Diverse Pathways to Dentistry

Posted on: Thursday, 07/26/2018

Research Paves a Road: Cesar Olmos, Class of 2020

“My work ethic comes from watching my parents work relentlessly,” said Cesar. “I have always admired what they did to provide a good life for my brother and me, and it’s always been important to me to push through and achieve more.”

Cesar Olmos is the first generation of his family to go to college and a first-generation U.S. citizen. He received a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from UCLA in 2013, which he followed up with four years of clinical research in the UCLA Rheumatology Department, researching autoimmune diseases.

During the time that Cesar started to focus on applying to dental school, he met Dr. Vivek Shetty, a professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the UCLA School of Dentistry. Dr. Shetty was in the process of initiating a clinical trial, studying salivary biomarkers of trauma victims to evaluate whether saliva could indicate post-traumatic stress disorder. The trial was taking place at LA County + USC Medical Center, and being fluent in both English and Spanish, Cesar was a perfect fit to help recruit patients. 

“The population we were working with was very diverse, and I had to be sensitive to their situations, which involved gunshot wounds and stabbings among other types of trauma,” said Cesar. “My heritage and ethnicity helped make the patients feel more comfortable and be more open to participating.”

It was also during this clinical trial and being at the medical center that Cesar had the opportunity to shadow oral surgeons, which further cemented his desire to go to dental school and maybe even consider pursuing a postdoctoral surgical residency program. He was also aware that all of these experiences were preparing him to be a competitive candidate for dental school. “I was also fortunate to come in contact with Dr. Edmond Hewlett who helped me see what a dental school application should look like,” said Cesar. All of his hard work as a clinical research associate paid off. He was admitted to the UCLA School of Dentistry with the Class of 2020. “UCLA was my top choice and I couldn’t be happier.”

Despite his busy schedule of didactic courses and the introduction of clinical rotations starting this summer, Cesar has continued his research. “Research leads to new advancements and these advancements can change the paradigm of how clinicians treat patients. It’s inspiring to know that what I’m working on may one day help people and improve patient care.”

Cesar plans to continue working with the underserved Hispanic population, which he has been doing through volunteering at health-related outreach events. He is also part of the Hispanic Student Dental Association, the American Student Dental Association Research committee, and he serves as the social chair for his class. Cesar credits his ability to successfully juggle these multiple tasks to the time management skills he developed as a researcher.

“It is without doubt that being a researcher has helped me in many aspects, and it is my intent to continue conducting research even after I graduate dental school.”  

Despite his humble upbringing in a community that has lower high school graduation rates, Cesar’s future is bright. “My biggest advice for people who are interested in the field of health sciences is to find outstanding mentors and persevere. With enough hard work, you’ll get through it.”