Walter Fuentes: Class of 2019

Posted on: Thursday, 06/27/2019

Wyatt Rory Hume Scholarship
Naomi Ellison Scholarship

WALTER FUENTES HAS ALWAYS BEEN PASSIONATE about pursuing a profession where he could give back through public service. He discovered dentistry on a humanitarian trip to Ghana during his freshman year of college. He was inspired by a dentist who was making a difference in impoverished communities by providing basic cleanings and treatment. After that experience, he was set on attending dental school and worked diligently to become a competitive applicant, including shadowing a dentist while completing his undergraduate degree.

Walter chose to attend the UCLA School of Dentistry because of its strong reputation and teaching philosophy, but more important to him was the diversity of the campus and city. From the beginning of his training, his desire to practice in underserved communities was recognized and encouraged. In 2015, following his acceptance to UCLA, he applied to and received the coveted National Health Services Corp Scholarship (NHSC). The loan repayment program is only offered to 20 dental students across the country. And in 2016, 

he was awarded the Naomi Ellison Scholarship, which is given to a deserving first year student with potential to practice dentistry in an underserved community.

Throughout his training, Walter gravitated towards treating children. He had the opportunity to shadow pediatric dentists through the School’s Infant Oral Care program, where he worked directly with parents, caregivers, and children in low-income communities to teach them about basic oral hygiene. During the 2019 scholarship cycle, he received the Wyatt Rory Hume Scholarship, which awards a dental student who shows significant involvement in community service.

“Dentistry is an expensive profession to pursue; the scholarships I’ve received over the years mean that I can focus on practicing in an underserved area when I’m done with my training, instead of repaying student loans,” said Walter. “The most recent award helped cover a significant portion of the costs associated with the application process to residency programs.”

After having completed dental school this past June, Walter will head to Seattle to pursue a pediatric dentistry residency program at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, and following that, he will begin his NHSC commitment by practicing in an underserved area for four years. In the future, he plans to become involved with public health policy-making, and he credits pediatric dentistry and public health faculty members, Drs. Clarice Law, Francisco Ramos-Gomez, and Jim Crall, for their influence and guidance in this area.

“I just want to tell those individuals who helped establish scholarships that you have indirectly helped a population that needs more resources and health care providers,” said Walter. “It’s my pursuit in life to improve the oral health of underserved, yet deserving, communities.”