On July 14, we announced our Delta Dental Community Care Foundation 2020 Student Leadership Award winners. These graduating dental students exemplify our value of service, and we are proud to provide support as they embark on their careers. Christina Nunez from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine wants to not only help underserved populations in her clinical practice, but mentor those youth to become the health care providers of the future.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently in my first year of Pediatric Dental Residency. I hope to work with infants, children and adolescents, partnering with their caregivers to promote oral health. Upon completing my residency, I plan to work as a pediatric dentist and community health leader with the mission to improve access to and quality of care to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. This will certainly involve collaborating with community leaders and stakeholders and may very well involve lobbying and policy work. Consequently, my goal right now is to become the best oral health professional possible, keeping my focus on not only expanding my pediatric dentistry but also public health advocacy skills.
Can you talk about the importance of service in your life?
Throughout my life, I have gravitated toward diverse community outreach opportunities, often expanding my extracurricular activities beyond my interest in oral health and into other passions for health and wellness. I have found myself drawn to mentorship in particular, as I feel this role allows me to pay it forward to all the people and organizations who have made it possible for me to continue to pursue my own dreams. During my time at Columbia University, I was able to serve as a teacher and advisor for underprivileged and underrepresented students in both the State Pre-college Enrichment Program and the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. I have maintained relationships with so many students in these programs, helping them with test prep and revising personal statements. It’s truly a beautiful thing to be able to see these students move on to succeed in college or academic and professional pursuits. Alongside my mentorship roles, I served as president for the Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership and a Peer Advocate for the Sexual Violence Response & the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center. Through these roles, I was able to work on refining my community organizing and crisis support skills. Down the road, I envision myself entering academia in order to continue to mentor future generations of oral health providers on the variety of ways they may serve patients and populations, especially those most in need.
What does it mean to you to be recognized as a Delta Dental Student Leader?
To be recognized as a Delta Dental Student Leader means that there are people out there who believe in and want to support my mission. As a public health dentist, I hope to work with likeminded organizations and individuals to foster environments where every member of the community can take pride in their smile, which will promote connection among entire populations. Any and all financial relief helps me to stay focused on the larger goal, rather than being bogged down by the pressure of student loan debt.