Hunt School of Dental Medicine Student Profile: Daniela Garza

Hunt School of Dental Medicine Student Profile: Daniela Garza

“Being part of the inaugural class is a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity, and I’m thrilled to have been chosen. My peers and I have a big responsibility to set the standards and culture for future classes. That’s pretty amazing.”

Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I was born and raised on the Texas-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas. Although I was a top student in high school, I struggled to adapt to the rigorous curriculum in my undergraduate program at Texas A&M. I studied biomedical sciences, knowing all along I wanted a career in health care. During many challenging times, I often thought back to my mom as my source of inspiration. She attended nursing school while maintaining a home and a job as a transcriptionist. She exemplified true perseverance.

Who or what moment inspired you to go into dentistry?

I started shadowing in the dental field and was amazed at how kind the dentists were and how eager they were to share their career pathways and stories with me. It proved they were all so invested in their profession, and it wasn’t work for them. I saw myself doing dentistry just like them.

Why is the Hunt School of Dental Medicine the best place for you?

For so many reasons, but the region is important. The border-town culture is so similar to where I grew up. I remember walking through the airport for my interview feeling a sense of warmth and a sense of home. Dental school will probably be one of the most mentally strenuous things I endure, but having a culture and area that seem familiar and comforting will help relieve some of the stress.

A couple of weeks after I interviewed, my boyfriend Larry C. Counts and I learned that instead of being transferred out of the country, he would be stationed at Fort Bliss. That was just one of those signs that this is the right thing for me. Having him here will be a bonus and a great support system because he supports my dreams as if they were his own.

What will be the most satisfying part of dental school?

When I’m finally doing hands-on work. It’s been a long time of waiting for this phase of my life to start—I’m so excited. I think the most satisfying and humbling part will be treating patients. I currently work in a dental office, and I constantly dream of holding the drill or having a patient look to me for help.

How does it feel to be part of the inaugural class at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine?

I believe the inaugural class will nurture strong relationships with faculty and staff at the school, and together we will set the tone for future classes. Being in the inaugural class will come with many unique challenges, but it’s also exciting to know that we’ll lead others. Not many people will have such an extraordinary opportunity in their lifetime.

What kind of impact do you hope to have on the community as a dental student at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine? And after?

I hope to leave a positive and lasting impact. I’m eager to embrace the El Paso community and give back to an underserved region that’s much like my own. Being from a small Hispanic border town, family really means something. Had it not been for my family’s constant support and their trials to set me on an educational path, I wouldn’t be here. I hope to advocate for higher learning and be a source of encouragement and kindness for all people who cross my path.

Do you have any mentors who have helped you along the way?

I began working with Dr. Layla Lohmann in her practice, and she instilled so much confidence in me from the first day we met. She has been a great mentor and friend in the workplace and treats me like a colleague rather than a student. I’m grateful I was able to work in her practice.

What is one piece of advice you would give to those aspiring to go into dentistry?

I didn’t realize how competitive and challenging applying to dental school would be, but I never let that stop me. If you find that passion for dentistry, let that fuel your fight and don’t stop trying.