- A former child immigrant in Salt Lake City is helping make a difference in the lives of underserved children as a dental school student.
- Juan Arbizu is part of efforts by the Roseman University of Health Sciences to provide free dental care to hundreds of children and teens this year.
- A $50,000 grant from Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s Salt Lake City refinery is making this outreach possible.
When Juan Arbizu reflects on coming to Salt Lake City 25 years ago as an 11-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, he remembers medical and dental care as luxuries.
“We didn’t have a primary care provider or a regular dentist,” Arbizu said. “It was really tough for my parents because they literally came with nothing. They were busy enough trying to put a roof over our heads.”
Seeing yourself in others
Today, as a third-year student in the Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine, Arbizu is helping local families in similar circumstances. A $50,000 grant from Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC) Salt Lake City refinery is allowing the school to provide free dental screenings and cleanings twice this year for children and teens 18 and younger from qualifying low-income households. It is the second consecutive year MPC has supported Roseman’s outreach through the American Dental Association Foundation’s Give Kids a Smile® program.
“It's humbling because I see a lot of those kids going through what I went through,” Arbizu said. “When you talk to their parents, you realize what it means to those families and see they are so grateful for this access.”
“It's humbling because I see a lot of those kids going through what I went through. We didn’t have a primary care provider or a regular dentist.”
Patients also receive vouchers they can use at the school’s clinical practice, Roseman Dental, for free comprehensive exams, x-rays, sealants and as much as $100 in additional care and services. During the first event in February, Roseman students served 514 children and teens. The second event is scheduled for Aug. 4.
Finding your calling
Arbizu came to dentistry after almost ten years in the financial sector, including time as a bank manager. He was drawn to his new profession by the potential to have an immediate impact in people’s lives.
“I found dentistry really called to me because of how quickly you can make a difference by giving somebody a new smile. It's huge,” Arbizu said.
The father of three suggested that having a family of his own reinforces his appreciation of the importance of Roseman’s services to people in need.
“Looking back at my experience, I can only imagine how my parents felt,” he said. “It's a privilege to be able to do this.”