Reshaping Perceptions of Dentistry

Post-Bacc Health Professions alumna Elizabeth Moreno Galvez fulfills childhood dream, career goals

As a first-generation college student whose parents had immigrated from Mexico, Elizabeth Moreno Galvez never dreamed that a career in a health care-related field could be a reality for her. And certainly not the possibility that it would be one in dentistry.

“At the age of four, I underwent intensive dental treatment following a traumatic accident,” Elizabeth explains, “which instilled a profound fear of dentistry within me.

“Thankfully, by middle school, my oral health had improved, leading to more pleasant dental experiences. This transformation sparked my fascination with the idea of reshaping people's perceptions of dentistry, and I aspire to play a role in this change.”

Elizabeth developed a fondness for science and an interest in dentistry by her early high school years. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from San José State University to fulfill prerequisites to apply to dental school.

However, despite her ambition and aspiration, “When I applied to dental school in 2019, I found myself lacking as a strong applicant,” Elizabeth says, “and did not gain an acceptance anywhere. Contemplating a career change toward a Ph.D. in biochemistry instead—given my passion for research during my undergraduate studies—I questioned whether dentistry was truly the right path for me.”

Thankfully, Elizabeth reached out to university staff within her department about her concerns.

“At that pivotal moment, my research principal investigator—a highly influential mentor— suggested considering a post-bacc program as a stepping stone toward my dream of becoming a dentist,” she recalls.

“Together, we explored various options, and ultimately, I applied to several programs, landing at UC Berkeley Extension.”

 

Why did you choose our program?

Your Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program was a natural fit for me. I was intrigued by UC Berkeley Extension and the program offered an array of benefits tailored to my needs. Beyond simply offering classes to bolster my GPA, this post-bacc program provided invaluable assistance in completing applications and in preparing for interviews and dental admission test (DAT) preparation—precisely what I required to strengthen my candidacy for dental school.

The program advisers made everything remarkably straightforward. Enrolling in courses was seamless, offering flexibility and affordability. What truly distinguished the program for me was its personalized approach. I appreciated the regular meetings with the advisers, where it felt like they genuinely knew me and were fully invested in my future. They provided assistance with every aspect and were readily available to address any questions or concerns I might have had.

Additionally, the program's proximity to my hometown and its online format appealed to me. Because of the COVID pandemic, learning online was convenient and safe. While adapting to online courses posed some challenges for me, it ultimately proved beneficial in preparing me for dental school, where some classes are also conducted online.

 

 

How did our courses help you achieve your educational goals?

I felt that the post-bacc courses were related to my career choice and that their difficulty would help prepare me for dental school.

My human anatomy class with Dr. Al Khalili was the most impactful, and her teaching methods left a lasting impression on me. Connecting with students in an online setting can be challenging, but she was exceptionally understanding and genuinely invested in student success. She ensured that students truly grasped the content and taught in an engaging manner. Additionally, because the class was challenging, it motivated me to adapt and find ways to excel.

 

How else did you receive support while working toward your goal of attending dental school?

This period coincided with the COVID pandemic, allowing me to live with my parents and receive their support. I took a year off to fully focus on improving my application, which involved attending classes, studying for the DAT, volunteering and shadowing at dental offices.

As for the program, there were courses covering all aspects of the application process, including filling out the application itself, interview preparation and writing personal statements. In addition to these courses, there was dedicated staff available to provide personalized assistance with each of these areas, ensuring that every student received individualized feedback and support to address any questions they may have had.

 

You’re now at UCSF School of Dentistry—congratulations!

My experience at UCSF School of Dentistry has been nothing short of amazing, surpassing all my expectations. I've had the privilege of meeting incredible individuals and gaining invaluable exposure to various aspects of dentistry.

The first two years were filled with challenging didactic courses, yet I felt well-prepared to tackle them, thanks to the rigorous curriculum at UC Berkeley Extension and the unwavering support I received from the post-baccalaureate program. The challenges presented by the post-bacc classes compelled me to explore novel and efficient studying techniques. It taught me to troubleshoot when faced with uncertainty about how to excel. As a result, I now find it easier to devise solutions for success when confronted with difficulties.

The most significant lesson I learned from the program is the importance of seeking help and exploring different paths to success. It instilled in me the belief that with determination, there are always avenues to achieve one's goals.

 

How do you see yourself reshaping perceptions toward dentistry in the future?

My greatest aspiration in life is to give back to my community. I firmly believe that in order to make the most significant impact, I must first position myself for success, leveraging both my knowledge and resources.

If all goes well, I plan to specialize. I am considering orthodontics and endodontics, and I hope that my exposure to these specialties in clinicals will help me decide soon. I aim to excel in whatever specialty I pursue and, in the future, utilize my expertise to serve those in need.

 

What advice would you give to a student considering the post-bacc program to enhance their academic goals?

It's important to identify precisely where you need assistance or improvement and thoroughly explore all that the program has to offer. Speaking with program advisers can be immensely beneficial in understanding your needs, as we all recognize that this is a significant decision.

The most valuable advice I can offer is this: Don't hesitate to reach out to anyone whom you believe could offer guidance!