Get to know CDA’s November Student Spotlight, Austin De Los Santos from the University of Southern California class of 2022
What made you interested in dentistry?
I was raised by two generations of dentists committed to providing care to communities both local and abroad. Their influence exposed me to the power of service through dentistry and the sense of fulfillment that comes with treating patients and creating smiles! When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While I initially struggled with the diagnosis, it taught me to optimize my mind by perceiving challenges as opportunities for growth and sparked my passion for nutrition and wellness. In turn, I became enlightened by the profound effects one’s lifestyle has on the body, and today I use that knowledge to support and educate others toward a healthier and happier lifestyle. In essence, I would say that my family and MS are what drove my interest in dentistry in that the two gave me strength, purpose and happiness.
What has been your favorite dental school moment or experience so far?
The white coat ceremony was the culmination of my education, passion for service and human connection. Putting on that white coat was a moment of transformation — a testament to hard work and absolute trust in myself to accomplish my dream. Now more than ever, I feel the deepest sense of responsibility to become a dentist who is prepared to address the oral health challenges of the future.
What is one item you cannot live without and why?
Nowadays, I can’t go more than a few days without touching my handpiece! People often laugh when I tell them that, but it’s true! Being able to create a smile with the knowledge of the underlying science and mechanics gives me great satisfaction. The idea that one day I will be able to do that for a patient…AMAZING!
How has your life changed in the past year?
While having very little time for activities outside of school is a given, I would say that the amount of knowledge, life experience, and friendships I have gained have surpassed anything I could have imagined. As dental students, the amount of material we are required to learn in such a short timespan has not only elevated my capacity for learning, but it has also equipped me with the skills needed to treat patients!
What’s one thing about dental school you wish you could make your friends who aren’t in dental school understand?
The 10,000-hour rule is a principle oftentimes associated with gaining full mastery of a craft. Like many other professions, dentistry is a labor of love, and in order to be proficient you have to truly enjoy it and dedicate yourself. I try to balance school, exercise and social time as best as I can, but it definitely becomes challenging. Having little time outside of school has taught me to enjoy and value the time I get to spend with family and friends outside of it, whether that be on the phone or in person. All in all, I try my very best to let my family and friends know that I love and cherish them.
How do you relax after a long day at school?
Exercising, cooking and cleaning! I like to be active in my free time so that I can have peace of mind when studying or practicing dentistry. This includes working out, whether it be in a gym, on a bike, at the beach or meditating. Cooking is also very therapeutic as it allows me to get the most out of my body and to create community! After working out, I will oftentimes cook for friends and educate them on the nutritional benefits of what I eat and why. For example, eating arugula can help with nutrient absorption and mint can help emulsify fat! Lastly, cleaning is very therapeutic for me in that having a clean and healthy environment allows for a clean and healthy mind.
What are you most looking forward to after dental school?
Serving the community at large and spending time with all of the family and friends that have supported me along the way! Prior to being admitted into dental school, it was the thought of treating future patients that inspired me to study the long hours and understand material so that I could be the best practitioner for those in need. Today, it seems as though patients see the dentist more than they see their primary health care provider, which places a great responsibility on us to detect disease, treat patients, and consistently be up to do date as clinicians. I plan to use my knowledge to treat patients holistically so that they may live happier and healthier lives.
Why are you #cdaproud?
I am humbled to be a part of the CDA community. To be surrounded by individuals so passionate about advancing dental care, patients’ rights and education is truly special and a few of the reasons why I am #cdaproud!