From refugee to dentist and entrepreneur, FAHS recognizes Distinguished Graduate

Dr. Kellyana Quattrini (BSc ’11), a prominent figure and leader in Saskatoon’s Hispanic community, has proven that with hard work, determination and a loving family, anything is possible.

The refugee turned dentist and businesswoman is the recipient of this year’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (FAHS) Distinguished Graduate Award.

“My success story really started at Brock,” says Quattrini. “I had a positive experience on my educational journey and found a challenging and inspirational place among professors who mentored me and took me under their wings. I am deeply honoured by this recognition as it is very meaningful to my entire family.”

Arriving in Canada in 2004, the refugee from Cucuta, Colombia found support at the University among the faculty and students within the Department of Health Sciences.

At only 17-years-old, Quattrini was faced with overcoming language barriers to become fluent in English and worked two full-time jobs to save up enough money to become a full-time student in 2008. To accomplish this, she spent three years cleaning hotel rooms and working at call centres in St. Catharines.

“My parents, Amparo Cañas and Alejandro Peña, sacrificed everything they knew to bring my brother Miguel and I to Canada to build a better future,” says Quattrini. “They instilled into us a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. I am the person I am today because of the love and wisdom of the people around me, and the support of Benjamin Quattrini, who always believed in my dreams.”

Once at Brock, Quattrini excelled in her studies and was involved in extensive volunteer experiences, which included interacting with patients of the formerly-known Brock University Heart Institute, now the Heart Strong program.

“For many years, the barriers I faced made me feel like an outsider,” says Quattrini. “Once I became a student, the University supports took my life foundations and helped me strengthen my sense of self and create my identity.”

As Quattrini thrived at Brock, her professors took notice of her dedication and conscientiousness.

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that Kellyana is an exceptional individual,” says FAHS Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Deborah O’Leary. “Her motivation and ability to relate to others has undoubtedly contributed to her success. She has overcome significant barriers and adversity as a refugee and visible minority with personal strength to build a future in Canada for her and her family.”

Graduating with Honours from the Bachelor of Health Sciences program, Quattrini went on to the University of Saskatchewan College of Dentistry and graduated with a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. With a newfound passion for general and family dentistry, she bought a dental practice in 2016 and has spent the last four years with her family and colleagues growing Canada Building Dental Group.

A leader in modernizing the field of dentistry, Quattrini strives to create a comfortable and stress-free dental experience for her patients.

“Kellyana has a reputation for implementing best practices and using proven technologies in dentistry while providing the most efficient treatment to patients in English and Spanish,” explains Benjamin.

Quattrini’s volunteerism philosophy is rooted in her experience as a young refugee woman in Canada. Often contributing sponsorship and in-kind services to individuals from her community with lower income or experiencing financial hardship, if she sees there’s a need, she finds a way to provide care and education.

“I am the antithesis of the stereotypes often attributed to refugees,” says Quattrini. “Refugees and immigrants are often seen as a burden to society. I believe with the right guidance, opportunities and personal drive, immigrants can create positive change in our societies.”

As part of her ongoing commitments, she regularly volunteers for community initiatives such as providing health-based and motivational talks, setting up information booths and talking to children about good dental hygiene.

“Dr. Kellyana Quattrini’s inspirational story is a testament to how a meaningful student experience can lead to a path of success which has a positive impact, not just on the individual, but their family and entire community,” says FAHS Dean Peter Tiidus. “Kellyana’s contributions to Saskatoon’s Hispanic population as an educator of dental hygiene to children and adults in both academic and community settings make her an outstanding recipient of the FAHS Distinguished Graduate Award.”

Reflecting on her life journey and what’s next for the tenacious dentist, she says, “I want to keep growing and developing myself and the community around me.”

“I have worked very hard every day for my seat at the table and my intention is to use it for the betterment of everyone I can reach.”

Dr. Quattrini has been recognized by the Canadian Dental Association, American Dental Association, DENTSPLY and the Canadian Diabetes Association for her research initiatives. She was the 2011 recipient of the Brock University Distinguished Graduating Student Award – Health Sciences. An up and coming entrepreneur and businesswoman in Saskatoon, she opened The Shoe Boutique in Saskatoon in 2017, a store front and e-commerce enterprise.

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