Adrian Alanis, a senior dental student, subscribes to the notion that the path to success is never a smooth, straight line. Instead, the journey is full of peaks and valleys that take persistence, determination and maybe even a bit of serendipity to navigate.
A different road
Born in Mexico City and raised in San Antonio, Alanis received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Baylor University and is now preparing to graduate this May with his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. On paper, his path appears to have been smooth and tidy, but as is usually the case, life had another plan.
“I have always known that I wanted a career in health care,” Alanis said. “When I was younger, I spent time working as a dental assistant. It helped me realize that I wanted to do what my grandfather was doing — I wanted to be a dentist. While at Baylor, though, I was a little immature and didn’t do as well as I should have been doing. I didn’t think any dental school would even look at me.”
Weighing his options, Alanis persevered by applying to the Universidad Tecnológica de México (UNITEC), a dental school in Mexico City, and enthusiastically accepted the offer of admission that soon followed.
“I knew I could still achieve my dream, but it would be down a different road,” he said.
He excelled at UNITEC, graduated at the top of his class and was presented with El Premio Ceneval al Desempeño de Excelencia-EGEL, a national award that recognizes the top 10% of students who score the highest on their final graduate exam on their first attempt.
As a foreign-educated dentist, Alanis would need to complete a two-year program at an accredited dental school in the U.S. before he could sit for an American licensing exam and return to his family and friends in Texas, which he was determined to do.
International dentist programs are highly competitive across the nation and Alanis had his sights set on only one — the School of Dentistry’s International Dentist Education Program (IDEP), which consistently receives 20 times more applications than spots available for enrollment.
“I was very focused on my goal at that point, but imagine competing against the world for one of only a few spots,” Alanis said. “It was stressful — I was up against the best of the best from around the world.”
In a stroke of what he describes as serendipity, Alanis was offered admission into his top and only choice for dental school.
“People like Adrian, who have a growth mindset, do not fear failure, but rather see it as part of the road to innovation,” said Rita Parma, DDS, associate professor and former IDEP director. “They inspire us with their stories and encourage us to face our own adversity. I have no doubt that Adrian’s open and loving attitude, strong moral compass, work ethic and compassion are the attributes that make him so successful.”
The scenic route
Alanis recognizes that he may have taken the long route, but in the end, it was certainly more scenic.
“I spent a lot of years thinking I should have done better when I was younger, but I realized my experience wasn’t a mistake,” he said. “I got to go back to my roots by living with my grandparents in Mexico, who supported me for five years. I’ve created so many great relationships with my faculty in Mexico and here in San Antonio — Dr. Parma, Dr. [James] Startzell and Dr. [Jon] Dossett have been some of my greatest mentors. The love and support of my amazing wife, Moriah, was instrumental to my success as well.”
Naturally, Alanis ranks among the top students in his graduating class and serves as the Academy of General Dentistry student fellow track president. After graduating, he plans to jump straight into patient care but remains open to specialty training in the future. His advice to anyone who finds themselves fighting to achieve their dream: create connections.
“Get to know your faculty, build relationships with them,” he urged. “They will help keep you accountable. Surround yourself with students who share your goals and learn their study methods and how they organize themselves. You’ll be surprised by the support that you’ll find; that’s exactly what I found here.”