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A healthy exchange

International Exchange Agreement

Visiting students Lydia Muñoz and Barbara Castillo in the pediatric dentistry clinic on Oct. 4

 Media Resources/Steven Doll

The first rotation of visiting students from Tecnológico de Monterrey proves the program doesn’t just offer new experiences — it’s good for exploring post-graduation interests, too.

When Lydia Muñoz started dental school at Tecnológico de Monterrey School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Mexico nearly five years ago, she already had a goal in mind: to complete a residency in the United States. Considering she comes from a long line of dentists — including bragging rights to a grandmother who was the first female orthodontist in northwestern Mexico — it was only logical that Muñoz had her eyes trained on Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry for an international study opportunity.

She knew the 2012 fall semester would provide the chance to study abroad, but since the dental program at her school is still relatively new — she’s in the first graduating class, which only has five dental students — it had no international agreements with other dental schools.

“What I’ve liked the most is meeting people from different cultures and all you can learn.”

—Lydia Muñoz

So Muñoz, now in her fifth and final year of dental school, did what any enterprising dental student would do: She met with her dean, Dr. Ana Cecilia Treviño Flores, to find a way to change that. Treviño was awarded TAMHSC-BCD's first International Postgraduate Fellowship in Periodontics in 1997, so the connection to form an international exchange agreement — signed by both schools this fall — was natural.

The work paid off. On Aug. 15, a little more than a year later, Muñoz arrived in Dallas, alongside fellow fifth-year classmate Barbara Castillo.

Cultural contrasts

For eight weeks, Muñoz and Castillo’s days were filled with D4 classes and clinic observation. First the two spent several weeks in the third-floor clinic, followed by time in removable prosthodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, periodontics and pediatric dentistry.

Castillo says an average day at TAMHSC-BCD is similar to one at their dental school in most every way, including treatment procedures and the combination of class lectures and clinical time.

The only major difference: “We are usually out of school by 2 or 3 p.m.,” says Castillo. “Some days we do have afternoon classes, but they don’t last until 5.”

To Muñoz, the most striking contrast is beyond academics.

“What I’ve liked the most is meeting people from different cultures and all you can learn,” she says. “For example, for us, being married and in school, that’s not common.”

International Exchange Agreement

A patient greets Muñoz.

Media Resources/Steven Doll

Career inspiration

“I could see all the things that I have learned in theory but haven’t observed.”

—Barbara Castillo

The two months in Dallas have lent Muñoz and Castillo some insight into specific interests in the dental field.

Castillo, who grew up looking forward to every trip to the dentist, always knew she wanted to work in the profession. And with graduation looming on the horizon, she says her experiences at TAMHSC-BCD have spurned an interest in one specialty in particular.

“I liked when we were in oral surgery because I could see all the things that I have learned in theory but haven’t observed,” says Castillo. “It was interesting and very different; I would like to do oral surgery in the future.” 

For Muñoz, the time at TAMHSC-BCD brought her one step closer to continuing a family tradition.

“Last week was a big week for me. Being in orthodontics, I was the happiest person,” she says. “It was 5:00, and I didn’t want to leave.

“I think I found out what I want to do with my life.”