Collin’s Second Act
10 Jan 24
Investment banker and Ostrow Distance Learning student Collin Concepcion plans a career change to dentistry, where he hopes to make a difference in the lives of others.
IT WAS DURING A DENTAL CLEANING that Collin Concepcion began to reconsider his life’s work.
The Los Angeles corporate banker had always gravitated toward helping others since he was a teenager, and the more his hygienist shared his enthusiasm for promoting oral care, the more Concepcion could see himself in the role. It was, he remembers, a critical inflection point.
“My hygienist really convinced me that I could pursue a lifestyle like his,” Concepcion says. “I’m inspired to create a life that’s filled with passion for helping people.”
His path is starting anew at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, where Concepcion is enrolled in the year-long certificate program in community oral health. In six courses, the hybrid online/on-campus program is teaching him about health sciences and education, programs assessment, planning and administration, epidemiology, environmental and cultural issues and social and behavioral sciences. He’s able to take classes at night, after work. Concepcion ultimately wants to become a pediatric dentist.
“I’m building a little resumé,” he says. “The program has been really helpful. I’ve developed a deep liking for the USC staff and my classmates.”
The goal of the certificate program is to give healthcare providers, educators and administrators evidence-based instruction, while focusing on the unique needs of community health programs. Certificate recipients have gone on to work in academic settings and community clinics. They’ve also served in research roles and for private companies and governmental organizations that are looking for workers with a knowledge on the “emerging importance for oral health in all communities.”
Working with Underrepresented Communities
Concepcion will complete the program in the spring. He says the certificate will ensure that he’s up to date as he plots a career change. Concepcion was sold on the certificate program after having an introductory meeting with an Ostrow representative.
“The meeting went great, and it was important to find a program that worked into my schedule,” he says. “Those introductory conversations really reinforced what was important to me. USC is trying not only to diversify its student population, but they’re also trying to educate students about disadvantaged communities. Those are the communities that I really want to impact.”
Notably, oral healthcare remains an underutilized service by African American children, despite increased access to care and improvements to insurance coverage and community-based programs. The trends can pose dire consequences. Poor oral health is linked to heart disease, strokes and diabetic complications.
“Issues can really start to grow,” Concepcion says. “It’s important to tackle stuff early and work around socioeconomic status, income and the built environment to provide essential solutions for patients.”
Challenges are compounded by the fact that dentistry is a mostly White profession. Just 3.8 percent of dentists are Black, according to the American Dental Association. Concepcion hopes that he can be a role model for other prospective African American dentists.
“Eventually, I would love to work with Black communities, but also communities in general, where I can make sure my presence is known through my work,” Concepcion says. “For now, finding ways to impact youth through greater oral healthcare maintenance is something that I’m really liking.”
Associate Yourself with Good People
Concepcion, who grew up in Monterey Park, was initially drawn to business. He graduated cum laude in 2022 from Morehouse College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration. He’s always been good with numbers, and Concepcion says his degree helps him better understand how the economy works, and it will help him run a dental practice.
Hailing from the San Gabriel Valley, Concepcion says he wasn’t exposed to many African Americans. Enrolling at Morehouse, an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), “allowed me to get to my roots and understand more about where I’m coming from.” At the Atlanta college, he was also the co-captain of the new men’s volleyball team.
Now 23, Concepcion says he’s taken the last year “to really figure myself out.” He considered pursuing an MBA, but “I really wanted to find other things that I could be good at. I started looking for outlets.”
That’s when he had his prophetic cleaning, which helped him recall his love for science, particularly physics. Oral health made professional sense: “I guess the way to say it would be that I wanted to make the younger kid version of myself happy, and prove to myself that I could go back to science and make a career of it.”
As for others who might be considering a career change, Concepcion is introspective.
“Find that vision within yourself,” he advises. “Think about what your life could be if you chose an alternative.
“It’s not a simple question, because obviously I took my inspiration from somebody else — my hygienist,” he adds. “Associate yourself with good people, and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. It has to be felt within you at first. At the end of the day, the story is about you.”
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