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Student Estela Gomez Licea to receive service award at MLK event

Estela Gomez Licea
Estela Gomez Licea

Third-year dental student Estela Gomez Licea will receive a Volunteer Service Award on Jan. 16 during the UW Health Science Center’s annual celebration of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Licea, who is president of the UW chapter of the Hispanic Student Dental Association, will be honored for her work with students and faculty to promote volunteer dental care for Seattle-area patients in need.

In particular, she has been instrumental in promoting student volunteer outreach at Casa Latina, which was founded in 1994 to empower Seattle’s Latinx immigrants by providing them educational and economic opportunities. Students periodically go there to provide dental treatment and screenings to members of the Latinx community who otherwise have limited access to these services. She has also encouraged more affiliate faculty members to lend their time and expertise to help students on this and other Seattle-area volunteer outreaches to underserved patients.

Beyond that, Licea has worked to strengthen her student group’s partnership with the School of Dentistry’s Office of Educational Partnerships and Diversity, which supports various outreach efforts and organizations within the school. Under her leadership, her association has also hosted Spanish-language classes for interested dental students to learn Spanish terminology for common dental terms.

“I cannot express how humbling this is to me. I feel there are so many individuals in our school who are my inspiration and do so much for our communities,” Licea said.

The annual service awards, given to individuals or groups from each of the six UW Health Sciences schools, honor recipients who exemplify Dr. King’s principles through:

  • Commitment to addressing community needs, particularly communities of color and low income.
  • Development and implementation of significant programs to improve the human condition.
  • Outstanding efforts to protect and empower all individuals.

“Estela is so deserving of this recognition and I am thrilled to see her receive this award,” said Interim Dean Gary Chiodo. “Her work with the Seattle Latinx community is a stellar example of culturally proficient outreach and engagement. The fact that she dedicates substantial time to this work and that it is in addition to the very busy schedule of a third-year dental student is testament to her integrity and ethics. I am so proud of her accomplishments.”

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, which comes before the official holiday on Jan. 20, will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday in Hogness Auditorium, whose entrance is on the fourth floor, just up the staircase from the lobby of the Health Sciences Center. A reception with light refreshments follows the ceremony.