Student Spotlight: Miriam Villa
Dental Medicine Program, Class of 2027
- AZ - Glendale
"I am a mother of a child with special needs, a woman who overcame homelessness, and a first-generation immigrant college student, ready to embrace the role of a dentist and advocate for people from all walks of life."
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of West Florida, associate degree from Pensacola State College in Biochemistry
What inspired you to pursue a healthcare career? How did your background and history factor into your career choice?
My journey to this point has come on the heels of significant hardship. I was an impoverished Moroccan child raised by a single mother with health issues. My family and I lived in an impoverished neighborhood, where most were low-income and lived off welfare. I recognized early on that all of us immigrant children grew up in this world full of cultural diversity; however, our environment was filled with uncertainty when it came to financial stability, educational growth, and oral health care. As a child, many educators told me to remember where I was from, and that we all had our limitations. Today, I realize these statements and witnessing life's disparities among this social class was the fuel that kept me motivated to keep going in school and not give up on my dream of becoming a dentist.
I forged a new path from experiencing my childhood challenges, being pregnant and homeless, to ultimately receiving my son’s autism diagnosis. I moved across the globe, assimilated to a new culture, and I am attending college that is not in my first, second, or third language. I look forward to a lifetime of restoring smiles as a dentist because I believe my diverse background and ability to empathize with people from different walks of life will be an asset to the dental profession. I am a mother of a child with special needs, a woman who overcame homelessness, and a first-generation immigrant college student, ready to embrace the role of a dentist and advocate for people from all walks of life.
Why did you decide to attend Midwestern University?
When thinking about all the schools I researched and interviewed at, Midwestern University stood out to me by far. The holistic One Health approach of seeing the whole patient rather than just the diagnosis spoke to me. As a special needs mother and advocate, I always emphasize the importance of reframing someone's condition. For instance, my son is not autism, he is a child with autism. Although this may seem such a small nuance, it makes a world of a difference in how we treat patients. I wanted to be part of a community, a place that I could call home. The admissions committee and students truly wanted to get to know me rather than focusing solely on my grades or academic achievements. I appreciated the welcoming atmosphere and the genuine approach of wanting to know my why.
Additionally, I was impressed by how much the University cared about being up to date on their technologies and advancements. I knew right away that being at Midwestern meant receiving a stellar education that not only prepares me for private practice, but more importantly, give me the tools to feel 100 percent confident to provide the best patient care.
What about a Midwestern University education do you want to carry forward in your career?
I want to focus on One Health and do the best I can to provide the best patient care possible. Ultimately, what one has to remember as dentists and healthcare professionals is that we are not just treating a tooth, we are treating a tooth that is attached to a person. We have to wear multiple hats: engineers, artists, doctors, social workers, and so much more. The question that I get asked is why. The answer is because we are treating the entire person from a holistic standpoint.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I am a National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Scholar. After graduation, I can serve by providing primary care services in underserved communities around the country. I cherish the thought of being able to reduce access to healthcare barriers for underserved and marginalized populations by providing culturally competent and compassionate care for all people.
Before starting dental school, I worked as a behavioral therapist with children with autism. I also took on a leadership role with Raising Special Kids, a social service organization. As a parent leader, I help families with newly diagnosed children in their new journey, from providing emotional support to aiding them with maneuvering the autism journey including therapies, providers, insurance, etc. I consider myself an advocate rather than a volunteer. It's all about how we frame it. I am not serving this marginalized population, I am part of it, and I feel very strongly about advocating for individuals with special needs.
Currently, I took on the roles of the Treasurer of the American Student Dental Association at our chapter in AZ and the Dental Liaison for the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry. Through these organizations, I have been able to grow my leadership skills and personal development.