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Meet Sonia Fernandez of Aava Dental in San Fernando Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sonia Fernandez.

Sonia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started as a child of immigrants who came to this country seeking an opportunity to realize their dreams. My parents worked hard, loved even harder and taught my brother and I to dream big. My parents were very patriotic and truly love this country. My brother and I were taught to give back to others, to be appreciative and to know that our place in this world is to make a difference. No one does it alone, we have each been helped along our path and we should help others when we can.

After high school, I joined the Marine Corps. No other person in my family ever served in the Marines although my uncles served in the army. I wanted to thank this country for the opportunities afforded to my family and to me, military service was the best way to share my deep appreciation for my country.

While serving in the military, I was injured on active duty, I hurt both hip and knees and was heartbroken that I could no longer serve. Fortunately, I found a new way to give back, to continue serving and that was in the labor movement. I worked during the day and with the help and support of my family, I went to school at night. My parents both sacrificed so much so that I could obtain both my bachelor’s and master’s degree and helped care for my severely disabled daughter.

Today, I continue serving, I am heavily involved veteran issues and advocating for workers. I work for a union dental group as the director of labor covering 18 union dental locations – from Fresno to San Diego. I am proud to be able to have both of my passions in one position. Aava Dental helps ensure that workers have top-notch dental care. We are working to protect American jobs by utilizing American made products whenever possible in our offices.

I truly love being able to advocate for workers, veterans and those who do not typically have a voice. I continue to heed the words of my parents, help someone else when you can, you have an obligation to make a difference whenever and wherever you can.

I was fortunate to serve continue serving in helping veterans. First through as a governor appointee where I advocated for businesses to commit to hiring more veterans and secondly, as a presidential surrogate for the reelection of President Barack Obama. As a veteran, I feel a lifelong obligation to help advocate for my fellow veterans and especially women veterans.

Has it been a smooth road?
My past was not smooth, I had a very severely disabled daughter at a young age.

I had to work hard to balance, life, work and most importantly caring for a non-verbal child with tremendous obstacles and learning how to navigate her silent world; learning to understand her and finding both of our voices to advocate for her needs.

She has taught me that sometimes stubbornness, frustration and anger can be great motivators when you have no other tools. She taught me that my voice was powerful and could move people and mountains for good. To continue serving her needs and making the best of what life has given us.

The bumpy road was made better by my mother who always encouraged me to chase my dreams and my father who helped me find my path among the many obstacles. They have always believed in my even when I didn’t. My brother and boyfriend also help me and are important to navigating such a hard journey.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m the executive director of labor & public relations for Aava Dental. Aava Dental is a group of small independently owned businesses that use their collective voice to provide top-notch dental care. The motto of putting the heart back into dentistry is so perfect.

This group of 18 dental locations in Southern California are unionized. Our offices are fighting for the American dream by using American made products when possible. We are a vital to the success of our communities because we feel an obligation to help protect American jobs because there are Americans who benefit and in turn contribute to our economy.

We are known as the anti-corporate dentistry dental group. We value people over profit and also have a nonprofit component that fights child slavery and human trafficking. We are special because we are committed to the communities where we have offices and the people who work in our organization.

An example of people over profit is the free palliative dental care we offered during the 2008 recession; we cared for the needs of people facing hardships over loss of jobs or loss of benefits.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Most people do not see dentist has healthcare providers or important to the health of our nation, after this pandemic, I see dentist becoming considered a vital healthcare provider since 70% of all illnesses and disease in the body begin in the mouth.

I feel that more technology will be brought into dentistry. Tele-dentistry and other innovations will have an impact on how we provide care. Secondly, dentistry should be discussed in the larger conversation of health. IF we have “healthcare for all” we should do the same with dentistry because it is such a vital indicator of overall health. Hopefully, in the near future more people will have access to dental care and preventative dental care for general well-being.

Fortunately, at Aava Dental, we have a top-notch infection control procedures alongside the latest dental technology. We are always at the forefront of determining what is best for the health and safety of our patients and staff.

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