STC alum becomes first-year dental student
Former DEMSA student Alexandra Ruvalcaba talks about the sacrifices and choices she made on her way to dental school at Texas A&M College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas.
Four years since receiving her associate degree as a high school student from South Texas College through the Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy (DEMSA), Alexandra Ruvalcaba against all odds has entered dental school as a first-generation college student.
Ruvalcaba, who graduated with an associate degree in Biology as a senior at Donna North High school in 2018, says what initially started as a dream to enter medical school to study obstetrics turned into a fascinating journey guided by mentors who fostered her passion in the profession.
Now after several years of hardship and constant setbacks Ruvalcaba begins her first year of dental school at Texas A&M College of Dentistry in Dallas.
“I was pre-med at first, but I kept my options open and when I started my undergrad I had some doubts about medical school so I started shadowing my family dentist. That's when I discovered that I liked the dentistry profession,” Ruvalcaba said. “I was involved in a pre dental society club at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley but most of the students that were in it already had relatives that were dentists so as a first-generation student that was really challenging because I didn't know what to do. My dentist let me shadow her, and she was one of four I had to work with to get into dental school. I thank God every day for her help.”
“I am really proud to have become a better person because of STC. I am so proud to have accomplished almost two years doing both high school and college work (and) I am so glad my parents have instilled in me the ability to achieve my education and my goals.”
Entering DEMSA at the age of 16, Ruvalcaba said she excelled in the rigorous two-year program despite the challenge of balancing full-time college work and extracurricular activities. As she wrapped up high school, she was courted by numerous schools including The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M Kingsville, The University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M University at College Station.
She said, however, STC was the school that helped her grow as a person.
“I am really proud to have become a better person because of STC,” she said. “I am so proud to have accomplished almost two years doing both high school and college work (and) I am so glad my parents have instilled in me the ability to achieve my education and my goals.”
The challenges of medical school started piling up as she completed her bachelor’s degree at UTRGV, Ruvalcaba said. Adding to the stringent requirements needed to enter dental school, she also fell short of passing the Dental Admission Test (DAT) twice and was close to giving up.
“I went through many ups and downs and self-doubt thinking that I wasn't going to be good enough because mostly everyone that goes to these schools have to have the best stats…mine weren't bad, but they were not the best compared to everyone else, so I had self-doubt,” she said. “I actually had to retake the DAT 3 times which I spent 3 months each time studying for. I was mentally exhausted, and I was so close to giving up because as a dental student you can only take the test three times – after that you can't take it anymore.”
Ruvalcaba passed the DAT on her third attempt and was admitted into dental school for fall 2022. As a first-year student she said she looks forward to learning something new every day and has begun observing and performing tooth extractions, root canals, impressions and lab work procedures.
“As a student, if you follow a similar path to mine the most important thing I can tell you is not let your grades and statistics define you as a future health professional,” Ruvalcaba said. “It’s also about learning how to treat people and showing them how great of a person you really are.”