BS-DMD student awarded scholarship for dental school

Caitleen Navarro’s standout experiences rewarded

Caitleen Navarro smiles in front of the Quad wearing a Circle K nametag.

Caitleen Navarro will be attending dental school at UNLV in the fall as part of the BS-DMD partnership between UNR and UNLV.

BS-DMD student awarded scholarship for dental school

Caitleen Navarro’s standout experiences rewarded

Caitleen Navarro will be attending dental school at UNLV in the fall as part of the BS-DMD partnership between UNR and UNLV.

Caitleen Navarro smiles in front of the Quad wearing a Circle K nametag.

Caitleen Navarro will be attending dental school at UNLV in the fall as part of the BS-DMD partnership between UNR and UNLV.

It’s not often a student has such a strong sense of what they want their career to be that they apply to dental school before graduating high school. Caitleen Navarro, however, had the next seven years of her academic career path nailed down by the end of her senior year.

Navarro is one of a few students in the BS-DMD program, an accelerated program that allows students to graduate with their undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Nevada, Reno in three years before attending dental school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s School of Dental Medicine.

“I knew that I wanted to go into medicine, but it wasn’t until high school that I decided I wanted to narrow it down to dentistry,” Navarro said.

Navarro attended a magnet school during high school that had a dentistry program. The classroom was set up like a dentist’s office, and she took her classmates’ dental impressions and made retainers during class. She also had an internship in a dentist’s office during her senior year.

The BS-DMD partnership between UNR and UNLV allows Nevada to retain the best and brightest, College of Science academic advisor Gina Sella said.

“In addition, the BS-DMD program provides a pathway to Dental School in three years. This reduces the cost of attendance by one year for the student and their families, which is appealing to many,” Sella added.

"We believe that everyone in our community deserves access to dental care, and so the students we accept should reflect the diverse range of patients we serve, so we take note of factors such as intersectionality, economic background, life experiences and the willingness to take advantage of any opportunities one can find," said Christine Ancajas, Associate Dean of Admission and Student Affairs at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine.

Navarro maintains a busy schedule

“When it came to college, I tried to find a bunch of schools that had a similar accelerated program,” Navarro said. “Lucky for me, there was UNR and UNLV doing the BS-DMD program. It was a pretty lengthy process to apply for.”

The process included providing letters of recommendation and a personal statement and required a high GPA.

“It was essentially like applying for dental school already,” Navarro said. “But it was definitely worth it, now that I’m on a fast track and getting all of this done really early. It’s definitely a good decision that I made.”

Navarro has taken about 15 credits each semester because she was able to partake in dual enrollment that knocked off a semester of undergraduate credits. She also took 12 credits over the summer. She said that kept her busy but that she enjoyed it.

Navarro is also a student in the Honors College. She said that because she started college during the pandemic, she wanted to join the honors program to make friends. She said she also wanted to take advantage of the early enrollment opportunities and small class sizes in honors. The extracurriculars she became involved with as part of her honors curriculum include the service-oriented Nevada Circle K International.

Navarro was very involved with Key Club in high school and was able to transition well into Circle K, where she completed service hours and built relationships, including those she has with her roommates. As a member of Circle K, Navarro wrote letters to the elderly and to incarcerated people during the height of the pandemic. In person, she volunteered at the SPCA thrift store and other local places. She said these experiences also helped her get to know Reno more.

Navarro’s hard work rewarded

Navarro received the Board of Regents Higher Education Opportunity Award scholarship for the first three semesters she will be attending UNLV’s dental school. She received a phone call and had to clarify with the caller about the amount of money she was receiving, because she didn’t believe she would be getting so much money. If Navarro maintains a high GPA in dental school, she will continue to receive the scholarship beyond the first three semesters.

“I was really grateful to receive it,” Navarro said. “I think it will definitely help a lot, I know that dental school is going to be very expensive.”

Navarro's impressive academic record from high school through her college career helped her stand out among the incoming class of dental students, and her community service was also very important to the decision to award her the scholarship.

"Her earnest desire to pursue dentistry as a profession, as described in her personal statement and proven by the excellent shadowing opportunities she has pursued, was also very appealing to the admissions committee," Ancajas said. "She is the epitome of a competitive, well-rounded dental applicant and student."

Navarro credits her success to her work ethic and the resources the University has provided.

“I am usually the person who would start something as soon as they were assigned it and try to finish it on the spot,” she said. “I really hate procrastination.”

Navarro added that her focus is on understanding what she’s learning rather than achieving good grades.

“I want to be able to bring whatever I can into dentistry that’s actually helpful and beneficial for me.”

Navarro utliizes resources from the University Writing and Speaking Center for all her writing assignments. She also took part in a lot of PASS sessions, which she said were helpful for general chemistry, and that those sessions encouraged her to work at the tutoring center. She now works as a senior PASS leader, where she oversees other PASS leaders and gives them advice on their tutoring sessions.

“I’ve loved it, it’s been so much fun,” Navarro said. “Meeting students, and having them recognize me every now and then, saying, ‘You were my PASS leader!’, it’s really fun. Getting to work with the other leaders as well has been a reward in itself.”

As the end of her last semester in Reno nears, Navarro is most looking forward to working with patients and putting everything she’s learned into practice. She added that the skills she’s gained in teamwork will translate well to a dental office.

Sella said that Navarro came to the University with some great experiences already.

“Caitleen was an active participant when it came to advising and her academics,” Sella said, and added that the study habits Navarro brought with her from high school helped, and she further developed those habits at the University. “This will serve her well in dental school as it provides Caitleen with a developed toolkit to draw from when the amount of content increases and becomes more challenging.”

Outside of school, Navarro enjoys watching movies and crocheting. She said she looks forward to the comfort of being home in Las Vegas, but she will miss Reno.

“I can always visit,” she said.

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