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TAMIU Best Friends Accepted into Medical, Dental Schools Posted: 6/22/17

TAMIU Best Friends Accepted into Medical, Dental Schools


Alejandro Jimenez and Daniela Ortiz
If determination and hard work can yield solid results, two recent Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) graduates have major accomplishments to prove it.  

If determination and hard work can yield solid results, two recent Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) graduates have major accomplishments to prove it.

Daniela Ortiz and Antonio Jimenez were best friends while students at TAMIU.

Starting this Fall, however, they will each embark on their own separate academic and professional journey as Ortiz attends dental school at the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center San Antonio School of Dentistry while Jimenez attends medical school at the University of Texas (UT) Medical Branch at Galveston.

Getting accepted into dental or medical school was not easy for either Ortiz or Jimenez, but they said they kept encouraging each other while at TAMIU in order to reach their post graduation goals.

Ortiz and Jimenez said they met when they took an Organic Chemistry class together.

“One day, she (Ortiz) sat on a seat that I thought belonged to me in class and I got mad at her,” said Jimenez, “That small incident sparked a friendship and we have been best friends ever since.”

They said the encouragement and support they received from each other, coupled with that from TAMIU professors, their families and friends, helped them eventually gain acceptance into dental and medical schools.

Ortiz, who received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from TAMIU, said an oral surgery she had in high school to align her top and bottom jaws propelled her desire to pursue dentistry.

“That experience allowed me to see how science and art come together to restore self esteem and function,” said Ortiz, “From that surgery, I was able to gain full function of my jaw and I was finally able to smile and show my teeth.”

She said she feels her life’s purpose is to help restore people’s smiles.

“TAMIU has granted me the opportunity to attend pre-dental enrichment programs at two of the three dental schools in Texas and I became aware of opportunities to participate in research as a student,” Ortiz said.

While serving as a vice president of TAMIU’s Pre-Dental Society, Ortiz said she volunteered with the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio and gave oral health instructions to low income patients, teaching them the importance of maintaining proper oral health. In addition to being active in the San Antonio Hispanic Dental Association, she said she also volunteered with Laredo’s Mercy Ministries and served as a biology and chemistry tutor at the TAMIU Learning Center.

She said she feels fortunate to have been selected to attend dental school.

“I feel very lucky and blessed,” Ortiz said, “It is the result of consistency, determination and hard work.”

She said that during her undergraduate years, she spent time exploring the field of dentistry and shadowing dentists.

“This career is highly demanding of professionalism and effective communication skills because essentially, the patients are trusting us with their health and appearance,” Ortiz said.

Upon graduating from dental school, she said she plans to return to Laredo to work as a dentist and provide care to low-income patients who have limited access to health insurance.

For his part, Jimenez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from TAMIU, said that as an underclassman at the University, he had no idea he would one day apply to medical school.

“This journey has been incredibly difficult and emotional,” said Jimenez of his academic undertaking, “It definitely wasn’t easy but here at TAMIU, we learned to ‘Go Beyond.’”

Jimenez, who said that at one time, he ripped apart his Chemistry exam after getting a C in it, said he learned to work 10 times harder than others in order to obtain good grades.

As he poured in hours of study into his classes, he said he became fascinated with Chemistry.

“I became fascinated with it as a subject,” Jimenez said, “I was amazed at how our bodies utilize chemistry and biochemistry to function.”

He said he then started visiting his chemistry professor’s office and she told him about her research on Computational Chemistry.

“I conducted computational research on a synthetic compound that could potentially treat malaria,” Jimenez said, “That research helped me learn about the types of adversities that people face and how science and medicine can work together to work wonders.”

Jimenez said that without assistance from his professors at TAMIU, he does not think he would have been accepted into medical school.

“Here, through the rigorous courses that TAMIU offers in the sciences, Daniela and I were able to find our strengths and build upon them,” he said, “That eventually led to our passion in a career in the health care field.”

Both he and Ortiz always knew they wanted to strive for academic goals beyond a bachelor’s degree, Jimenez said.

“We were not satisfied with just getting a bachelor’s degree,” he said, “Our inner selves wanted to strive to be the best and the most intelligent beings that we could ever be.”

They both agreed that applying to medical and dental schools is not for the faint of heart.

Jimenez said he was one of 6,000 applicants to his medical school. Out of those, 1,000 were interviewed and only 200 were accepted. Similarly, Ortiz said she was one of 1,300 applicants to her dental school. Of those, 300 were interviewed and 103 were accepted.

Jimenez said he hopes to specialize in general surgery, complete a fellowship in pediatric surgery and return to Laredo to serve the community.

“I am beyond excited because I know how challenging and intellectually rewarding medical school is,” Jimenez said, “I would advise students trying to apply to medical school to not be discouraged by difficulties they may encounter in their academic career and to go for it. You should remember your passion and the people that you will affect in the future. It is not just about yourself.”     

Both Jimenez and Ortiz thanked their respective professors, Dr. Hari Mandal, associate professor of Chemistry; Dr. Deborah Blackwell, associate professor of History and director of the TAMIU Honors Program; Dr. Kameron Jorgensen, assistant professor of Chemistry; and Dr. Ruby Ynalvez, associate professor of Biology, for their encouragement and support while at TAMIU.

Ortiz said TAMIU students receive personalized attention from their professors.

“At TAMIU, you are not just another name on a list,” she said, “You get to know the professors and the professors love to be visited during their office hours.”

Ortiz said she feels confident about her future as a dentist.

“I will take every opportunity to help people that have struggled in oral health as I’ve had,” she said, “I feel like my struggles will allow me to treat a unique population.”

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