Texas A&M Graduate Overcomes Dental Challenges to Provide Care
Shimirimana Eliya, a recent graduate of Texas A&M University School of Dentistry, has a remarkable story of resilience and determination. Growing up in Tanzania, Eliya experienced severe tooth decay and gingivitis from a young age due to limited access to dental care and little knowledge of oral health. The constant pain and lack of treatment fueled his curiosity about dentistry, leading him on a path to become a dental hygienist and provide care to others.
Born in a refugee camp to parents who fled war and genocide in Congo, Eliya had vivid memories of helping his family farm and learning multiple languages, including French, Swahili, Kirundi, and Kinyarwanda. Dental problems plagued him as a child, causing persistent pain and sleepless nights. Limited access to dental clinics and the scarcity of supplies left him without proper treatment.
In 2007, Eliya and his family immigrated to the United States, settling in Texas. Adjusting to a new language and culture presented its own challenges, but he persevered and gradually learned English. It was not until his later school years that he received dental treatment, although the focus was primarily on filling cavities without educating him on oral hygiene practices and prevention.
Determined to understand his own dental issues and help others, Eliya set his sights on a career in dentistry. He excelled academically, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology while playing soccer at Centenary College of Louisiana, and was accepted into several dental hygiene schools. Ultimately, he chose Texas A&M School of Dentistry, drawn by the caring faculty and a sense of belonging.
Throughout his studies, Eliya gained hands-on experience treating patients at the A&M clinic. His passion for public health led him to volunteer at a dental clinic in Zambia, where he provided care to underserved communities. Now, as a graduate, he aspires to work in public health, serving both local and international communities in need.
Eliya expresses gratitude to the faculty and staff at Texas A&M for making his dream a reality. Equipped with the necessary skills and a deep commitment to expanding oral health, he is determined to make a positive impact on the lives of others. His journey from enduring dental pain to becoming a compassionate dental professional is an inspiring testament to the power of resilience and the pursuit of knowledge in overcoming challenges.