Lissette Ruiz-Ibarra

First Impression - Predoctoral

Hometown: Tucson, AZ

Chapter: Colorado

Graduation Year: 2019

Position Held At Chapter: Professional development and leadership chair


What or who inspired you to become a dentist?
I vividly remember squishing white clay between my nine-year-old hands attempting to sculpt the molar that was in my encyclopedia. I sat at my kitchen table for hours shaping the enamel, rolling strips of red and blue clay for vessels, and creating a purple pulp that fit perfectly inside. Each of us in my fourth-grade class had to present on a body part, and I had chosen the mouth. It seems a little silly that this inspired me to be a dentist, but it was absolutely the first time I considered it. What truly solidified my decision was seeing how drastically my sister’s entire being changed when she completed extensive dental work during high school. I saw her transform from a shy, quiet, introverted girl to the “class clown” Senior Superlative. That's when I knew I had found my purpose; to find creative ways to make people feel confident about their smile.

Before starting dental school, I wish I had known…
I wish I would’ve have known that it’s ok to take some time off between undergrad and dental school. I took a year off which was the best decision I could have made. I was able to travel and do whatever I wanted without the thought of classes, patients, loans and everything that comes with making the huge commitment that comes with dental school. However, if I could do it over again, I would have taken off another year or two. I think as dental students, our type-A personality gets in the way and we’re so eager to just get in as soon as possible to graduate as young as possible. Taking some time off and truly figuring out who I was and why I was doing what I was doing gave me the opportunity to make a personal mission which has transcended into dental school.

What is your favorite thing about your current year in dental school?
My favorite part of being a fourth year is the relationship I have cultivated with the faculty over the years. They have witnessed my struggles and triumphs in dental school and have seen me grow as a student clinician. More than “teachers,” they have been mentors to me in matters beyond school and there is a level of mutual respect and trust. I think this is vital in giving us students the confidence in practicing in the real world. Also seeing how far I’ve come in school is incredible. I remember sweating bullets going into our Class II practical in simulation lab, and now we do Alveoloplasty surgeries like it’s just another day.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?
Two of my classmates and I went to Cuba over spring break during our third year. The three of us have done quite a bit of traveling, but for some reason Cuba felt the most foreign. It felt like we went in a time machine and, since it hasn't been really touched by U.S. companies, it was interesting to see the country and its people in their traditional ways. The people were extremely friendly, highly educated, and very happy with their history. 10/10, would recommend.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Confronting a superior in dental school. We’ve been students our whole lives and so accustomed to the student-teacher dynamic that when we’re in a situation where you either stick up for yourself or try to brush it off and move on, it’s easier to do the latter. I made the decision to confront because I knew that throughout my career, I will need to have uncomfortable conversations; so why not start practicing now? It was one of the most difficult conversations I have had, but I’m so happy I took the more challenging route. I learned about myself, my values, and how the most awkward situations can be the most rewarding.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy.