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Dental inheritance

Dr. Kelly Martinez Owen

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Dr. Kelly Martinez Owen; her grandfather, Dr. R.A. Navarro; and her mother, Dr. Sylvia N. Martinez.

Photo courtesy Dr. Kelly Martinez Owen

A family connection to dentistry brought special meaning to this orthodontic resident’s receipt of a scholarship from the Hispanic Dental Association.

Dr. Kelly Martinez Owen, a resident in orthodontics, comes from a long line of Hispanic dentists. Her mother, Dr. Sylvia N. Martinez, is a dentist, and her grandfather, Dr. R.A. Navarro, was a dentist.

That’s why receiving the $5,000 Colgate-Palmolive/Hispanic Dental Association Foundation Scholarship takes on special significance for Owen and her family.

“The week after I won this scholarship, my grandfather passed away,” Owen says. “He was the reason my mother and I became dentists. The timing of this award could not have been more appropriate for my family.”

Owen, who received her dental degree in May, filled her four dental school years at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry with more than just course work and clinic time. She served the National Student Research Group as vice president, participated in the Predoctoral Student Research Program in 2008 and 2009, and was co-president of the college’s Hispanic Student Dental Association chapter in 2009-2010. Through it all, Owen, a 2011 President’s Scholarship recipient, also found time to serve the dental school’s Psi Omega chapter as community service chair and volunteer with the Great Expectations mentoring program as a student mentor.

The combination of hard work and service is something that Dr. Grace Snuggs, assistant professor in restorative sciences, says gave Owen an advantage over other postgraduate applicants.

“It’s not just one specific factor that led to it, it was her multidisciplinary approach and involvement with the community that made her stand out among the other applicants,” says Snuggs, who wrote Owen’s scholarship recommendation letter.

The scholarship award will be used to help pay for Owen’s training in the Graduate Department of Orthodontics, which she started in June. Once Owen finishes her residency, she plans to continue practicing in Texas and supporting the Hispanic community, which is one of the scholarship’s criteria.

“Once I have established a practice, a goal of mine is to volunteer through a local Hispanic Dental Association chapter,” says Owen, “donating orthodontic care to several children each year in the Hispanic community who would benefit from orthodontic treatment but whose families would not be able to afford it otherwise.”

Scholarships for every student 

Nothing to lose when seeking scholarships, except for the time it takes to complete an application 


Dr. Kelly Martinez Owen is living proof of the merits of finding balance between hard work, personal life and interest in the community, says Dr. Grace Snuggs, assistant professor in restorative sciences.

“It’s led to her success,” Snuggs says.

It’s why Snuggs encourages students who are beginning their dental school careers to follow in Owen’s footsteps.

“I would really like students to be proactive with the opportunities that are out there,” says Snuggs. “Even if you’re in your first year, start considering, start creating that sense of community.”

Recognition is not the primary goal, but it can follow, Snuggs says.

“If you have a long-term commitment to working hard, you can be eligible for things like this. You just need to apply.”

Owen has a few simple words of advice when it comes to seeking scholarships: “Just put yourself out there and apply, since there is nothing to lose other than a couple of hours of your time in filling out the application!”