#CYPossible: Esther Gizaw, Dental Hygiene

Completing coursework calls for celebration, and we are proud to celebrate with Cypress College’s newest degree- and certificate-holders. By achieving these education goals, graduates and certificate-earners are equipped to continue on their college path or find strong footholds in the career fields they’ve chosen. We’ve taken the journey with these outstanding students, and know that when they look to the horizon, they see what is #CYPossible.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?

My name is Esther. I am a dental hygienist and love it. I get to work in healthcare, be one-on-one with patients and work with my hands; it is all so perfect for me. I grew up in Fresno county in a small little town with seven siblings (four of whom are now married) and six nieces and nephews. Currently, I live in Orange County with my husband and our cat, Darcy. I would say I am an old soul, I love making macramé, baking, plants, reading, and being an auntie.

Now how I came to be a dental hygienist living in OC, a lot of that I have to attribute to my mom. When I was a sophomore in high school, she sat me down and asked, “What are you doing for the rest of your life?” And I said, “Mom, I’m a sophomore in high school, I don’t need to know this yet!” But she suggested dental hygiene and I had it as my direction ever since, loving every step of the way.

Why did you choose to attend Cypress College and how did being a student here help you find your first position after completion?

There weren’t a lot of options for dental hygiene programs in the Fresno area, so I turned my attention to OC, where I have a lot of family. I had heard about Cypress from a few friends who completed the sonography program and it caught my attention; at the time, it wasn’t a lottery to get accepted into the program. When I got in, it was a no-brainer. I owe my whole career to the dental hygiene program at Cypress. The on-campus clinic was a game changer, the amazing faculty, and all the attention to not only preparing its students to pass the board exams, but also what to expect in the “real world.”

What did you pursue after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.) and where are you now?

I haven’t pursued any higher education because higher education isn’t required or necessarily rewarded in the dental hygiene world. At this time, my program got me exactly what I need. In the future, I could see myself pursuing more education to broaden my options (becoming an adjunct faculty, a rep, getting more certifications, etc.) but I am a dental hygienist and that is what I love.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?

Career-wise, it is hard to say. I love where I am at and could see it being what I am content with for the rest of my life. There is a tiny part of me, however, that feels like I can do more. My husband is from Ethiopia and there are no dental hygienists there, it is such an important part of their healthcare that is missing. I’m not sure what or how or if I could ever be able to make an impact in that way, but I try to keep my eyes open for those paths if ever something should open up. It is where my heart is drawn and I can’t seem to be rid of that desire for healthcare to be taken where it is needed.

In my personal life, my husband and I are looking to buy a home and then start to have children soon after. Being a dental hygienist really should give me a lot of flexibility in having children. 

What are you most passionate about? Why?

I have taken on a life motto that was at first a professional one. “Do your best until you know better. Then when you know better, do better,” (Maya Angelou). This very much helped me in a professional setting because science and healthcare is always fluctuating and evolving. Even though that is great, as a healthcare professional, I give instructions and information that may not forever be the standard. But if I am always striving to be better and know better, then what I have done and instructed was done with the best that I had. It is a humbling and freeing understanding. So in life, I am passionate about being a better person to myself, to my family, to my patients, to those in need and underprivileged, and to everyone really.

What are you most proud of?

In my career, a very common thing I hear almost immediately from people is how much they hate being at the dentist or that they hate the dentist. People don’t want to be in pain, they don’t want to be lectured, they weren’t listened to/believed in the past and so they have lost trust. It isn’t easy to hear that but my goal is to break down those walls; to show people that they are heard, that they don’t have to be in pain, that we can work together to come up with the best system for their oral (and overall) health. I have had many patients tell me things from “That is the first time in 10 years that I have received positive feedback from a cleaning!” to “Whoa, that wasn’t bad at all!” Knowing that I am making a difference in these people’s lives, that is what I am proudest of.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have believed in myself more. It is super cliché, but I doubted myself a lot and I would have done much better if I had started with the habit of being kinder and gentler with myself and my learning process.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?

Don’t underestimate community colleges, especially Cypress College. I have had the most incredible instructors and classes. These are people who are passionate about what they do and they want to share that knowledge in their classes.