Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

Meet Our Scholars - Alumni Spotlights - Samantha Aguirre

I’m in my second year of dental school at University of the Pacific. It’s pretty tough. I’ve learned so much these past two years.

The first year we were in the simulation clinic, practicing basic dentistry. At the end of the year we had our “White Coat” ceremony and this year I’m finally starting to treat patients.

I decided to go into dentistry after shadowing at the IHS clinic in Phoenix. Although I’d been a patient at that very same clinic, it was my first day behind the scenes. The dentist there was doing an emergency rotation. This is where you see from 8 to 10 patients in just three hours. People were coming in with severe toothaches that had kept them awake all night. In just a few minutes she had developed a rapport with the patient and diagnosed the problem. I liked the immediacy of being able to help someone right then and there.

I’ve been going IHS hospitals my whole life, so I’m very familiar that health care system and how they work. I like that I’m going to be a part of that and provide others with the kinds of experiences that I had. The IHS clinic that I went to felt like a family clinic. I like that I can relate to the patients and what they’re going through, because I’ve been in that chair.

After graduation I could end up at any IHS hospital in the country, wherever there’s an opening. Eventually I could be back at the IHS clinic in Phoenix, or at one of the smaller, more remote clinics on the reservation. It all depends on which the clinics have the funding. Also, there are clinics in Oakland and San Francisco that serve American Indian clients. So many places I could end up.

Just applying for the Udall Scholarship helped me prepare to apply to dental school. My Udall faculty representative was really helpful in guiding me through the application process. It’s a very involved application, and that was good practice for my dental school application.

I recently reread my Udall Scholarship application, and so far I have done everything I said I wanted to do. I received the Indian Health Services scholarship, and I’m in dental school, on my way to becoming a dentist for IHS. I’m excited that I get to realize my dream.