“Coming from an underserved area has been integral in my desire to become a dentist. I want to be a practitioner that gives back to the community.”
Please tell me a little about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Clarendon, Texas. It’s a small town with a population of just over 2,000, surrounded by open country. With a bundle of nerves and excitement, I attended West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas. It was my first time away from my family, and as a first-generation college student, it was the first time anyone in my family had done anything like it. Both the nerves and excitement were worth it because I’m now the first college graduate and master’s graduate – both in biology – in my family, and my siblings are following in my footsteps.
Who or what moment inspired you to go into dentistry?
It was a moment I’ll never forget. When I was in the first grade, our class took a field trip to the city to see a dentist and have our teeth checked. I had no idea what a dentist was. While I was standing in line, my classmates came out from their exam and talked about their cavities. I didn’t know what a cavity was, but I could tell standing there they weren’t good. By the time I went in to see the dentist, I was so anxious, but when I walked in, he was so calming. He explained everything to me in a way that made sense and calmed my nerves. He also told me I didn’t have cavities. Before I walked out of the room, he gave me a puppy sticker that I still have. I’ve never stopped thinking about that day.
Why is the Hunt School of Dental Medicine the best place for you?
Because of my personal experience with a caring dentist, I’m so touched by the school’s focus on compassionate and culturally competent care. Growing up two hours away from the nearest dentist, I understand the struggles of getting the dental care you need.
What aspects of the unique curriculum are you most looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to being in the clinic early on. For years, I’ve dreamed of sitting in the dentist chair and actually working with patients. Knowing everything is coming to fruition, and that I’ll soon have hands-on experience, is exhilarating. As a bilingual speaker, I also really appreciate how the curriculum incorporates Spanish into the program.
Do you have any mentors who have helped you along the way?
When I first went to college, I was part of the College Assistance Migrant Program, a scholarship program that paired me with a mentor. My mentor, Katelyn Gunn, now a practicing dentist in New Mexico, was predental and gearing up to take her dental admissions test when I started. There was so much she taught me from the very beginning. I knew I wanted to be a dentist, but had no idea how to get there. She not only showed me the path I needed to take, but she encouraged me the whole time.
What is one piece of advice you would give to those aspiring to go into dentistry?
Never give up. Always keep moving forward. I’m a reapplicant, and I struggled with the question, ‘What am I going to do if I can’t do this?’ If I gave up the first time, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Do you have any family you would like to mention?
My parents Maria and Jose Ceniceros have encouraged me every step of this journey. They were migrant farmworkers, and I watched them work hard my entire life. They didn’t have the education I’ve had, but they always made sure I knew I could achieve anything, even if I were the first in my family to do it. Both have always pushed me to reach for my goals and not stop. It’s been very heartwarming to see how happy they are when I achieve my goals. One of the most beautiful memories I have is when I told them I was accepted to dental school. I won’t ever forget the emotion and joy they had.
Where do you see yourself five years after you complete dental school?
I will definitely be serving an underserved area. Coming from an underserved area has been integral in my desire to become a dentist. I want to be a practitioner that gives back to the community. I’m also excited to be an actual dentist participating in the Texas Mission of Mercy, an organization that provides free dental care to the uninsured and underinsured. I volunteer every year and dream of being in the dentist’s seat, making a difference in the lives of others.