A day in their scrubs
An ample dose of structure and discipline peppered with the artistic help provide this fourth-year dental student with the balance she needs not just to survive but thrive during her time at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.
Byanka Gonzalez’s ability to prioritize even allowed her to re-engage with this pastime during her dental education — a rarity during a season in many students’ lives when extras get pushed to the backburner.
For several hours every Tuesday and Wednesday evening, flamenco dominates. The centuries-old dance form takes Gonzalez back to her childhood in Valencia, Venezuela, where she first took up the hobby. A show in Dallas nearly two decades later lured her back into flamenco. She’s stacked up performances this past year, most recently with her first paid gig at The Door in Deep Ellum.
Hometown: Valencia, Venezuela; Fort Worth, Texas
Undergrad institution: Texas A&M University. Ah, whoop!
Why Texas A&M College of Dentistry: It was the most well-served campus and had a very genuine family feel when I visited. It also has an excellent clinical reputation among practicing dentists I shadowed and worked for during undergrad. The leaders I looked up to and respected in the predental society seemed to all choose to come to school here, and my family is in Fort Worth, so it was my No. 1 pick.
Dental school survival strategy: This is a funny question because survival makes it sound like we are dying in here. I’d like to think we’re thriving, not merely surviving, during our time in dental school. My faith and family are my lifeline for any hardship. I also am involved in organizations with my classmates such as HSDA and ASDA. These allow us to still bond over dentistry but not strictly academics. I recently have made an effort to get involved in my community, whether it be through dance or church; that way school doesn’t consume every aspect of my life. I believe I’ve really come into my own during my time in dental school.
Favorite energy food: My favorite energy strategy is plenty of sleep. Favorite energy food is a good cup of warm coffee. I’ve also realized that getting a workout in before heading to school keeps the endorphins pumping past lunch. Another good technique is eating a small lunch so that I don’t slow down in the afternoon.
Best way to unwind after a long day in lecture, lab or clinic: My routines outside of school include running, flamenco dancing, Bible study and Mass. If I’m able to make it to evening Mass during the week, then it turns a long day into a beautiful day that included an uninterrupted hour of worship, prayer and unity with others in my faith. They each provide a change of brainpower, pace and scenery and allow me to come back to my main grind refreshed.
Dental school aha moment: I really enjoy having an active social life; I had to learn how to say no to social gatherings my first year and be really intentional about how I spent my time. I had to schedule study time and work, or else it wouldn’t get done. I became extremely conscientious of time management and prioritizing. Although emails and other notifications are important, they are surface activities. I even got off most social media first and second year, because they just vacuumed my time. I learned to schedule time to do the deep work that is important to me like dental school, dance and growing in my faith — or else I’d spend the whole time doing surface work.
Best patient care experience: When we first moved here, dentistry wasn’t something we could really afford, and my parents invested most of their money into our education. Being able to treat my dad has been my best patient care experience.
Goal after graduation: I am applying to general practice residencies. I really would like to become proficient with straightforward implants as well as have hospital privileges for patients who may require it. I’ve learned a lot but realize there is still a lot left to learn. I figure I’ll get a large chunk of continuing education straight out of school.
What people may not know about you: I’ve really gotten involved in the arts community here in Dallas through flamenco. My whole mom’s side of the family is very culturally Spaniard. My grandmother, Angie Strittmatter-Vega, is from Madrid and has danced flamenco her whole life. We happen to have the same size foot, so I’m able to wear all her flamenco shoes, which are short heels with nails hammered into the “punta” and the “talon” in order to make “soniquetes” that go along with the guitar, “cante” and “cajón.” I danced classical flamenco for a couple of years when I was little and we were living in Valencia. I saw a show here in Dallas and was stricken by the performance. I heard they gave classes and have been learning choreography consistently every Tuesday and Wednesday for the past year and a half. It’s amounted to seven performances and my first solo and paid performance last month at The Door in Deep Ellum.
My favorite part about flamenco is that it’s a form of dance in which the live music follows the dancer instead of the other way around. It’s been really challenging training my ear to impromptu communication between the dancer and the live band. It usually involves the dancer making a “llamada” or call with specific steps and the live guitarist, singer or percussionist responding to the dancer’s call to make music. I love how the depth, strength and emotion encompass a performance, and I will probably continue to participate as long as I am able.