Gwen Essex Lan
"I needed a place to build my confidence. I found it."
After graduating from San Diego High School, Gwen Essex-Lancaster realized she was a bright but disinterested student. Could she summon the interest to pursue her education?
Gwen did, after first working as an office manager in a dentistry office. "Working in that office helped me figure out what I wanted," she says. "It inspired me to move forward."
Gwen began taking classes at City College, earning her associate's degree in human biology in 1994. "I wasn't sure what kind of student I would be in college," Gwen says. "But when I decided to go into dental hygiene, I realized the best place I could go to was City. I found that the quality of instruction, especially from the biology faculty, was very good."
Gwen transferred to the University of California at San Francisco to complete her bachelor's of science degree in dental hygiene, then received her master's in health science from San Francisco State.
"I was told when I transferred that I would have to work harder than the other students do because I had attended at the junior college level," Gwen says. "But I found I was very prepared. I continued to get A's."
Gwen is now an assistant clinical professor at UCSF.
"The field has changed considerably," Gwen says. "The main findings are in how much dental disease can play a role in other systemic diseases in the body. There's a whole new way of thinking, and that thinking."
Gwen says she looks back on her days at City College with fondness. "I was a little older, and I didn't have a financial background that meant automatically going to college," she says. "But after working 35 hours a week and taking 15 units a week during the first year, I found the right mix. City was the place."
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