Newly built two-story houses lay across the west side of San Antonio. The influx of millennial homebuyers has created a tremendous demand for residential land development. Looking back now, one neighborhood that stood out from the rest is the Magdalena House Subdivision. I was a part of a team of civil engineers tasked with the design of this site. As an amateur engineer at KFW Engineers, I am met with everyday challenges however I felt well calculated to tackle this undertaking.
This project involved half a million dollars in construction costs to build roadways, water lines, sewer lines, drainage, and signage to the Magdalena House Subdivision. Each of the seven houses will provides transitional housing for economically disadvantaged or abused mothers and her children. The most challenging aspect of this project was not the engineering but the budget proposal which accounts for a tiny fraction of the construction cost due to a partnership with this non-profit organization. Consequently, this created a great deal of stress to deliver the project on time and on budget.
As a result, I volunteered many personal hours to finish the project. The most rewarding part was after the construction, our team volunteered to plant flowers, shrubs, and small trees in front of the new houses and meet the mothers and their children. The children’s cheerful smile had hypnotized the volunteers through a long day of labor work. This opportunity was rewarding on a professional and personal level.
This experience reminds me of my childhood and the daunting task my mom faced as she raised me up single handedly since I was 6 years old.
Kidney cancer took my dad away just as he was teaching me how to ride my first bicycle. Nonetheless, she raised above the challenge by working three different jobs to secure enough fund to enlist me in advanced weekend programs to prepare for the specialized high school admissions test of NYC. Her efforts were not futile, I still remember the vivid details of that moment when I showed her my Brooklyn Technical High School acceptance letter.
Unfortunately, work experiences like these are rare, we often work for wealthy land developers and build upon their empire. I recognized early in my career that I needed a vocation that can incorporate human interaction and my interests in science. After two and a half years as a civil engineer, I enrolled in night class to explore a dental career and test my aptitude for pre-medical classes. I found my classes intriguing and shortly replaced my civil engineer job to become an uber driver to accommodate my class schedule.
To further test my interest in a dental career, I volunteered as a dental assistant at Advanced Periodontics & Implant Dentistry under the guidance of Dr. Silvia Ghattas DDS. There, I assisted chairside for procedures such as fillings and sealants. In one instance, a patient requested for me to be her dental assistant on her next visit. I was truly happy however to both our dismay, I could only decline her invitation because I was a part time volunteer at the clinic. In addition, I also learned to expose and process X-rays, sterilize instruments, perform laboratory duties, and restock inventory. I also shadowed and gained valuable knowledge from other specialist at the office such as crown prep, bridge, root canal, gum grafting, bone grafting, implant, and All on Four.
Envisioning myself as a dental student, I attended the Stony Brook Discover Dental School Summer Scholar Program. Everything about the summer program was fascinating to me, from waxing models of a central incisor to using a dental hand piece and other instruments. My dream is to one day open my own dental clinic and provide free services to qualified low income family especially single mothers and their children.
My preparation for a dental career ironically started with my work as a civil engineer. From my experiences on projects like Magdalena House and other volunteering work, I realized a more direct and personal interaction than engineering offers. The rewarding opportunities I have had in my post-bachelor studies, my volunteer at Advanced Periodontics, and my Stony Brook Summer Program have steered and prepared me toward the new challenges and responsibilities in a dental career.