My family faced up to constant social and economic struggles following our immigration from Poland in the 1990s. My parents were both born and grew up in Poland under a communist regime, and they came to America for greater freedom and opportunity. My parents were undocumented for the first few years while living with my aunt in Brooklyn, NY. My mother cleaned houses, and my father worked odd construction jobs. They worked tirelessly to move a family of four out of a bedroom, into an apartment, and then into a house with a yard in Staten Island. This house was, for us, a castle, but it was in a very run-down condition and located in one of the poorest areas of the island. There was a hole in the middle of my bedroom door the size of a basketball. My favorite game was throwing objects through the hole and into the garbage can on the other side.
For as long as I can remember, my father has worked at construction jobs - 6 days a week, 12 hours daily. Many years were spent growing up when we barely made ends meet; there were times when my parents could not pay our utility bills; only recently did my parents’ wages take us above the federal poverty line. When my brother became seriously ill in 2007, my mother had to stop working as a phlebotomist to care for him, and we lost her vital income and the health insurance that her employer provided. My mother remained by my brother’s side for two years as he was in and out of the hospital, taking a tremendous toll on our family economically, emotionally, etc.
From 2007 until 2014, my family relied on social service programs for health care and food. There were years when my family qualified for Medicaid due to my father’s low income and subsequent years when we were just over the limit. My parents worried and prayed that a severe health concern wouldn’t arise. My family relied heavily on SNAP for food and free school lunches, especially when my brother was sick and my mother was not home to prepare our meals. I now want to give back to my community as a dentist, providing as many patients as possible with cutting-edge oral health care, especially those with scarce resources.
The elementary, middle, and high schools I attended were all underperforming – although I did not find that out until I was in college. I did my best to excel academically in high school and get a competitive SAT score. I considered myself above average and was proud to be the first person in my family to attend college. Soon, I realized that despite my outstanding performance in my underperforming high school, I was seriously underprepared. My high school was overcrowded and understaffed, with metal detectors and a shortage of textbooks. Often, the teachers just put on a movie.
As I look back at my life at the age of 20, I think only positively about the numerous ways in which growing up poor opened up opportunities for growth on every level, from personal resilience to my capacity to fully appreciate and savor the prospect of a world-class education. My background has resulted in my empathy for those who need the community's support for something so essential as oral health care.
The underserved included many of my friends in high school and my neighbors growing up. Seeing how hard my parents, and my friends’ parents, worked at multiple minimum wage or near-minimum-wage jobs taught me to be strong, diligent, frugal, and hardworking. The underserved are people like me, and I want to be the kind of dentist who never forgets where she came from, who helped her along the way, so that I too can have this experience of helping the needy and thereby healing the ills of my community, attending to its most humble members, one patient at a time.
I am thankful for the opportunity to write this essay and express my sentiments that I can rise above the holes in our lives, fill the void, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and help children and adolescents from the inner city.
I thank you for considering my application.
The following video is oriented toward Medical School, but the speaker makes many good points that apply to the Disadvantaged Status Essay for Dental School.