Dental School Applicant, Latinx Dreamer, DACA, Inner City

Born in Mexico and raised in the USA, I am a Dreamer and DACA recipient dreaming about dental school. Now 23, I have matured and had a chance to explore and research career options; every day that I wake up I feel more convinced that I made the right decision by setting my sights on dentistry. This has been especially true since I have been serving as a volunteer at a local dental clinic for the past several years, helping mostly children of undocumented, Spanish-speaking families. I love interacting with patients, helping them to stay comfortable, informed, even cheerful, throughout their procedures. I also feel most at home working in small spaces, having devoted a lot of time to makeup, threading eyebrows, etc. Nothing excites me as much as the prospect of spending the next half century doing something that I love every day and contributing to people’s lives, many of them some of the most vulnerable among us.

I am a product of America’s inner city; and this will help me to serve my inner-city patients in the future. Many of the children that I grew up with went on to drop out of high school, got pregnant, shot, or jailed – some have been killed. I was awarded a scholarship to attend a Catholic high school and this helped me to focus on my studies and prepare for college. Since I already had my sights set on dental school, I took my physical science classes especially seriously. I am most pleased to be a success story for my community.

Since I did not qualify for financial aid for college as a result of my immigration status, my choices were limited. I first spent a year attending Wilbur Wright Community College and working 2 jobs to pay my tuition and expenses. With the support of my parents who were also working 2 jobs each, I was able to transfer to UIC for my sophomore year. The financial strain is evident in my GPA. Usually staying up until 4 am studying for classes and exams left me 2 hours to sleep, plus one more on the train. I sometimes slept between classes, and then got back on the train for another hour-and-a-half to go to work. I am convinced that for this reason my GPA does not accurately reflect my academic potential.

Another reason why I hope to give my all to dentistry is my father, who was always very insecure about his teeth as I was growing up, never smiling for photos. My interest in Dentistry as a career choice was also greatly strengthened at a medical and dental summer enrichment program, geared towards Latino/a students, immediately following my graduation from high school. I felt most at home in the cadaver lab, dissecting the eyes and brains of cows. My volunteer work at dental clinics has also reinforced my conviction that dentistry is my true calling, since I love to calm and reassure nervous people, helping them to feel comfortable and safe, particularly the children.

My mother, father, and I crossed the Rio Grande River into the US when I was only two months old. My parents endured hard times just to feed me and put a roof over our heads. For many years, my parents could not afford the dental care they needed, having their teeth removed as the least expensive option. The image of my mother lying on the sofa in pain with an icepack against her cheek crosses my mind with great frequency. My humble origins help me relate particularly well with my patients who are also from humble backgrounds.

As an active member of the UIC pre-dental club, we attended open houses and pre-dental nights at the UIC Dental school, where I made friends with dental students. I started volunteering at Asian Human Services Dental Clinic (AHS), giving back to the local underserved immigrant community, assisting with procedures, learning how to read and take x-rays, chart first-time patient exams, and the materials used during fillings, extractions, denture procedures and more. Over the years of volunteering at AHS, I built relationships with patients and students from Midwestern as well as UIC dental schools. AHS is a teaching clinic so I frequently assisted dental students doing their rounds.

Proud to be a first-generation Mexican-American, I want to spend my professional lifetime lending a helping hand to those who need it most, my people, especially the little ones. I see it as a duty as well as an honor, and a privilege as well as an adventure.

I thank you for considering my application.

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