Dr. Rios returns to South Texas roots, serves citizens through seat on Texas Legislature
Tara Rios, D.D.S., knew she wanted to be a dentist when she was just seven years old. Regular dental checkups she received as a child piqued her interest in the dynamic field.
“The more I learned about dentistry, the more I wanted to pursue it,” the Corpus Christi native said. “The concept of having your own business and being in the health care field seemed fascinating to me.” In 1993, she embarked upon a four-year journey through dental school.
“I chose the UT Health Science Center San Antonio because of the amazing faculty,” she said. “I felt incredibly at home on the campus.”
Dr. Rios graduated in 1997, and after practicing for several years as a dentist in the Rio Grande Valley, she became interested in forensic dentistry and pursued a forensic odontology fellowship at the Health Science Center. During her first month in the program, she and the other fellows were recruited to serve on the 9-11 World Trade Center Odontology Team. The group identified many of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“It was trial by fire,” she said “We received practical, hands-on skills.”
After the tragic events of Sept. 11, Dr. Rios returned to her home in South Padre Island. She successfully won a seat on the town’s Board of Aldermen, and continued to practice dentistry in Brownsville. “The experiences I gained during my fellowship opened my eyes to the connection between politics and public policy as a direct correlation to our lives,” Dr. Rios said. She served for two terms, but her work as a public servant was far from complete.
Today, she is the state representative for district 43, which includes Kenedy, Brooks, Jim Hogg, Kleberg, Willacy and part of Cameron counties, and is the only dentist in the Texas House of Representatives. In addition to her legislative work, she continues to see patients at her general practice. She has volunteered on the Dentists Who Care Foundation, an organization which prevents dental disease among local residents through dental care mobile units.
Dr. Rios also served on the board of the Family Crisis Center, which works to end domestic violence, and on the Cameron-Willacy County Infant Fatality Review Committee.
“I’m able to serve the citizens of Texas because of everything I learned in professional school at the UT Health Science Center,” she said. “My education and experiences have allowed me to understand the problems and find solutions for the betterment of our community.”