Mi Aventura

Jose Mejia Zepeda

My name is Jose Mejia Zepeda, also known as Jose Z. Mejia in the U.S.A. I was born in Queretaro, Mexico on February 13, 1977. I attended the School of Dentistry at the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro, Queretaro, Mexico from 2000–2005. I came to the United States in 2009 with very little expectation of continuing dental practice. From 2009–2016 I’ve had many diverse jobs: selling personal care products on the street, cashier, cook, and waiter at restaurants, sales representative for a dental supply company, and management at a music store.

My journey back into dentistry started in 2014, when an acquaintance introduced me to Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez from UCLA. He was instrumental in me getting back into dentistry. He used to tell me: “You are wasting your talent at the music store. You can do something significant for people’s health and you can be an example for others to follow. It’s your ethical responsibility.” I was uncertain about it; I was 37 years old, I was comfortable doing what I loved to do and, the path to licensure in the USA seemed too costly and complicated.

After careful consideration, my family and I decided to bet on Dr. Ramos-Gomez’s recommendation and began the application process to the Advanced Clinical Training in Restorative Dentistry at UCLA, thinking that it would catapult me into the Advanced Dental Program for International Dentists. I was accepted into the 2-year program in February of 2015.

“Some of the differences I experienced between dental school in Mexico and the advanced clinical training at UCLA were, to begin with, the vast access to the latest technology, techniques, information, and materials available at UCLA.”

While being in the program, I encountered people who were extremely talented and committed to excellence in dentistry, such as Dr. Richard G. Stevenson III. He took me under his wing as his mentee and taught me what dentistry is all about. I am forever amazed at his ability to teach and I am thankful for the way he comes alongside his students and raises them to a level of quality that I didn’t know was possible.

Some of the differences I experienced between dental school in Mexico and the advanced clinical training at UCLA were, to begin with, the vast access to the latest technology, techniques, information, and materials available at UCLA. While both institutions encouraged a focus on quality, the ACT program is at a postgraduate level, taking the practice of dentistry a step further in knowledge, understanding, and execution. During the two-year program, I attended the American Association of Operative Dentistry meeting in Chicago twice, learning about a level of dentistry I only observed in books. There are very talented professionals in both countries, but the exposure I got to high-quality dentistry in the United States was greater than I received in Mexico, and with easier access.

Besides the academic knowledge I acquired during the program, I learned about the possibility to receive a dental license to work in the State of California, something I thought was unachievable with the certification earned through the ACT program. That possibility is what led me to the community clinic environment.

In 2018, a year after I finished the program, I began to work for Watts Healthcare Corporation in the City of Watts, Los Angeles. It’s been a little over a year, and the satisfaction that it brings me to labor among the least privileged of our community alongside other committed dentists and staff is immense. I go to work every day knowing that the work we do counts. I am convinced that, as Dr. Ramos-Gomez pointed out, I’m fulfilling my responsibility to society and, as he envisioned it, I hope I can be a good example for others to follow.

I’m honored to share a glimpse into my professional life, and I hope someone reads this and is encouraged by my humble story. I am not mighty, but those around me help me do mighty things. I couldn’t tell my story without those involved: Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, Dr. Richard G. Stevenson III, my family, and the miraculous strength that comes from God through Jesus Christ, my Lord.

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