Dr. Jan Ortiz understands this better than anyone. The North Texas-based orthodontist and co-manager of EPO Specialists sees hundreds of patients per year, each possessing the same nervous energy of any kid in a medical specialist’s chair. So when he was presented with the opportunity to participate in a wish, Dr. Ortiz was more than a little surprised when he heard that the wish kid, Jazmyn, wanted braces.
You Really Wish to Have Braces?
“Jazmyn’s case was an intriguing one,” said Dr. Ortiz. “I actually asked her, ‘Don’t you want to do something cooler?’ But she really wanted braces. She said, ‘No, this is what I really want. I want straight teeth to look good for prom next year.’ And it felt so great to be able to help her get what she really wanted out of this wish.”
Jazmyn, now 17, is a year into her orthodontic treatment with Dr. Ortiz. But it wasn’t too long ago that she was in treatment for something far more difficult: bone cancer. Now in remission, Jazmyn takes her brush with cancer in stride and dutifully pays Dr. Ortiz a visit every four weeks.
“I really wasn’t nervous about getting braces—just excited,” said Jazmyn. “I had heard from friends who had had braces that it really hurts but it wasn’t bad.”
The Right Person to Help
Dr. Ortiz graduated at the top of his class of the University of Puerto Rico School of Dental Medicine and completed specialty training in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics (combined with a doctorate in sciences in dentistry) from Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine. During his training, he spearheaded numerous research projects and publications on bone metabolism, which enabled him to better understand tooth movement. While Jazmyn’s bone-related illness did not affect her teeth, Dr. Ortiz was in a good position to understand and work with a patient in her condition.
“When she came into my office on the first day for the consultation, I asked her why having braces was so important to her,” said Dr. Ortiz. “I really wanted to understand what her motivation was for having braces so that I could help her get the most out of her wish. She told me that this was something she had wanted to do for years and was excited to finally be able to do it – she wanted her wish to last her a lifetime. And it was very rewarding to be in a position to be able to do that for her.”
Many orthodontia patients squirm at the idea of one more office visit or set of instructions, and Jazmyn had already endured so many doctor visits while undergoing the cancer treatment that has now rendered her disease in remission. Yet she remained unfazed by the frequent visits to Dr. Ortiz and even earned “star patient” status by following all of the care instructions.
“Really, she is just such a great person with a great attitude,” said Dr. Ortiz. “It’s still an emotional experience every time I see her. I just try and focus on my work for her sake.”
Looking Ahead Bravely
With her junior prom approaching and her treatment going well, both Dr. Ortiz and Jazmyn are excited for the “big reveal,” or the day she gets her braces removed. Dr. Ortiz looks forward to the day he can remove her braces and reveal her new smile, while Jazmyn is excited to fulfill her motivation behind her wish: to have perfect teeth for her prom.
“It’s very rewarding to know the positive effect you can have on someone’s life just by doing your job,” said Dr. Ortiz. “Working with Jazmyn and Make-A-Wish has been great and I plan on doing this as long as I have the opportunity.”
Jazmyn with Dr. Ortiz
PHOTO: Anthony Mazur