Susan Gonzalez, a member advocate specialist with Community Engagement at DentaQuest, recently was recognized as a “2021 Reformer” by Pioneering Women, a local nonprofit organization in Beaumont, Texas. The award honored her dedication to educating people in her community about oral health and connecting them to important resources. We had an opportunity to talk more with Susan about her work and why she’s so passionate about being a resource for those who need it most.
What role does the Member Advocate Specialist play in your community?
It’s our job to be a resource to the community. We’re here to help educate kids and adults about important aspects of oral health—everything from the importance of brushing your teeth daily to how to make good food choices to protect your enamel—as well as guide DentaQuest members towards helpful resources when they are struggling to mitigate a problem.
Why is your work so important? What makes you passionate about it?
Years ago, when I became a single mom, I had no idea what kind of resources were available to me. Not many people sit you down or take the time to explain what to do if you don’t like your dentist, or what to do if you have a ruptured nerve in your mouth. I wish there had been someone to help me when I needed it most. In my role, I’m able to help answer questions, navigate difficult situations and show people firsthand how much DentaQuest cares.
Providing DentaQuest members with support and educating them on why oral health is important makes a huge difference in our members’ overall health, but also the health of our community. Through my work, I can advocate for preventive care and give proper guidance to patients to help them avoid emergency treatment.
When you’re educating a new group, what knowledge do you want them to take away?
I want them to understand how necessary oral health care is to overall health. For example, I work with parents educating them on how to brush their child’s teeth and why taking care of baby teeth is still important—even if they are going to fall out in a few years. There’s often one parent that doesn’t take it seriously. Recently, one mother came into a session and apologized to me. She said, “You always tell me to take my son to the dentist, and I never listen.” Her son was having sight issues, so she took him to the eye doctor. It turned out that he had a severe dental infection that traveled to his ear, which almost caused him to lose vision in his right eye. All because she thought a baby molar in the back didn’t matter. Every time I teach a course, my goal is to give people more resources and understanding so situations like this can be avoided.
Your passion for your work is undeniable, so much so that you have been recognized by Pioneering Women, a nonprofit organization in Texas, for your dedication and hard work. What does this recognition mean to you?
Pioneering Women highlights women for their service in the local community. I was so surprised to be selected. I’m very humbled and honored to be chosen along with other amazing women in my community.