SoCal ROC Student Utilizes Dental Assisting Training as Launchpad to Become a Dentist

Some of Jade Jimenez’ earliest childhood memories involve visiting the dental office where her mother worked. “I have always been interested in a career in the dental field, ever since I was a young child tagging along with my mom to her dental offices when she worked as a Registered Dental Assistant,” said Jimenez. “I believe that all aspects of our overall well-being stem from our oral health, not only our physical health but also our mental health and self-esteem.” In October 2021, Jimenez enrolled in the Registered Dental Assisting (RDA) program at the Southern California Regional Occupational Center as a “career changer” finally pursuing a life-long passion. After earning a bachelor’s degree in public health policy at the University of California, Irvine, and working for more than a decade in various careers, including five years abroad as an English teacher to young Japanese students through the JET Programme, she knew it was time to take the first steps in pursuing her dream of becoming a dentist. “I decided to enroll at SoCal ROC because I felt that I could get an affordable, quality education at this school, which also happens to be located in my community,” she said. Jimenez chose to first get training as a Registered Dental Assistant so she can work in the field and gain valuable experience by working alongside dentists to learn as much as she can in preparation to test for and apply to dental school. “The RDA course at SoCal ROC constantly challenges me to explore more about dentistry, as well as to hone my skills to become a top-notch dental auxiliary,” said Jimenez. Her favorite aspect of the program is all the hands-on learning that the students participate in through labs and clinical work. “I’m a learn-by-doing type of person, so I feel like this class is perfectly tailored for me. Every skill we learn is fascinating to watch, and even more enjoyable to master,” said Jimenez. “Our instructor, Ms. Arredondo, is an absolutely amazing teacher who goes above and beyond the basic learning material to ensure we are the top RDAs when we enter the workforce.” Coincidentally, Ms. Arredondo was also her mother’s RDA instructor years ago at another school! “I think it was a little fate and destiny that drew me to this program over others,” Jimenez said. Up next, Jimenez and her classmates will begin their 160-hour externships in mid-May gaining experience alongside local dentists leading to graduation at the end of June 2022. Following graduation, Jimenez is very clear on her career path and progression. “After completing my RDA program, I plan to immediately conquer the RDA State Board exam to officially become a Registered Dental Assistant and enter the workforce,” she said. “I then plan to complete my pre-dental certificate prerequisites through UCLA Extension courses, study for and pass the Dental Admission Test, and get accepted to a university dentistry program in order to become a dentist myself! While I know it is no simple feat, and it is a long and arduous road ahead of me, it is a lifelong goal that I hope to achieve.” Having already earned a bachelor’s degree puts her closer to entry into a university dental doctorate program. SoCal ROC offers two pathways in Dental Assisting. The Registered Dental Assisting program is more rigorous and takes about 9 months to complete, including a 160-hour externship getting real-world experience at a local dental office. Students who complete the RDA program may immediately register to take the state board exam. The shorter Dental Assisting program runs approximately 10 weeks including labs, clinical instruction, and an externship at a local dental office. Dental Assisting students can be placed in jobs after the 10 weeks; however, they will work while logging more clinical hours.