San Antonio dental recruitment program increases cultural representation

The Hispanic Center for Excellence at UT Health San Antonio is taking steps to ensure patients see themselves represented in dentistry, ABC affiliate KSAT reported Feb. 13.

The center uses a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant to recruit students from underserved communities. These students are trained, mentored and given resources to help them apply to UT Health San Antonio’s School of Dentistry. After dental school, they return home to serve their communities, the report said.

"My main goal ever since starting my journey in getting to dental school and becoming a dentist was always to return back to my hometown community and give back to the place where I was born and raised," Jessica De La Fuente told KSAT.

UT Health San Antonio’s School of Dentistry's graduates now account for 33 percent of practicing dentists in south Texas' underserved communities, the report said.

"Patients, they feel more comfortable when they see someone from their background who speaks their native language, their culture. I’ve seen patients' faces just light up with happiness when they see, 'Oh you speak Spanish.' It's kind of like a sigh of relief, 'You're going to listen to me. You're going to understand what I’m saying,'" De La Fuente told KSAT.

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