I ask for consideration for disadvantaged status as a student in dental school for two interrelated reasons that were determinative of my status growing up. First and foremost, my parents had a toxic relationship ending in a violent divorce that made my life most difficult for my entire childhood and adolescence and part of my young adulthood. My father, always with good intentions, did try to do what he could to help me along in the world, but he was struck by cancer a few years ago, and it almost took his life. I had pondered how unfortunate it was that a life-threatening disease would strike my father when I needed him most. His cancer rendered him more of a burden than a support system. In 2013, we lost the home that we dearly loved as a result of the divorce and the mounting medical bills; our lives turned upside down; this made my pursuit of education difficult since the stress of just living took such a heavy toll, especially after I became a part-time caregiver for my father as he was weakened by cancer, both of our emotional states aggravated by intense worry over financial issues.
After graduating from high school in Tijuana, Mexico, at 18, I would spend the next decade or so commuting several times a week across the international border to advance my education by studying in San Diego. After losing our home in Tijuana, I started living primarily in my car at school, showering at the gym, and spending most of my time at the library. I did not sleep well in the car and constantly feared being discovered or harassed. This experience did help me learn the importance of not prioritizing material things and appreciating the bare essentials of daily life, focusing on good health, and assisting others to be healthy instead of overly concerned with material items. Driving back and forth across the border to go home to Mexico and then back to school was a disadvantage that I ultimately overcame only with great struggle.
The financial and emotional difficulties I have survived have made me more robust, and I have learned to work hard and have faith in myself. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned the critical importance of what is often life-saving medical care and the singular importance of oral health care in particular. My dad was diagnosed with advanced cancer and multiple myeloma, and he needed much help because he started to lose his strength as his bones broke apart. I stepped back into his life for long periods at this juncture, mostly to arrange and take him to treatments at the hospital.
The high demand for cancer treatments and our lack of financial resources made it difficult for me to secure adequate treatment for my father, which had a chance of success, especially given that I am the only member of my family fluent in English. Seeing him in these circumstances was tough, and I couldn’t stop looking for opportunities to help him. After many attempts, I found good doctors willing to help us with the chemotherapy and transplant he needed. I will forever be grateful that we also found the level of financial support that made my father´s treatment possible. He is now in remission from cancer, and I am thankful I can see him and spend time with him. I am proud of my choices and pleased with how my challenging experiences have fortified me to give my all to a demanding career, Dentistry.
For several months, when I was not studying and sleeping a few hours in my car, I tried to get a little cat nap at the hospital while my dad was resting. Despite it all, I kept my grades up because I knew my dreams depended on them. After a few months of living partially at home and in the hospital, my dad was discharged and continued to improve steadily. I am sure that my humble or disadvantaged background provides me with extraordinary compassion for those often Spanish-speaking people in our communities who are underserved in terms of oral health care. I look forward to giving them the best I have to balance the my professional life as a dentist.
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