As they and the rest of the Class of 2014 arrived on UCSF's campus last week to begin the four-year climb toward the DDS degree, D1s (first-year dental students) and Dean's Scholarship for Opportunity recipients Antonio Diaz Sanchez and Ruben Espinoza sat down to discuss what coming to the UCSF School of Dentistry and receiving the Dean's Scholarship for Opportunity has meant to them.
Espinoza, whose mother was a dentist in Mexico and is currently a dental assistant in the US, inculcated her son with a strong feeling for dental health and oral hygiene from an early age, recruiting him to help out at dental offices where she worked. "But I didn't know that I wanted to become a dentist until my undergraduate years" he says, "when I did some shadowing, and translated for Spanish-speaking patients."
Diaz, by contrast, offered that "No one in my family has any relationship with the health field at all. The dentist that I grew up with was a big influence in my life - her son played soccer with me. I was really interested in Biology and science generally, and she suggested I look into dentistry, so I did." Adds Diaz, "I got involved in outreach programs and translated for people, realizing that I could really make an impact on peoples' lives, like she did for me."
Both Diaz and Espinoza confessed to feeling a mixture of intimidation and anticipation on confronting UCSF's formidable academic reputation, but felt that talking with students and faculty made all the difference. "When I met my interviewer, Dr. (Daniel) Ramos" said Diaz, "I felt he was genuine about why he liked UCSF, and I thought 'I want to experience that'."
Receiving the Dean's Scholarship for Opportunity was, along with acceptance to the UCSF School of Dentistry, "a huge honor", according to Espinoza. "And a recognition of years of effort."
"I got a call from Dean Featherstone" said Diaz, "and the fact that the School and the donors and supporters of the School believe in me - it's a boost."
Both spoke of anticipating challenging years ahead at the Parnassus campus, and Espinoza is considering returning to his community to practice dentistry, and perhaps to teach as well. He is also open to pursuing his interest in pediatric dentistry while at UCSF. "A lot of hard work is ahead of us, but it's really exciting at the same time" said Diaz.
Pictured (left to right): Ruben Espinoza, Dean Featherstone, Antonio Diaz