10 August 2012

Glenn Amante: A Chicago Dentist Whose Life is for Others

“I cannot imagine myself other than being a dentist,” thus declares Glenn Amante of the high school class of 1990. Even in high school, for someone so young he had this air of singularity of purpose and grim determination – the look of somebody who knew where he was headed and how to get there.

“Every decision that I’ve made in my life,” he now confirms what I saw more than twenty years ago when he sat in my History class, “no matter how small it may have been, has been given deep thought and consideration.”

The choice of dentistry as a profession, therefore, was a purposeful one and not of the hit-and-miss sort made by many others his age. “I’ve always wanted to have a career in the health care profession,” Glenn says. “I’ve always had the liking for the sciences as far I can remember.”

His vision looking backwards is just as crystal clear as it is looking forward. “My Biology class, taught by Mrs. Imelda Castillo during my sophomore year at DLSL, was by far my favourite,” he recalls. “After high school, I remember taking entrance exams for Pharmacy at UP and Biology at UST; but there was something about Dentistry that lured me to go that direction.”

Apart from having a mind of his own even at a young age, Glenn also had an excellent role model. He explains, “I’ve always looked up to my godfather Dr. Carlito P. Reyes, who’s now the mayor of Malvar; and how successful he had become in his chosen career.”

Once Glenn had made up his mind that Dentistry was the profession that he wanted, there was only one school to enrol in. Centro Escolar University, if not exactly the Dentistry capital of the Philippines, is certainly among the favourite destinations of Dentistry students from around the country.

Not that life as a Dentistry student at CEU would have qualified for a More Fun in the Philippines meme. “It was challenging,” Glenn describes his college years, “especially when we got down to the clinics.”

While students of Medicine do rounds in a hospital setting, for students of Dentistry life is not quite so simple. “We had to look for our own patients,” Glenn recalls. “I remember frequently calling my folks in Malvar late in the day for them to scout for patients that I needed for the following morning.”

Many cleaned and extracted Batangueño teeth later, Glenn finally earned his Doctor of Dentistry degree from CEU in 1996. Not one to sit on his laurels, he underwent postgraduate training in Orthodontics just one year later.

Although Glenn has always been the sort who liked to be meticulous about the way he lived his life, ironically his big break came as something of a twist in life. They do say that when opportunity knocks, you have to be ready to grab it with both hands. Glenn certainly did!

In 2000, he flew out to the United States to visit an aunt who had been living in the Chicago area since the seventies. “It had been her dream for me to come and visit,” he says. “I had the privilege of attending a dental conference by one of the leading dental educators, Dr. Frank Spear. I was able to network with a few dentists from the area and soon found myself in front of a job offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Glenn worked as an Orthodontic Assistant at Innovative Orthodontics, a company that has offices in Chicago’s suburbs. He also took the country’s National Dental Board Examinations, something that he had to exert almost superhuman effort to prepare for.

“I can still recall going straight to the library to study for the board exams right after work and staying there until it closed, only to stay up past midnight at home to study more,” he relates the self-sacrifice that he had to make. “Looking out the library window one summer evening and seeing the people enjoying a gorgeous night at the park, I began to ask myself: why am I doing this? I had to remind myself that one day I’d be reaping the benefits of my labour.”

After passing the board exams, it was back to school for him. “I applied for the International Dentist Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago,” Glenn says. “It is a two-year advanced standing program for international dentists that is necessary to practice dentistry in the United Sates. I went to finish dental school at UIC on a full scholarship from the Orthodontic Centers of America.”

The application, as it happened, was akin to going through the proverbial eye of the needle. “It was a gruelling process of application and interviews with thousands of applicants,” Glenn relates. “The fact that I got accepted at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry was already an honour and a privilege.”

Glenn acknowledges the thoroughness of his training and preparation as a dentist in the Philippines as crucial to his gaining an edge while at UIC. “All the cognitive and technical skills that I had acquired while practicing the profession back in the Philippines truly gave me an edge going back to school here,” he says. “With the quality of work that I did, along with the ethics and discipline that I honed, I was able to gain respect from fellow students and my professors as well.”

Studying at UIC, however, was on a totally different level. “The instruction was a lot more in-depth and fast-paced,” Glenn, who was elected President of his class and was also in the Student Board, says of the experience. “Being taught by nationally and world-renowned instructors, a few of which authored text books in the field, was definitely a humbling experience.”

Glenn graduated from UIC in 2006 and went to work as a Dental Associate at Apex Dental Centers, a family dental practice based in the state of Illinois. He subsequently became Managing Dentist of the Apex Dental Centers in the Schaumburg and Rockford communities and recently took ownership of the practice.

As owner of the practice, Glenn has shown good business acumen as well as compassion for those who work under him. “I have realistic business expectations,” he says. “With my experience of working as an assistant in the past, I have a better picture of what to expect from my staff. This experience also makes me sensitive to their needs and feelings; and this makes the doctor-assistant relationship click. I’m proud to say that my assistants have been with me since the day I started working with Apex.”

Being a dentist in the United States is not all that different from being one in the Philippines. There are, however, a few perks to being in that side of the Pacific. “I’m able to appreciate all the advancements that evolved in the dental profession,” Glenn says. “I also learned to take advantage of the latest in equipment and materials dentistry has to offer here and the ease that comes with their use. These developments have made the practice of dentistry here even more enjoyable.”

