For Gerardo Alvarez, DMD24, Helping Others Runs in the Family

August 26, 2020
Gerardo Alvarez, DMD24, in his White Coat posing in front of a tree.

Gerardo Alvarez, a native of Valencia, Venezuela, comes from a family where dentistry and medicine are a passion. Within his immediate family, Alvarez has an uncle who is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and an aunt who is an orthodontist. His mother Maria is a foreign internal medicine doctor. After arriving in the U.S. at the age of 16, Alvarez and his mother settled in Miami, residing with his aunt. Alvarez spent many afternoons at his aunt and uncle’s dental practice where he developed a love of dentistry. After high school, Alvarez attended Davidson College, a liberal arts college in North Carolina. Majoring in chemistry with a biochemistry track, Alvarez graduated cum laude in May of 2020. As he embarks on his journey through dental school, Alvarez hopes to combine his passion for dentistry and surgey and has set his sights on a career in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Why did you choose Harvard School of Dental Medicine?

I am passionate about the connection between medicine and dentistry, which drove my attention to the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery. At HSDM, I will be able to have a strong foundation and understanding of the field, and of the practice of medicine, thanks to its combined curriculum with Harvard Medical School (HMS) and collaborations with outstanding local hospitals.

What are you most excited about learning in your first year as a DMD student?

I am excited to begin my first year as an HSDM Pathways student and study alongside students from HMS. I find this curriculum very appealing because we get clinical exposure to medical patients starting the very first week, which emphasizes the idea that dentistry is intertwined with medicine. As an aspiring oral and maxillofacial surgeon, I also wish to attain an MD degree while in residency, and I believe that HSDM’s curriculum will facilitate my goal.

Gerardo Alvarez, DMD24, poses with his uncle, aunt, and mother in their white coats.
Gerardo Alvarez, DMD24, poses with family members who also work in dentistry and medicine. From left to right: Johanny Caceres (uncle), Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; Gaby Mogollon (aunt), Orthodontics; and Maria Mogollon (mother), Foreign Internal Medicine.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, your first semester will be held virtually. What does it feel like to embark on the next phase of your educational journey amid a global pandemic?

Starting a medical and dental career during an worldwide pandemic is uncommon to say the least. These unprecedented times have made me realize the importance of healthcare and the unification and collaboration of practitioners worldwide to ensure a healthy community. Since the beginning of this mysterious disease, each day has been a challenge for me because I wish to be in the frontlines dealing with those in need, but I’m still unable to do that. Instead, I have felt the necessity as a future medical and dental practitioner to study COVID-19 and its public health aspects, and share that knowledge with others.

What are you looking forward to most about living in the city of Boston?

I lived in a small town during my undergraduate career, so moving to Boston and continuing my professional education there will be a big step in my life. As a little kid in Venezuela, I always thought of Boston as the epicenter of educational breakthroughs and medical advances, but never in my life did I imagine I would be attending school there. Life is truly fascinating, and is full of unexpected turns.

What are your goals for your career in dentistry?

I want to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Additionally, I would like to attain an MD while in residency and possibly do a fellowship in facial plastic surgery to further expand my knowledge regarding reconstructive procedures and the cosmetic aspect of facial surgery.

How did you become interested in pursuing a career in dentistry?

I was initially interested in medicine, and I still am, but I fell in love with this branch of medicine, dentistry, when I moved to Miami after leaving my home in Venezuela. Starting a life in the U.S. was challenging at first. My mom worked three part-time jobs, so my aunt and uncle, who were both practicing dentists in Miami, would pick me up from school and take me to their practice every day. Being exposed to the procedures, the patient stories, and their big smiles post-surgery made me realize the beauty and intricacy of this profession.

Share a fun fact about yourself with the HSDM community.

This summer, I did a workout challenge with friend from college: we ran one mile every hour for 12 hours. We started at 6:00 a.m.! Although one mile every hour is not difficult, the whole experience was very challenging.

What advice would you give to someone who is applying to dental school, or considering applying to dental school?

Make sure you shadow a lot of practitioners and ask yourself, “Do I see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Would I do this for free? Do I feel rewarded helping others in this manner?” Dentistry and medicine, as well as many other healthcare professions, are challenging occupations and require the constant desire to expand your knowledge. Before his death due to cancer, my grandfather taught me a very valuable lesson. He said, “I have never had to work a day in my life because when I go to my office, I do something I love.”

See also: Community, Students