THE WAY I SEE IT: DR. PATRICIA SIMONS ’14

May 8th, 2019

Dr. Patricia Simons’ first visit to the dentist was an “a-ha” experience that opened up an unexpected career path.

“My dentist told me that I was the most excited patient that she had in a while and that I should look into dentistry as a profession.”

Simons couldn’t get home fast enough to begin research on dentistry, an intriguing field made especially appealing because it encompassed everything she loved: caring for others, serving the community and working with her hands. After graduating from dental school, she fulfilled that dream by providing dental care to the underserved community.

That zeal for giving back continues as Simons devotes her time to Texas A&M College of Dentistry as director of the Office of Student Development, co-director of the Post-Baccalaureate Program and clinical assistant professor. She also directs the dental portion of the Education for Healthcare Professionals Master of Science/Certificate program. Her desire to mentor and educate future dental colleagues was yet another goal. Her role in the school’s Center of Excellence—through a multimillion-dollar award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration*—fulfills yet another dream. Through the center’s Bridge to Dentistry Programs, she is able to help predental students not only dream about dental careers but make their aspirations a reality.

What would others find interesting about your time in dental school?

I hear stories from my colleagues that I was always the student who smiled no matter what. Literally, I smiled when I passed a test, when I didn’t do well on a test, when I was sleepy and delirious from studying so hard, when I broke my patient’s denture and had to start over, when I was happy and even when I was sick.

My saying was and still is “always believe, always smile.” That mindset really got me through dental school. You never know how you can impact one of your classmates by just smiling and having positive energy. Your body feeds off of this energy, and I truly believe that helped me to perform well and keep going.

What are some special memories from dental school?

There were days that my best friend and I would have to emotionally pick each other up, then we would get a whole cake from Sam’s, eat it while watching “Grey’s Anatomy” and then get right back to studying. My class really was one big family and we took care of each other. That is how it should be.

My mentors in dental school played an important role in my journey. As I got closer to graduating, I realized more why I went through such a rigorous program. It was so that I can be a competent, confident, ethical and compassionate dentist who is responsible for the well-being of others.

Did your early practice years teach you a thing or two?

Although I believed that I was a competent dentist, I realized that I was going to still learn something new every day while practicing dentistry—whether it was behavioral management, more efficient ways to do procedures, new techniques, new equipment, etc. Dentistry is constantly changing and we all have to keep up with it by continuing to educate ourselves.

Do you keep in touch with your classmates?

I sure do. That is the great thing about developing long-term relationships with people who experienced a significant phase of life with you. I have classmates in every specialty whom I can reach out to if I ever have a question about a patient case and need a second opinion. We also enjoy updating each other about our families and seeing each other at conferences or events.

What’s the best part of your workday?

At the dental school: Being surrounded by a compassionate team of people who share a similar mission and who truly value the success and well-being of our students.

Clinical: Providing care to at least one person who didn’t realize that access to care was an option for them and seeing how ecstatic and grateful they are. That is what keeps me going.

What’s the best part of your life these days?

These days, I am trying to practice having work/life balance. I enjoy traveling around the world with my husband, going to Austin to spend time with my siblings, spending time with my dogs and learning how to golf. I am learning to “be still” via prayer, yoga and meditation. We have to take care of ourselves, too, in order to take care of others.

*The Center of Excellence is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of an award totaling $3,493,000 with 30% financed with non-governmental sources (Texas A&M College of Dentistry). The contents are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government nor their endorsement. For more information, visit HRSA.gov

— Kathleen Green Pothier