JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb Gonzalez, an instructor in the Navy dental assistant program at the Medical Education and Training Campus, will realize a childhood dream when he begins dental school this summer.
Gonzalez attended Navy hospital corpsman training, or “A” school, at the METC at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas in August 2011. He continued on to the Navy dental assisting program, or “C” school -- the same program Gonzalez currently teaches -- and graduated in February 2012.
Understanding that school was the key to his dream, Gonzalez was driven to continue his education. He earned an associate of science degree from Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in August 2015.
Immediately after, he attended the dental hygiene program at Coastal Carolina Community College while simultaneously working on his bachelor’s degree by going to night classes at Campbell University’s extension campus on Camp Lejeune.
Although he acknowledged that this was the most difficult part of his journey, he persevered nonetheless, earning an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree in May 2017, followed by a Bachelor of Health Science degree one year later.
Always knowing he wanted to be a dentist, Gonzalez credits a childhood memory for inspiring him.
“Growing up, I visited a community dental health clinic that provided dental care to low-income families in a predominantly Hispanic town.” Gonzalez said that he was greatly impacted by these visits. “The dentist would speak Spanish to my parents and showed me that I could use my Hispanic heritage to help other Hispanic families have welcoming experiences in patient care as I did.”
After serving in the Navy dental field for 11 years, Gonzalez knew it was time to follow his dream.
“My passion for patient care and serving communities that lack access to dental care was the fuel that drove me to pursue a career as a dentist,” he said.
Gonzalez applied to several dental schools in June 2022; by December, he received multiple acceptance letters but chose to attend the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Dentistry in San Antonio. He begins classes this July.
In addition, Gonzalez learned in March that he was awarded a scholarship through the Navy Health Services Collegiate Program, or HSCP. HSCP provides financial incentives for students in designated healthcare professions to complete degree or certification requirements and obtain a commission. Gonzalez will receive a commission as an officer in the Navy Dental Corps upon graduating from dental school in 2027.
“I’m so happy and grateful after waiting so long for these results,” he added. “This scholarship means more to me than just supporting me through school, as it means I now have the opportunity to continue to serve in the Navy and contribute to the dental corps in an impactful position.”
Gonzalez expressed his gratitude for the experience and opportunity the Navy gave him as a hospital corpsman in the dental field.
“This chapter in my life gave me the leadership and patient care skills that made me an excellent candidate that resulted in eight acceptances into eight dental schools.”
He also credits his family and friends, as well as his colleagues in the METC dental assistant program, whose support made his success possible.
Reaching this milestone has shown Gonzalez that dreams do come true.
“It feels like I have been working towards this achievement all my life, as I always knew I wanted to be in the dental field since I was a child,” he said.
“Although it still feels unreal to me, this accomplishment has taught me that anything is possible through hard work, faith, and never giving up on your dreams.”