Need is no stranger to Jorge Pantoja, a dentist in practice since 1983. His patients need him. They need him to understand them. They come in droves, grateful for someone who speaks their language on more than one level.
“I have a different reference point because I know firsthand what a lot of people in need go through,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with success and I’ve been able to see the fruits of hard work.”
Patients aren’t always patient, he’s found. They’re in pain, or they’re in denial, not ready to part with a tooth that cannot be saved. Some may not have the resources to pay for his services. Still, they come. And always, he tries to help each of them.
He could hire associates to alleviate the crush, but he won’t.
“Ultimately people come to me to resolve the problem. I feel that keeping it simple has been the best way,” Pantoja said.
Born in Michoacan, Mexico, Pantoja was 10 years old when his family moved to Hughson. His parents were farm workers in the local peach orchards and vineyards. Occasionally they harvested cherries in Oregon.
Many members of his extended family were either dentists or aspiring to be dentists. Young Jorge could see that the profession drew respect and afforded a comfortable lifestyle.
When it was time to attend college, a friend tried to persuade him to transfer to UC Davis from community college.
“Graduates from Davis would supposedly be perceived better,” Pantoja said. “Apparently this would increase their chances of being accepted into dental school.” He checked with UC San Francisco and found this untrue. He was told what really mattered was the applicant’s grade point average. “That gave me the confidence in CSU Stanislaus.”
Attending CSU Stanislaus saved him commute time and money, while satisfying the requirements for dental school. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences in 1979 and completed his professional training at UCSF in 1983.
He offers this advice to students with backgrounds similar to his: “Even though things may get tough, don’t give up. Do what you have to do to achieve your goal because once you reach it, it does get much better. It’s a much easier lifestyle than our parents had.”