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Roots of service: Dental graduate hopes to help others in her hometown

Kristen Ramirez, scholarship recipient
Kristen Ramirez
A childhood love of dental visits and the mentorship of her hometown dentist set Kristen Ramirez, DDS ’24, on a path to become one herself.

During her senior year at the School of Dentistry, Kristen served as President of the Texas Association of Women Dentists chapter at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry, where she coordinated work with local nonprofits and helped run an annual fundraising event to provide dental care at no cost for survivors of domestic violence.

“I was happy to be able to use the skills and the knowledge I obtained here at the School of Dentistry to help others and make a difference in the community,” says Kristen, who was grateful to receive a scholarship from the Women of Rotary Club of Houston University of Texas Dental Branch Student Scholarship and Assistance Fund.

“As the Assistant Dean for Admissions, I see every day the commitment that students like Kristen have to make financially to go into the profession,” says Ralph A. Cooley, DDS. “Philanthropy makes it possible for our students to make that commitment to a lifetime of dentistry.”

Kristen’s love for serving others through dentistry began as a kindergarten student in Deer Park, Texas, where she shared a class with the son of her local dentist. During career day, the dentist spoke about her work, and Kristen was instantly hooked.

“I demanded to be taken to her office,” she recalls.

She grew to love her childhood dental visits, building a relationship that would herald the start of her own dental career. After Kristen graduated from the University of Houston in 2017, her dentist hired and trained her as a dental assistant while she pursued a master’s degree in biological sciences. She started the DDS program at the School of Dentistry in the fall of 2020 and graduated in the spring of 2024.

Kristen says the school felt like a family environment, with students who supported each other and faculty who invested their time and energy into helping future dentists succeed. She appreciated how closely the faculty worked with dental students as they learned to deliver care in the school’s clinic and the hands-on learning it provided.

As someone whose own experiences with dental care played a major role in inspiring her to pursue dentistry, Kristen maintained a keen interest in the patient experience during her education and lauds the patient-centered atmosphere she says the school created in its clinic.

“We were lucky to get so many wonderful patients who come in our door and sit in our chairs, and that is a big part of what I love about dentistry—those relationships that we get to form with our patients,” she says.

The daughter of a single mother, Kristen grew up seeing how hard her mother worked to support her. This example of strength and perseverance both inspired Kristen to pursue her goals and gave her even more appreciation for receiving a scholarship.

“There were times when I wondered if this dream of being a dentist was ever going to happen,” she says. “So now to be on the other side of it looking back, I’m just in awe that I’ve made it this far and that people are willing to support me in this dream of mine.”

“Philanthropy plants seeds, and while the donors may never see how those seeds grow and develop, I can tell you every little bit makes a huge difference to our school, our students, our faculty, the profession, and the patients we serve,” Cooley says.

Now that she has earned her DDS, Kristen is returning to her hometown of Deer Park to work as a general dentist in the same office she first visited as a child. Having already formed close relationships with the staff there from her time as a patient and dental assistant, she looks forward to providing the same care and service she received.

“It’s been really awesome to have these amazing dentists mentor and support me for all these years,” she says. “Now, I get to go back to a place that feels like home.

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