A day in their scrubs
Second-year dental hygiene student Alfredo Rodriguez’s post-graduation plans are not the norm, per se. While he plans to work at a practice, he also intends to finish up prerequisites for dental school. For him, dental hygiene is that crucial step in his journey to dentistry. His route might be more circuitous than direct, but for him, it’s the most thorough, which makes all the difference.
Growing up in a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico, Rodriguez wasn’t exposed to the profession. He went for his first dental cleaning at Agape Clinic only after being accepted to the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene.
It’s this unique path that gives him the perspective of a first-time patient and a heart for those who lack access to care.
“Before even getting dental treatment at Agape Clinic, I also had the opportunity to get some medical treatment there,” Rodriguez says. “I would dream to one day be one of the doctors. They were very passionate to help people.
“I remember I would wake up at 5 a.m. so that I could get there early to be seen. Since I have gone through that, whenever I get to volunteer at events, I try to make patients as comfortable as I can and understand not only their dental needs but also their personal concerns.
Hometown: I have been in Dallas for about eight years now. I moved from Zacatecas, Mexico.
Undergrad institution: El Centro College, Dallas
Why Caruth: I was interested in the Caruth program because of its cutting-edge research, top-notch standards and experienced professors. I actually became interested in dentistry after taking my first biology class in college and searching through the Internet for different health careers. As a first-generation student to attend higher education, my path to dental school has been different. Coming from a family of no dental background, I decided to attend dental hygiene school because I felt it was necessary to learn more about dentistry and enhance my future career. A lot of people asked me, “Why are you taking that longer route?” I personally don’t care about the years but about the knowledge I’ll gain. We all have our own ways of doing things, and I just felt that I needed to go this route.
Dental hygiene school success strategy: Since I moved here, it’s been tough, because English is a second language to me. Throughout the years I’ve learned to be responsible and do what I need to do. As far as dental hygiene, you have got to be positive every day and remember you have another day coming. As you start to treat patients, you realize that everything you are studying will be applied, and in moments of stress, I have always thought about my patients and how much I want to be prepared to help them in the best way.
Favorite energy food: My mom’s food. My brothers wake up really early to go to work. Every time they go, she makes three or four burritos for them and leaves some out for me. After a long day, she has dinner cooked for me.
How you unwind after a long day in lecture, lab or clinic: Most of the time during a week of exams, I enjoy when we go as a class to a restaurant to have dinner. It just helps us to talk among classmates about our personal life and put aside school for a moment. Even though I’m the only guy in the class, I feel very fortunate because my classmates are very kind. Also I think what helps me a lot is just going home. I live with my family, and getting home and forgetting about school, having dinner with my family, that’s really something that I like, knowing what’s going on with their lives.
Best dental hygiene school moment so far: The Guatemala mission trip. The rural place we went to, I can see myself in those kids because they didn’t know what it’s like to go to a dentist. It was their first time having dental work, and being able to go and give back to them, it was just precious because I know what that is like.
Favorite patient care experience: I provided my brothers and my mother with their first dental cleanings, and it was rewarding to be able to help them in such a way. After receiving their support throughout my education, having the opportunity to help them made me feel worthwhile.
Goal after graduation: My plan is to start working two days a week and spend three days going to school to be able to apply to dental school soon.
What people may not know about you: The first time I got a dental cleaning was at Agape Clinic after I got into dental hygiene school. I remembered back when I was shadowing to complete my observation hours to apply to the program, it would feel weird to think, “I’ve never been to the dentist before.” In fact, when I chose dental hygiene and dentistry, I was going through YouTube, looking up videos, and I thought, “What does a dentist do? What does a dental hygienist do?” I was confused about their scope of practice. So far I love it. I don’t see myself doing anything else.
Also, I am in a band, Conjunto Lobo Universal, with my brother and friends. It is tough to keep good grades and be able to play almost all weekends, especially when we go out of town — to Tennessee, Virginia, Houston, Austin — we leave on a Friday and get back Sunday. But it’s a stress relief because it’s totally not related to dental. We usually play at weddings and quinceañeras. I love playing the saxophone, although I don’t know how to read music. I play by ear. I honestly enjoy connecting back with my Hispanic culture through music and at the same time getting paid for it.