Even though dentistry is the family business, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC graduate Danilo Diangkinay wasn’t sold on the idea of following in his parents’ footsteps.

He watched as his parents, who run two Southern California dental practices, worked incredibly long hours every day of the week to make their business a success — sometimes at his expense.

“My parents would always say, ‘We’re going to the park’ or ‘We’re going to the arcade, but first we have to go in to the dental office,’ ” Diangkinay remembered. “Whenever we would do that, my younger sister Michelle and I would be in the office almost the whole day, and we’d never go to where they said, so it was always a place that I didn’t want to be because I just wanted to play.”

While he now recognizes the sacrifices his mother, Celia Octoman, and his father, Danilo Diangkinay Sr., were making to ensure he and his siblings lived a better life than they had before emigrating from the Philippines, it took time for the Southern California native not to associate dentistry with hard work and, consequently, a thief of quality time with his parents.


A move to the Philippines

Diangkinay began his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Riverside, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After three years, Diangkinay, then 21, felt a lack of direction and began to re-consider his dislike of the family business.

“I thought, ‘My parents have a practice here, and I’m familiar with the work.’” Diangkinay said. “So, I went to the Philippines, where I knew I could get into dental school. My parents thought it was a good idea.”

Diangkinay moved in with his older sister Donna and her family, and pursued his DMD at Centro Escolar University, Manila.

It was during this time at dental school he began to understand his parents’ attraction to dentistry.

“I had a patient who needed a complete denture, and he hadn’t had any teeth for about 14 years. When I finally delivered that complete denture, I gave him a mirror, and he started crying.” Diangkinay remembered. “That’s when I figured out that this is what dentistry is all about. It’s helping people, and it really fills your heart.”

After dental school, Diangkinay practiced dentistry in the Philippines for about six months before beginning his planned move back to the United States.


Right back where he started from

When it came time to select a program to get an American dental license, Diangkinay looked no further than his backyard, signing up for a Fight On! Friday session for more information about Ostrow’s Advanced Standing Program for International Dentists (ASPID).

“Being in the USC setting, I was just like ‘Wow, this place is really nice!’ ” Diangkinay said. “I was just like, ‘Alright, I’m going to try to get in here no matter what.’ ”

Diangkinay officially joined the Trojan Dental Family in April 2019 and began forging lasting relationships with his colleagues during their early days in the Sim Lab.

“It felt like a family because we were all coming from different countries,” he said. “We, 36 ASPIDs, were a very close-knit group of people, working together in that Sim Lab.”

Diangkinay is currently the vice-president of his ASPID class. He has made the Dean’s List a couple of times during his time at USC. It’s still the patient interactions he has everyday, though, that drive him.

“Even though it’s just people coming in to get their teeth cleaned or having a treatment done, it’s more than that because you start building relationships,” he said. “You get to know your patients a lot better, and they, in turn, trust you more.”

Looking ahead to the next chapter of his life, Diangkinay — who mentions he’s basically gone to dental school twice now — is ready to begin making money.

“I want to help my mom and dad go into retirement smoothly,” he said. “They sacrificed so much for me and my sister, so I want to show them through my work how much I love them and appreciate everything they’ve done.”

— John Hobbs