Meet the Graduates:
Brian Acevedo DH ’19, DDS ’23
11 May 23
Brian Acevedo didn’t follow a traditional path to dental school. Still, he arrived exactly where he needed to be.
TRUTH BE TOLD, Brian Acevedo never had interest in becoming a dentist.
When the South Los Angeles native accepted a dental assistant job at his family dental office after high school, he was motivated by practical concerns, not passion. In fact, the idea of even being in people’s mouths made him skittish.
“I was 18 with a daughter, so I needed to work,” says Acevedo, who also held jobs at Universal Studios and a Ralph’s grocery store near the USC campus.
During the next seven years, however, Acevedo’s job morphed into an intriguing career opportunity as he expanded his skills, learned about procedures and instrumentation and secured his registered dental assistant (RDA) license.
“I found the mechanical aspect of dentistry actually appealed to me,” he says.
Gateway to dental school
In 2013, Acevedo landed a dental assistant position at USC. Exposed to specialties like orthodontics, periodontics and pediatrics and working alongside “happy people,” his interest in dentistry intensified. Numerous co-workers, including USC faculty, encouraged Acevedo to pursue dental school. Eventually, that encouragement stirred action.
Acevedo enrolled at Santa Monica College and began taking pre-requisite courses to apply for a spot in USC’s dental hygiene program — a gateway to dental school, he called it.
“I figured if I didn’t get into dental school, then I’m a hygienist, and I’d still be happy with what I’d achieved,” he says.
Admitted to the dental hygiene program at USC, a university he passed on his way to high school but never seriously thought he might attend, Acevedo savored detail-oriented instruction around patient management, hand skills, scaling and working on medically complex cases. The experience further ignited Acevedo’s interest in pursuing a DDS degree and he applied to but one school — the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC —to put the finishing touches on his dental education and his personal transformation.
“I put all my eggs in one basket, literally,” he jokes.
Helping people who need it
In 2019, a 32-year-old Acevedo began dental school. Within days, he had a drill in his hand. And from there, his training and passion for the field only accelerated. He found satisfaction in helping patients, whether it was addressing oral pain or a chipped tooth, and worked monthly with underserved L.A. area communities, including his own South L.A. neighborhood, as a member of the USC Mobile Dental Clinic’s mobile corps.
Last December, Acevedo participated in a six-day clinic in the Bahamas with USC’s Dental Humanitarian Outreach Program. He also recently traveled twice to Ensenada, Mexico, with Dental Care for Children, an Irvine-based organization providing dental services to children in impoverished communities.
“That work is hard and tiring, but so fulfilling because you know you’re helping people who need it,” Acevedo says.
Now with his DDS degree in hand, Acevedo will begin practicing at a private office in Torrance. Down the line, he may explore cosmetic or implant dentistry.
“Wherever my future might take me, I feel prepared to practice because of the faculty, curriculum and experiences I had at USC,” Acevedo says. “I know I have all the tools I need to be successful.”
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