Jixa Patel did not follow the norm when it came to pursuing her dream of becoming a dentist. She shares her journey to dental school via Texas and California, in the hope it will inspire other prospective dental students to “stick with it” and understand dental education is not “one size fits all”.

Patel began her dental education journey as a dental assistant, in a high school work program, the beginning of her path to becoming a dentist. On her successful path to dental school, she immersed herself in clinical care, diagnostics and the community.

“The vivid memory of walking into the dental office, the instruments, the chairs, the smells, and most of all, the people. I knew very early on that I wanted to serve people through the skill of dentistry.” 

Jixa Patel, Loma Linda School of Dentistry dental student

Immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas San Antonio in Biology in 2011, Patel joined a Dental Laboratory Technician program at San Antonio College in anticipation of attending dental school. After applying to dental school a numerous times with no acceptance, Patel began work in the dual role of dental assistant and dental tech at a private dental practice.

Despite acquiring fulfillment and knowledge, she felt that in order to fulfill the dream of attending dental school she needed to move forward.

Dental student Jixa Patel describes opportunities on her career path such as diagnostics

After working in the dual role of dental assistant and tech, Patel received a call from ClearCorrect, requesting an interview. This exciting career move proved integral on path to dental school.

Feeling extremely fortunate that she was given this opportunity, she took the plunge and joined ClearCorrect’s diagnostics team. After hard work and another leap of faith: She became department supervisor.

Five years after earning her undergraduate degree, a difficult decision awaited as she reached: Grow at ClearCorrect, a company at the forefront of dentistry, or pursue the dream of becoming a dentist by returning to clinical care.

Patel reached out to her spiritual guru to seek advice, and that led her back to clinical care. She returned to school to finish the prerequisites for dental hygiene.

A bridge from the dental industry to dental school

After applying to Loma Linda University in California, Patel was soon accepted, but denied by the bridge program because of outdated coursework. After completing her first quarter at Loma Linda, she followed her instincts and requested a second review of her application. Success — she earned acceptance into the bridge program.

“So many life lessons, so many opportunities, so many avenues. It was not always easy and I haven’t always been so positive about it, but I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world!”

Jixa Patel, Loma Linda School of Dentistry dental student

Patel credited the professors at Loma Linda School of Dentistry as willing to listen and provide constructive feedback to encourage their students growth in dentistry, both in the clinic or lab.

D3 offers advice for prospective dental students?

“My biggest advice I can give to pre-dental students: ‘If you truly believe this is your passion— DON’T GIVE UP! Stick with it, let my story be an inspiration. It is possible, you can do this! It may be a longer journey than you may have expected but it will be well worth following what you are passionate about.'”

Jixa Patel, Loma Linda School of Dentistry dental student

Patel advises prospective dental students to become involved in the profession and their community before attending school to be affirm their decision. She suggested:
* Job shadowing,
* Obtaining a license as a dental assistant,
* Gaining hands-on community involvement.

California dental student Jixa Patel hopes her journey can be an inspiration to others in similar situations

Today, as a blogger and via social media, Patel shares the multiple paths and years as encouragement for others and has received positive responses. Her mission: To create an understanding that earning acceptance to dental school is not a “one size fits all” process.
“For anyone that is about to give up or throw in the towel— DONT! You too can go to dental school!”

What’s next for this California dental student? Patel looks forward to the opportunities. She hopes to work for a practice that helps hone her skills as a dentist, encourages a neutral work environment. 

Looking for additional support as a dental student? Free members-only program includes job placement services for dental students

Learn details about a program that grants members instant free access to a Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA) study guide, free job placement services for personal assistance in connecting with the right post-graduation employment or associateship opportunities and a free subscription to Incisal Edge magazine here.