2024 COMMENCEMENT SERIES | Destined for dentistry: following in a mother’s footsteps  

Tatiana Martinez-McBride reflects on who inspired her and why representation matters

For as long as she can remember, Tatiana Martinez-McBride has wanted to be a dentist. 

“My mom always asked me, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure you want to be a dentist? It’s a lot of hard work,’” Martinez-McBride recalls. 

(L-R) Dr. Veronica Martinez and her daughter Tatiana Martinez-McBride

After all, her mother would know: Dr. Veronica Martinez graduated from Marquette University School of Dentistry in 2006. 

“Finally, by high school, I said, ‘Mom, I know what I want to do,’” Martinez-McBride adds, laughing, adding that having her mom as a role model is what made her so certain in her career aspirations. 

Now a pediatric dentist in Scottsdale, Arizona, Veronica Martinez had a challenging, unconventional journey. Witnessing her push through that adversity to achieve her goals only helped prepare Martinez-McBride for her own challenges ahead.  

“My mom’s the most positive person in my life and she’s such a light,” Martinez-McBride says. “She’s super joyful and my best friend. Despite all the challenges she endured, she’s always looked at the glass half full. She’s kind, charismatic and very sweet — all qualities I love about her.” 

Representation matters 

Martinez-McBride’s childhood was filled with love but wasn’t typical. Her mother gave birth to her as a teen, so she says they “sort of grew up together.” 

“My mom had me at 17, and I remember her going to Marquette for undergrad and for dental school,” Martinez-McBride recalls. “I remember her being in residency, looking at all her textbooks. I was always curious as to what she was studying.” 

Martinez-McBride also grew up in a biracial household — Veronica Martinez is Black and Hispanic; her father is Black. The importance of representation was not lost on Martinez-McBride. 

“I was raised around both sides of my family, and spent more time around my Hispanic side,” Martinez-McBride says. “But I didn’t really grow up with a lot of representation in my community or day-to-day life. In college, I was fortunate to make a large group of diverse friends from all around the world who helped mold me into who I am today.”  

But as she progressed in school, she noticed that diversity shifting.  

“The higher up in education you get, the less representation you see,” Martinez-McBride says. “And, so, representation holds a lot of weight. 

“I think when I’m able to see Hispanic or Black doctors, it makes a world a difference to me.”  

Martinez-McBride says her mother has been her inspiration; in turn, her mother says the same about her. 

“When I look at my daughter, it’s hard for me to hold back my tears, but I’m trying to maintain my composure,” Veronica Martinez says. “She’s such a beautiful, intelligent young lady, and I can’t wait for the world to experience all that she has to offer and contribute to this profession. I’m so proud of her and what she’s accomplished.”  

As she reflects on her journey, Martinez-McBride is also looking toward her future: she was recently accepted into the two-year pediatric residency program at Tufts University in Boston, which she will begin July 1. She hopes to work alongside her mother. 

“I think she’s just an inspiration, not only to myself but for everyone,” Veronica Martinez says. “I’m so excited for her future and what path she will carve for herself and future generations.”