EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Hunt School of Dental Medicine welcomed its inaugural class with a rite of passage during a special ceremony.
The 40-student cohort received their first white coats on Aug. 21 on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso campus.
The ceremony served as a symbolic entrance into the challenging and rewarding world of health care.
“West Texas, especially El Paso, has faced a shortage of dentists and access to oral health care for years. The Hunt School of Dental Medicine is closing the gap by educating future generations of dentists, and we’re proud to contribute by making sure every student in the first class has a white coat,” said Blake Anderson, CEO of NovaDX. “When these students graduate in four years, they will make a significant impact for our region by serving families across the borderland.”
Access to high-quality higher education is transformative for many families, with one local student expressing the magnitude of receiving her white coat.
“It means I’m one step closer to serving vulnerable populations in my community — I see the need and lack of access to oral health education in El Paso,” said Paola Olivares Carzoli. “Becoming a dentist is a continuation of my passion and my family’s legacy and commitment — starting with my grandfather and father who are both dentists in Juarez.”
Many across the Borderland suffer from poor dental health because of gaps in access to affordable health care. In 2017, for example, only 50 percent of El Paoans visited a dentist.
Moreover, there is only one dentist per every 4,840 residents in El Paso County, compared to the national rate of one dentist per every 1.638.
“When you consider the real examples of human suffering we encounter daily I would submit to you that in simple terms we are called upon to perform ordinary miracles with every patient encounter,” said Victor Sandoval, DDS, MPH, who is assistant dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “Relieving pain and suffering and healing disease, keeping people healthy are all components of this profession. After today may you realize that your goodness is your greatness.”