A day in their scrubs
The trip to New York City was a bit of a whirlwind. Sure, she went to Top of the Rock and Times Square, but there was the Greater New York Dental Meeting to attend. As a recipient of the Hispanic Dental Association Foundation Juan Villarreal Scholarship, Cornejo had been requested to receive her award in person. That’s exactly what she did, boarding a 5 a.m. flight the Monday after Thanksgiving. She attended the meeting, received her scholarship, squeezed in her sightseeing stops, and then boarded a return flight to Dallas-Fort Worth that night.
Long travel days are nothing new to Cornejo. Each weekday morning, she and Caruth classmate Madison Dyer board the 6:35 a.m. train, commuting from Fort Worth to Dallas. It lands her on campus at 7:30 a.m., and by the time she arrives back home each night, she’s easily clocked a 12-hour day.
She keeps her focus on the end goal: a bachelor’s degree from Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at Texas A&M College of Dentistry. The road to Dallas started during Cornejo’s sophomore year at Texas A&M, when she embarked on a medical mission trip to Kenya that exposed her to an array of health professions.
At first, she was drawn to dentistry, and then her focus narrowed when she learned she could transfer to the dental hygiene program the very next year.
“I like dental hygiene in the way that you get more interaction with patients,” Cornejo says. “You are their health care provider, and you become their friend and their teacher. It’s nice when your health provider knows you, and asks how your vacation went, and how your kids are doing. I wanted to have that opportunity to really get to know the patient,” adds Cornejo, who now has yet another scholarship to add to her CV. To accept this one, the Nicole Eusebio Memorial Service Scholarship, she didn’t have to travel nearly as far from home. She received it during the Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association and the Texas Dental Hygiene Educators Association joint annual meeting in San Marcos, Texas, in late January.
Now this standout first-year dental hygiene student shares more on what gets her through her busy weekday schedule and enhances her days at the College of Dentistry.
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Previous institution: Texas A&M University
Why Caruth: Being in a program at a dental school that has all nine dental specialties has granted a wide variety of opportunities to extend my knowledge and resources. As an Aggie, the network the school holds is a strong value, and the outreach here at Texas A&M College of Dentistry to the community is outstanding. I believe we have some of the best staff. I know that I’m learning from the finest faculty and receiving quality care. It is truly a family environment within the faculty and students here at the school.
Dental hygiene school survival strategy: I like to be ahead of myself, to know what is going to happen next, to start studying a week before an exam. Ms. Wyatt has always said this: ‘Trust the system, trust the process. You need to value the progress of your work, rather than the perfection of it.’ Everyone has different weaknesses and strengths, and if you understand that, and you value the progress instead of the perfection, it is easier on yourself.
It’s also about the relationships you have with your classmates, not seeing it as competition, but rather seeing it as an opportunity to build friendships. Our class is very team oriented, and that’s been a very big key to success.
Favorite energy food: I eat a lot of fruit and pretzels. If you ask my classmates, they’ll tell you that. I tend to eat healthy, because I can’t afford to get sick and miss.
Best way to unwind after a long day in lecture, lab or clinic: I like to craft and scrapbook. I love music, so when we have had a long clinic day, on my way back home from the train station I just have a little jam session, because music lifts up my mood.
Dental hygiene school aha moment: We just started seeing patients, so everything that we have been taught just came together. It hit me with what hygiene really is; you’re not just a health care provider, but you are also a teacher and a friend because these patients open up to you. Hygiene school is training me to better love and care for people.
Best patient care experience: The first month in clinic, we assisted a classmate chairside, that way we wouldn’t be on our own for the first appointments. My classmate had a patient who was so sweet; she would share all these life experiences. She is an opera singer, so at the end of the appointment she sang to us. People noticed and started clapping. She was amazing. Some of the instructors already knew; it was not her first time to sing. Stuff like that happens with other patients, too, just maybe not as dramatic.
Goal after graduation: I’m not sure if I want to go into private practice or public health. I’m also open to coming back to school for a master’s.
I love helping others, and I love to travel; that’s why I do mission trips. I want to keep doing that when I graduate — programs where I can go once or twice a year to people who most need it — and be able to provide dental care and educate them. My first dental mission trip was to Guatemala this spring, and I was so excited to go. I volunteered at an orphanage during a mission trip to Honduras last spring.
What people may not know about you: I’m the first one in my family to go to college. I have two younger brothers — one is in college at UTA, and the other is a sophomore in high school. My parents always made education a big deal because they didn’t receive it, and they knew how much they needed it. So many people helped me get where I am today.