Dr. Cristina D. Lopez: Always aspiring for excellence 

Dr. Cristina D. Lopez: Always aspiring for excellence 

They say, “Experience is the best teacher.” Through it, we learn what makes us strong and what breaks us. It teaches us what to do and what to avoid. It makes us want to dream, live, laugh, fail, and try again. We live and get the most out of every experience so that when we look back, we have stories to tell, wisdom to impart and words to live by.

I had the pleasure of hearing some beautiful words from a beloved friend. She is one whose intelligence and beauty radiate so naturally. We’ve been friends for three years but I’ve admired her forever. She is half Spanish, half Chinese yet her warm and friendly personality makes her a full-blooded “Pinay.” Her name is Cristina D. Lopez. Colleagues call her Dr. Lopez. She is also known as Dr. TeeLo (a moniker they coined by combining the syllables of her first and last name – like JLo). I know her as my dear friend, “Tina.” And the words you read below tell of Tina’s incredibly inspiring story.

By the way, if you happen to see her shaping young minds at the UCLA School of Dentistry (Section of Restorative Dentistry), speak to her — you might learn a thing or two. I did.

“I never wished to become a teacher,” was Tina’s exact line when I asked her what she wanted to be when she was young. She initially responded with what she did not want to become. Well, as with the famous line, “Be careful what you wish for ‘coz you might get it,” her case was quite the irony because she actually got what she did NOT wish for. Growing up, she wanted to be a dentist. Being a middle child and the only girl, she was determined — and it paid off — when she graduated Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) at the University of the East (UERM) in the Philippines. She migrated to Virginia in 1997 and worked in Washington DC as a Dental Assistant for almost 10 years. After eighteen years, Tina now works at the UCLA School of Dentistry as a Lecturer/Clinical Instructor. Not only did she turn out to be a great teacher, she is actually the only Filipina Instructor in the UCLA School of Dentistry.

“Do not settle for mediocrity.” You might be wondering how Tina switched from being a Dental Assistant to a Clinical Instructor. She did it by living up to her motto, “never settle for mediocrity.” Back when she was working in Washington DC, she had her eyes on getting her Dental Residency. However, things didn’t go as she hoped so she shifted to a slightly different direction – which meant moving to Los Angeles to start as an Administrative Assistant in UCLA’s Continuing Dental Education office. In April 2007, she passed her board exam.

Circumstantial changes did not let Tina settle for anything less. Instead she pushed forward and continued to pursue her dreams, which led her to discover her love for teaching. She can sum up her experience in two words: “Never Settle.”

“Always aspire for excellence.” At work, no two days are the same for Tina. Everyday is different; there are days when she has to stay late to supervise dental students, days when she sees patients, and days when she facilitates skills course for foreign post-graduate students. There are also weekends throughout the year where she teaches Continuing Dental Education courses.

She has been doing all these for more than a decade. And has been in the same industry for the last 23 years. When I asked her what makes her love her job, she said the sweetest thing: “Teaching is my calling and my passion. I love what I do because I care for the people I train. One of the most rewarding moments I had was when I heard some of them say to themselves while working under my supervision, ‘I want to be like her’.”

Tina always advises her students to strive for excellence in whatever they do. She also added that aside from her self-determination, she gets support and encouragement from her family and from her faith in God.

“Teach others by showing.” This is what Tina considers as an effective way to teach. She says that she herself learns by watching. And there’s no better way to emulate that but to “show and tell.”

To my friend Tina: Thank you for being a great teacher and friend. May you continue to inspire more people by living and teaching these philosophies.


Monet Lu is a Marikina-born, award-winning celebrity beauty stylist with his own chain of Monet Salon salons across Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Ultimately, Monet is known as an all-around artiste who produces sold-out fashion and awards shows as well as unforgettable marketing campaigns. Monet is also the founder of the revolutionary all-natural beauty products such as Enlighten, your solution to discoloration . To contact Monet, please visit www.monetsalon.com or email him at monetsalon@aol.com

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