Bio-med graduate heads to top-ranked dental school
Is becoming a dentist a practical and achievable career aspiration for students in Guam? The answer is yes, and Krystal Aldaca from the University of Guam’s Class of 2020 has proven it to be true. Aldaca, who is one of the first 16 students to complete the new bio-medical degree track under UOG’s biology program, has been accepted into the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California, where she will pursue a doctorate in dental surgery.
The school has been noted by Higher Learning Today in 2020 as one of the best for learning oral surgery and ranked as the ninth best dental school in the nation and 19th best in the world by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy’s 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Though taking the less traveled path of pre-dental studies at UOG, Aldaca found that her motivation was met with an ideal learning environment and strong peer and faculty support every step of the way.
Aldaca said she believes her ability to stand out among thousands of other dental school candidates was due, in large part, to the quality of instruction and learning opportunities available at UOG.
“Organic chemistry was actually my highest scoring category in my dental admissions test,” she said.
The bio-medical track, launched in 2018, focuses heavily on science courses that are necessary to apply for medical, dental, pharmacy, optometry, and veterinary programs. It simultaneously satisfies general education requirements, providing an efficient four-year path to a bachelor’s degree.
Beyond learning about cell structure and chemical compounds, her undergraduate experience also prepared her in other ways. Through team projects, extracurricular clubs, and real-world shadowing and internship opportunities, she developed additional qualities that made her a well-rounded candidate for dental school.
According to Assistant Professor of Chemistry Bulan Wu, a positive learning attitude, self-motivation, a strong learning ability, great organization skills, and teamwork are all important characteristics that dental schools look for among applicants.
Wu was Aldaca’s chemistry professor and was able to mentor her through the application process.
“We have always gone beyond the classroom setting and have helped guide our students through their journey to graduate school by giving them advice and helping them with their applications,” Wu said.Aldaca said the ability to get to know and work closely with the faculty provided her and her peers with an invaluable support system.
“The student-professor dynamic has really allowed for a successful learning environment that not many big universities have,” Aldaca said.
Beyond the academic aspect of a university experience, Aldaca said she benefitted from many opportunities to work and grow alongside her peers.
“The science programs are filled with a diverse group of students who are all so supportive and willing to share their experiences and advice in order to help each other succeed,” she said.
This willingness drove her and a few peers, under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Biology Michael Orr, to create the University of Guam Pre-Dental Society with the mission of guiding other students in their journey to becoming dentists.
Aldaca has had her sights set on a career in dentistry since childhood, but her undergraduate experience has now helped shape her aspirations further.During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Timothy Brady at his clinic, Guam Dental Arts, for several months. Through that experience, she became more aware of the issues that many face with access to oral health care and developed a particular interest in the community outreach aspect of dental care.
“I am excited to partake in a career that is constantly evolving, not only in technology and procedures, but also in research on how oral health can influence the overall health care of an individual,” she said.
Aldaca is excited and passionate about her future in dentistry, and the opportunities it will open for her to give back. Upon obtaining her Doctor of Dental Surgery, she plans to return to Guam in order to serve the community she said has shaped her into the person she is today.
“I hope my story inspires those at the University of Guam who do not believe that they can achieve big goals,” she said. “I have so much pride in my island and university and can’t wait to begin my journey at USC next fall.”
Interested in dentistry?Students interested in pursuing careers in dentistry, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, or veterinary medicine can begin their academic path at UOG through the bio-medical degree track in the biology program. The program offers an efficient four-year plan inclusive of all science courses necessary to apply to advanced degree programs in these areas. Contact Dr. Laura Biggs at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.Students can also gain experience and peer support by getting involved with predental and premedical student organizations.
The UOG Pre-Dental Society is reachable by email to email@example.com or on Instagram @uogpredental. The UOG Premedical Chapter of the American Medical Student Association is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook @uogpremed.