Diverse Pathways to Dentistry

Posted on: Thursday, 07/26/2018

From Desk to Dental Chair: Ritesh Salvi, Class of 2018

“I miss my old job,” chuckles Ritesh Salvi. “Juggling patients and dental courses isn’t easy.” The third-year dental student is referring to his time as a Group Practice Administrator (GPA) – a staff position he held for over a year in our general clinic before entering dental school in 2014 as a full-time student.

Ritesh is well into the patient care component of the curriculum and is feeling the challenges of maintaining a full clinical schedule, while also keeping up with courses. There are times when he feels a little overwhelmed, but having some insight into how the general clinic operates has helped him.

“Having been a staff member gave me a much better understanding of the inner-workings of the clinic, which was crucial when I began to see patients,” said Ritesh. “It can be intimidating as a student entering a busy clinic space and you’re trying to manage patient expectations, develop treatment plans, and also fulfill the expectations of your supervising faculty member.”

Ritesh’s path to dentistry took longer than he originally planned. “I graduated from UCLA in 2007, but had to move back home to help my family when the economy crashed,” said Ritesh. “I dabbled in real estate for a little bit, but found myself eventually working for a dental clinic near my family’s home in Orange County. I never gave up on my dream of becoming a dentist.”

It wasn’t until 2012 when Ritesh was able to get back on track with his dental training. While he was working as a GPA, he was also studying for his Dental Admission Test and applying to dental schools.

“That was a difficult time in my life, I was working full-time and commuting from Diamond Bar every day,” Ritesh reflected. “However, I loved my job, I got to interact with students, faculty, and patients, as well as learn about how the School was run.”

Ritesh’s busy schedule paid off, he was accepted into the UCLA School of Dentistry Class of 2018 and began classes in the fall of 2014.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when I got the call that I had been accepted to UCLA Dentistry,” said Ritesh. “I have a lot of Bruin pride, which stems from my undergraduate experience, and to be able to be a two-time Bruin was surreal.”

With graduation now a year away, Ritesh already has plans to pursue a General Practice Residency (GPR) program and eventually work in private practice. “Compared with other medical professions, dentistry allows you to see multiple patients per day, but also establish a relationship with each of those patients. That aspect has always attracted me to the field.” 

One reason why Ritesh wants to pursue a GPR certificate is to be able to treat children as well as adults. “Knowing how to treat the entire family at different stages is important, it makes you a better practitioner.” He knows that good oral health starts at a young age.

Having come this far, Ritesh seems at peace with everything that has happened along the way. He will be the first of his family to enter the healthcare field and he is looking forward to being able to finally say that he’s a dentist.

“In dentistry, there’s an instant gratification to helping someone,” said Ritesh. “The field also encourages constant training. My belief is that as healthcare providers, you always have a responsibility to your patients to continue to learn. I’m glad I never gave up.”