Being a dentist and owner of a practice in Chicago has had its financial rewards; but Glenn thinks that there is so much more to his profession than the money. “Establishing long term relationships with patients and their families and being part of a community is something I truly value,” he explains. “Nothing feels better than to hear from patients that they had a truly pain-free experience; or knowing that you’ve helped somebody get back their self esteem and confidence by simply giving them a better smile.”

The contraction of the American economy naturally presented its own challenges. That said, Glenn prefers to see the positive side of it. “Case acceptance became a little bit challenging; but it’s through those difficult times that we were able to closely work on the office dynamics and really depend on the core of the practice,” he says. Business, thankfully, has started to pick up again.

So how has life been living so far away from beautiful islands where he was born and raised? Initially, it was not easy. “To say it was difficult moving to another country is an understatement,” Glenn recalls the days soon after he moved to the United States. “It was difficult for me and doubly hard for my folks, particularly my Mom. We intentionally didn’t communicate with each other for almost three months, thinking that it would be easier for me to adjust to my new life here and literally move on.”

The Filipino community in Chicago, Glenn says, is not as big as those of California or New York. There is, however, a Filipino-American Dental Society of the Midwest of which Glenn is a member. And where will we all be without the ubiquity of Facebook? “Through Facebook, I was able to reconnect with batch-mates who live here in Chicago,” Glenn says. “There’s Jason Gonzales, Matthew Favis and Flor Mangubat who just recently moved here.”

Two years ago, he got together with United States-based classmates to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their graduation from high school. There were just six of them; but even that was a challenge to organize because they were all coming from different parts of the country.

Glenn continues to miss the home country despite all the years spent in the United States. “There’s nothing like its food, culture and its people. I have to make-do with what we have here in Chicago food-wise; but whenever we crave for Filipino food, my family and I go to this Filipino restaurant in town called Little Quiapo.”

His parents – Gregorio Amante, a retired Civil Engineer; and the former Gloria Villapando, a retired public school teacher – are still strong and willing to make the trans-Pacific journey once in a while to visit their son and relieve him of some of his homesickness.

Glenn is married to the former Carolina Castillo, a paediatrician formerly from Bogotá in Colombia. Of Carolina, Glenn says, “She may be Colombian by origin; but she has slowly become a Filipina by heart. I’m still amazed at how good she has become at cooking Filipino dishes. Her specialty: pancit bihon. I swear that she will give those carinderias at the Lipa market a run for their money.”

And Lipa lomi? “I’ve learned to master the art of cooking it,’ Glenn says. “If I can only find a place that sells the same kikiam that we have there (in Lipa), then it would be perfect.”

Glenn and Carolina have two children – Samuel Jacob, who is four; and Daniel Sebastian who is almost two. Glenn is a devoted father who thinks the world of his two sons. “I can’t imagine living without my wife and my two adorable boys,” he says. “There’s nothing better than coming home at the end of the day and seeing the smiles on my boys’ faces.”

Glenn and his small family make their home in a Chicago suburb. They do own a home in Chicago as well. Glenn explains, “We often times miss the little things that the big city offers, so we found ourselves owning our second home in Chicago where we spend most of our weekends.”

Although Glenn and his wife love to travel, the fact that their boys are still small make travelling not very convenient at the present. Despite this, however, he says, “We still look forward to visiting a few cities in Europe one day, most likely with our boys in tow.”

Apart from dentistry, Glenn considers running among his other passions. “I have completed eight marathons in seven states,” he proudly says. “I also plan to compete in a duathlon and, hopefully, one day a triathlon as well.”

Glenn ran his first marathon not only as a personal challenge but also to raise funds for a good cause. “For my first ever marathon,” he recalls, “I decided to raise money for a charity called Imerman Angels. IA is a local not-for-profit organization that pairs up a cancer victim with a survivor. With the help of friends, families and colleagues, I was able to raise more than $1400, double my fundraising goal.”

Glenn the dentist is very much the student of Science and a savvy businessman. Glenn is also the runner with a golden heart. But there is also another, more introspective side to Glenn – the artist. “There’s this artistic side of me that I have to feed every now and then,” he laughs. “I decided to take up photography two years ago. I took a few photography courses at the Illinois Institute of Art, the New York Institute of Photography and the Chicago Photography Center where one of my photos was featured in its web site.”

Although not yet in middle age, Glenn has accomplished in life so many things that others probably need several lifetimes to achieve. He modestly thinks, however, that he is far from a ‘made’ man and that he is still, in fact, still continuing to climb the mountain of success.

What he considers his greatest accomplishment, however, is not the success of his dental practice. It is also not the fact that he has run and completed several marathons or that he is an accomplished photographer. Instead, Glenn declares simply and wholeheartedly, “Having a family that I truly cherish is my biggest accomplishment in life.”

Of life itself, Glenn says, “I believe everything happens for a reason. I also believe that with the power of prayer coupled with hard work and determination, nothing is impossible. I always find joy in sharing my blessings to others and being appreciative of what was given to me. Indeed, for whom much is given, much is required.”

To learn more about Glenn, please follow the following links:

Lisle Dental Center

Amante Dental Center

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