Lenny Mayorga was the first in her family to attend college.

On May 11, she will take that distinction even further by becoming the first in her family to receive a doctoral degree, as she graduates with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

The first-generation college student was never forced to pursue her education or a career in health care. It was a goal she set for herself early on.

“I always knew I wanted to be a doctor of some sort and, in the school district in which I was brought up in Burbank, it was assumed that we were all going to attend college,” Mayorga recalled. “So all the teachers prepared us as such and always made us think big to pursue our dreams.”


Importance of giving back

Mayorga’s parents, Carlos and Concepción, who both have high school degrees, immigrated to the United States before Lenny was born. Her mother owns a day care and her father is a tailor.

Mayorga said even with her humble upbringing, she’s always seen her parents giving back to the communities in which they were raised in Bolivia and Mexico, sending resources and money to the local residents whenever they can.

“My parents came from low-income communities,” she said. “So visiting their home countries and seeing where they grew up has really inspired me to continuously give back.”

Upon graduation, Mayorga will attend New York University for her pediatric residency. Afterward, she hopes to return to Los Angeles to serve local underserved communities — an interest born out of her time in dental school.


Dream come true

“Thanks to the mobile clinic, I have fallen in love with doing community dentistry, giving back to low-income communities or just communities that really need health care,” she said.

For Mayorga — who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Northridge — attending Ostrow for dental school was a dream come true.

“I worked hard to get into USC for dental school,” Mayorga said. “It was my top choice so when I got my interview at Ostrow, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is it!’

“Now I feel confident and prepared to move on with my career but I’m also a little sad to leave!”

— Yasmine Pezeshkpour