“Ms. Abad is truly a standout. It is clear that she is skilled and passionate about providing quality care to her patients,” wrote Rene Rodriguez, a Navy veteran, to NYU College of Dentistry to express his gratitude for dental student Jilaine Abad (Dentistry ’23). Rodriguez came to NYU Dentistry as part of the Veterans Oral Care Access Resource (VOCARE), a pilot program to increase access to dental care for veterans in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VETSmile program. NYU has seen nearly 1,400 veterans since VOCARE began in July 2021.
Most veterans who go to the VA for their medical care aren’t eligible for dental care, making it difficult for them to afford to see a dentist. That’s where NYU Dentistry and students like Jilaine come in. She has a personal connection to the veterans she’s treating, which makes the work particularly meaningful. “I have a lot of family who served in various branches of the military—the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force—and fought for our country. Thanks to my uncles and cousins, I understand where our patients are coming from,” she says.
Jilaine has observed that some veterans have health problems related to their service, including fear of loud noises, while some haven’t seen a dentist in years and worry that they will be judged. “They just want to know that someone cares enough to help them,” she says.
Jilaine had her sights set on becoming a dentist from a young age, especially after she had her braces removed. “People could really see the transformation. I had more confidence in myself, and I wanted to do the same for other people in the future,” she remembers. As an undergrad at UC Davis, she majored in microbiology and minored in psychology—the latter of which has helped her to connect with patients, including those with dental anxiety, and better understand the needs of people with disabilities.
In fact, she was drawn to NYU Dentistry in part by the Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities, which opened its doors in 2019. Her parents run a home for people with developmental, physical, and mental disabilities, so she knew firsthand how difficult it is for this population to maintain good oral health.
A San Jose, California native—and a huge fan of her hometown sports teams, including the 49ers, Warriors, Giants, and Sharks—Jilaine plans to stay on the East Coast after she graduates in May. Her next stop: Boston University, where she has been accepted into a residency program in periodontology to further her training in preventing and treating gum disease and providing dental implants.
She will miss the food scene in New York City, especially her favorite Japanese and Peruvian restaurants. “Living in New York, my taste buds have never been happier,” Jilaine says.