Finding the Right Chemistry: National Healthcare Scholar Finds His Calling in Community Health

May 10, 2022
Michael Cevallos

Michael Cevallos, DMD22, might have become a chemist rather than a dentist, if not for an experience in a pediatric dental practice that changed his plans. As an undergraduate at the University of Richmond, he majored in Chemistry with the full intention of becoming a chemical engineer. In his spare time, he tutored and mentored at-risk middle school youth in Richmond Public Schools. He gravitated to dentistry after shadowing his aunt, a pediatric dentist, and realizing the positive impact he enjoyed as a tutor he could have improving the lives of patients.

“I realized I was happier working directly with people. I love how you can make a big impact on someone’s life by helping improve their oral health,” Cevallos said.

Michael Cevallos with familyWhen deciding on a dental school, he was drawn to Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) for the program’s strengths in connecting oral and systemic health. He was also attracted to the diversity he found at Harvard.

“People at Harvard are from so many different backgrounds. I wanted to have constant exposure to academic challenges, innovative research, and diverse ideas from a diverse group of people,” he said.

In his predoctoral program, Cevallos concentrated in the Global and Community Health track, taking classes focused on career and clinical development in community and global health.

“As an Ecuadorian American, growing up with immigrant friends and family has always made me interested in the broader global community. Since a small age, I’ve enjoyed learning about the world and different cultures. Now that I am in healthcare, it naturally guided me into global and community health,” Cevallos said.

At HSDM, he got involved in outreach activities such as Give Kids a Smile, Give Veterans a Smile, the Action for Children and Teens in Oral Health Need clinic in Cambridge, and the HSDM Pre-Dental Mentorship program. Fluent in Spanish, he found it helpful to communicate with non-English-speaking-patients in their native language and started to learn Portuguese as well. In the final year of his program, his 2-month externship at the Dimock Center in Roxbury, MA made a lasting impression.

“The externship at Dimock was a great experience that exposed me to the frontlines of community health clinics. I hope to continue learning on how to make community clinics more accessible and more efficient for everyone,” he said.

DMD students at Give Kids a Smile eventCevallos will do just that. As a National Healthcare Scholarship recipient, he has committed to working in a federally-qualified clinic, serving underserved communities, for the first few years after he completes his residency. After graduation he will first go into a General Practice Residency at Newark Beth Israel Hospital, in New Jersey, for one year where he will gain broad exposure to an array of dental specialties and hands-on patient care. He’s excited about treating patients of all ages and getting involved in oral disease prevention.

“I believe everyone should have access to quality healthcare regardless of income. Everything starts with prevention. During my time at HSDM, I have learned to better understand various struggles and challenges in providing quality healthcare for everyone, but I think it is possible with broad prevention-based policies and increased political will.”

With the future in his sights, Cevallos ultimately hopes his trajectory in healthcare will lead him to opportunities to make an impact both locally and globally.

“I really admire dentists who become an integral part of their community, and also travel abroad and do sustainable work in advancing oral health. In my career, I want to provide the best quality care for people that need it the most.”