"I want to be involved because I can be and because I feel like not enough people are. I want to be a voice for us."
Following in his parents' footsteps to become a dentist wasn't something that Ivan Chicchon had originally planned. He chose his own path, studying economics at University of the Pacific in Stockton before transferring to UC Davis and graduating with a degree in the field. For a while he enjoyed a position at a wealth management firm in Sacramento. However, some family advice led Ivan to rethink his career goals.
"I spoke with my grandfather and he advised me to build on the foundation that my parents had provided me," Ivan recalls. "I really respect his guidance and I wanted to do something that could combine business and healthcare — Dentistry seemed like a perfect fit."
Ivan started looking into dental schools, but didn't cast a big net when it came to applying, despite advice from others who suggested he apply to many schools to increase his chances. He really wanted to attend the Dugoni School. Having spent two years as an undergraduate student on the Stockton campus, Ivan enjoyed the smaller class sizes and the approachability of the faculty. That made a big difference to him and he felt the professors were influential in his undergraduate education.
As a dental student at the Dugoni School, Ivan has the same positive feelings towards his professors. "It's really important for an ambitious young person to feel like your superiors believe in you," said Ivan. "It makes you believe in yourself."
And that support has carried him through, even when the challenges of the first year were daunting. To stay motivated through countless hours of reading, lectures and intense memorization, he kept reminding himself that he was building on the foundation his parents established. Persistence paid off. Now in his second year and having entered the world of clinical practice, Ivan can say that he truly enjoys dentistry. He gets to see patients and being responsible for another person's health has made a huge difference for him.
In between working on his course load and scheduling patients, Ivan is heavily involved in the school's American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Chapter. Through his participation with ASDA, he has helped to coordinate two very successful American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) weeks on campus, bringing California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, California State Senator Leland Yee and United States congressional candidate Ricky Gill, among others, to campus. He likes staying well informed about current developments in dentistry and beyond, but acknowledges this can be a challenge; with the heavy demands of dental school, it's all too easy to just go with the flow.
"All these things can be going on around us and we wouldn't have a say in it," said Ivan. "I want to be involved because I can be and because I feel like not enough people are. I want to be a voice for us."
As for his future plans, Ivan is keeping his options open, but whichever direction he chooses, whether it's starting a private practice, joining one of his parents' practices, or something else, he says he wants to "set myself up for success" while helping people.
"I'd like to utilize my economics background in some way - maybe get involved in dental consulting or public health," says Ivan. "I'm open to anything in terms of my career but my biggest future plan is to marry my fiancé Teresa Nguyen."