The Mentors: Conversations About Lifelong Connections Built at UCSF

By Jane Goodman and Claire Conway

Whether it takes the form of a leg up, a door opened, a steadying hand, or an affirmation, mentorship is intrinsic to UC San Francisco. Such alliances are essential to guiding a protégé along the path to professional mastery. They may take root in a classroom, in an operating room, at an alumni gathering, or in a lab.

The mentors and mentees featured here have played an integral role in each other’s lives – and likely will for a long time to come.


Lopez & Espinoza   |   Gibson & Youmans   |   Desai & Mendelsohn


Ruben Espinoza and Michael Lopez, photographed at the UCSF’s Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building on Feb. 21. Photo by Steve Babuljak


Michael Lopez, DDS ’74; owner, Mountain View Family Dentistry, Mountain View, Calif.; member, UCSF Dental Alumni Association (DAA) Executive Council; chair, DAA Student Relations Committee; member, UCSF School of Dentistry Dean’s Advisory Board; member, Alumni Association of UCSF Board and Diversity Committee; trustee, Hispanic Dental Association (HDA); member, HDA National Faculty Advisor Committee

Ruben Espinoza, third-year student, UCSF School of Dentistry; recipient, Dean’s Scholarship for Opportunity; class representative and past co-president, UCSF Chapter, Hispanic Student Dental Association


Lopez: When Ruben comes upon good fortune, he asks himself how it can be shared. That’s just how he thinks. He is spectacular – so bright and so committed.

Espinoza: The first time I spoke to Michael was on the phone, when I was trying to choose what dental school to attend. During the conversation I kept thinking, “Sure, I have people who are there for me. But this guy? He is actively reaching out and trying to connect with me.” That was a first.

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Lopez: Building community is so important. The wonder of this person here is that he was instrumental to fulfilling a lot of the social contracts his class made together. The Hispanic Student Dental Association flourished with Ruben and his Hispanic compatriots in the class.

Espinoza: We began with eight students, now we have 60. It’s not exclusive to Hispanic people – we have opened the door to others. We do social and community outreach events, like free dental screenings for kids in struggling neighborhoods. I didn’t come from a privileged background, so I can relate to the need.

Lopez: I have learned that when you see how people treat others around them, you get an inclination about how they will be around people in our community and in our society. I am so proud of what he has already accomplished, and he hasn’t even graduated.

Espinoza: Whenever Dr. Lopez is here, he brings up the three R’s – that’s his thing: respect, relationships, reflection.

Lopez: I drill it into all our students: Have respect for yourself [and] the people around you – your classmates, faculty, the community. Create and value relationships. And take the time to reflect on your motivation.

Espinoza: He always brings everything back to the importance of meaning and happiness in everyone’s lives and how that translates into being successful. That and the three R’s summarize Dr. Lopez for me.

Lopez: Being associated with meaning and happiness? It doesn’t get better than that! You don’t wait for the opportunity to help each other. You create the opportunity and the culture of caring. Ruben is part of that.

Espinoza: Dr. Lopez has always been there for us. In a few months, we will graduate and be dentists, and then we will be colleagues.

Lopez: Ruben, from the first day I met you, we were colleagues. We have always been colleagues. That’s the magic of it all.


Lopez & Espinoza   |   NEXT: Gibson & Youmans   |   Desai & Mendelsohn