitioners everywhere to assist veterans — or any other group in need of access to dental care. “We just need to open our doors and our hearts to a grateful population that deserves our help.”

“I realized that this is where I truly belong: providing dental care for the underprivileged. I’m so much happier with my professional life.”

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