Guillermo J. Camacho
'93, Biological Sciences
A child of immigrants who emigrated from Mexico when he was 3, alumnus Dr. Guillermo J. Camacho was told by a school counselor that he should be a social worker rather than a dentist. Undaunted, he entered Cal Poly Pomona, taking the first step to achieving his difficult goal.
“In high school, I knew our family was among the poorest people,” Camacho says. “I wanted to change that and go into a career the opposite of that. For me, the key was to stay focused.”
Now a neuromuscular cosmetic dentist with his own practice in West Covina, he routinely encourages other first-generation college students to also pursue their dreams.
“I’ve always felt it was important to do something to help others, to give back,” Camacho says. “I want to help others succeed.”
Recognizing his passion for mentoring youth, as well as his achievements in his field, Camacho was honored in June with one of three statewide Champions of Health Professions Diversity Awards, given annually by The California Wellness Foundation. Camacho received $25,000 in recognition of his efforts to ensure the success of underrepresented minorities in the health workforce.
“These three leaders understand the importance of mentoring our state’s youth toward earning a college degree with a goal of securing a career in health care,” Gary L. Yates, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation, said of the honorees. “Programs and support systems are needed to ensure the success of thousands of students who will be able to deliver culturally competent, language-proficient health care.”
Camacho, whose years at the university included roles as both scholar and cross-country athlete, maintains a steady interest in Cal Poly Pomona and its students. He not only volunteers his services as a dentist, but he has also donated mouthpieces for several Cal Poly Pomona sports teams. Camacho is a frequent visitor and guest lecturer on campus, speaking to students in the Renaissance Scholars and Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES) programs.
Barbara Burke, director of the SEES program, praises Camacho for his willingness to talk to students and share his story.
“He stresses how important it is to stay in school, stay focused and get your degree,” Burke says, noting that Camacho also speaks with students individually after class. “He tells them if you really want something, you have to be persistent. He connects with them. And they really appreciate that.”
Giving back is natural for Camacho. When he was a student at Cal Poly Pomona, he received much-needed support from the SEES program, which helps first-generation college students who are seeking science-related careers. He went on to earn a doctor of dental surgery degree from the UCLA School of Dentistry, and then completed an extensive residency in hospital dentistry at University of Washington Medical Center and affiliated hospitals. Camacho has also been trained in orthodontics, receiving a certificate from Progressive Orthodontic Seminars, and he has trained at The Las Vegas Institute, whose prestigious program has made him among the top cosmetic and
neuromuscular dentists in the country.
“He has helped so many people at Cal Poly Pomona,” Burke says. “We are thrilled he was recognized.”
Camacho says he and his wife, Ruby, will use the award money to start college funds for their three children – now 10, 8 and 5 – so they won’t have any of the financial hardships he endured.
Copyright © 2009 Cal Poly Pomona.
All rights reserved.