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ATSU-ASDOH student drawn to Mesa, Arizona, dental program by focus on underserved

To say A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) student Razel Zapanta, D2, has a wide range of interests and unique life experiences is an understatement. 

In college, Zapanta was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune and won a Mini Cooper.

She has a passion for music (“My dream is to become a singing dentist!”) and recently sung the National Anthem before a Phoenix Suns’ game. 

And she has a desire to serve her community with the dental skills she’s developing on the University’s Mesa, Arizona, campus.

“Professionally, I aim to provide the best possible care for my patients, support my dental team, and serve as an inspiring role model for others. I aspire to ensure that my patients feel comfortable and happy, knowing they are receiving the treatment they need,” Zapanta said. “ATSU-ASDOH is helping me prepare for my career, particularly through its emphasis on community service. I admire how ATSU-ASDOH encourages its students to serve underserved communities. One of the standout features of ATSU-ASDOH is the external rotations during our D4 year. Dental students are sent to different rotation sites, particularly in rural and underserved areas across the U.S., allowing us to give back to the community.”

Zapanta is originally from Los Angeles and earned a bachelor’s of science in biology from Azusa Pacific University. She decided to attend ATSU-ASDOH in large part because of her first experience on campus.

“I chose ATSU-ASDOH because it was my favorite dental school interview experience. The sense of community at ASDOH is incredible, with everyone ready to support and cheer each other on. I appreciate the welcoming and friendly environment where everyone knows each other’s names,” she said. 

“It’s amazing to be surrounded by familiar faces every day, and I appreciate the support system that exists within the school.”

Zapanta was also attracted to ATSU-ASDOH because of its pass/fail curriculum and early contact with patients.

“This approach eliminates the stress of letter grades, emphasizing a collaborative atmosphere where students are willing to share their study resources. Another aspect I admire is the early clinical experience. I started seeing my own patients just two months into D2 year, providing hands-on practice from the beginning,” she said. 

Zapanta is highly involved at ATSU-ASDOH, serving as secretary of the Academy of General Dentistry, pre-dental chair for the School’s American Student Dental Association (ASDA) chapter, social media co-chair for ASDA District 10 Cabinet, and a student ambassador. 

“I decided to join and get involved with ATSU student organizations because I enjoy meeting new people. ASDOH ASDA, in particular, offers students opportunities to attend dental conferences,” she said. “I had the amazing opportunity to attend the National Leadership Conference in Chicago, where dental schools nationwide come together to listen to inspiring dental professionals and speakers. Additionally, I had the privilege of helping plan the ASDA Western Regional Conference 2024 in San Diego, where I served as the social media co-chair. One of my favorite aspects of the conference was meeting students from different dental schools and making new friends.”

As a student ambassador, Zapanta recalls her own experience being welcomed by ATSU-ASDOH students during her interview day. They were helpful in answering questions and she felt inspired to give back and provide the same resources to future prospective students.

“I am passionate about creating an inclusive, welcoming community for A.T. Still University students, and I believe serving as a student ambassador is a perfect opportunity to contribute to that goal. Additionally, I enjoy collaborating with other student ambassadors and learning about their reasons for choosing ATSU-ASDOH. This position has enabled me to develop leadership skills and gain valuable experiences that will aid me in effectively fulfilling my responsibilities to serve the ATSU community.”


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