CHICAGO (CBS) — We’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and we’d like to introduce you to a Hispanic professional who works hard and plays hard.
Dr. Gene Romo Jr. credits mentors with inspiring him to chase down his career and keep up his creative hobby. Now his neighbors from the blocks where he grew up get the benefits of both.
If there’s one thing to know about Dr. Romo, it’s that the man goes after what he wants. And he knew what he wanted to do with his life when he was just a boy in Little Village.
“I actually grew up in the Little Village Boys and Girls Clubs,” he said. “We went to a conference, and the speaker that was there happened to be a dentist, and ever since then when I heard him speak, and I thought to myself, ‘I can kind of give back to my community by being a dentist.'”
As the son of Mexican immigrants, that club opened his eyes to the world. At 12 years old, he started having big dreams of what he could go and learn, then bring back home.
“I want to be able to help the people that speak like me, that look like me, and I felt that there was a big need for that. So I thought this would be a perfect way for me to do it, and I guess my dream came true,” he said.
He now lives it, five days a week, at his offices in West Lawn and Brighton Park, where shared backgrounds make for better health.
“Ninety-nine percent of my day, I speak Spanish. So when I talk to someone, I know their culture, I know their food habits, I know how they were raised, and all that definitely plays a big role in their oral care,” he said.
This mission to give back and inspire others continues through his work in several professional groups – like the Greater Chicago Hispanic Dental Association, and in another place you might not expect.
This dentist by day, is DJ Gino Rockin Romo by night. His love of music also started early, with gigs he played for fun money as a young adult.
“I usually do more of the throwbacks; more like older dance music from the 90s, 80s, early 2000s. That’s what I like,” he said.
But he came back to it in a big way during the pandemic, live-streaming for fans on Facebook from his basement on the Southwest Side.
“The energy from the viewers is amazing. I absolutely love it,” he said.
Dr. Romo even worked his day job into his logo, finding a new way to get into his neighbor’s homes, and using beats as reminders to book those cleanings.
“We’ve had a lot of patients coming in because they see me live stream. They see me at events, and they’re thought, ‘You know what? I want to make an appointment,'” he said.
It’s brought in a younger crowd too, and Dr. Romo takes advantage of their time in his chair.
“I ask them, ‘What are you going to do with your life, what are doing next?'” he said. “And they’re torn between doing something that they love, and doing something that they should be doing, and I like to be an example of you can do both.”
Music and molars; hoping to motivate the next generation of Hispanic youth to share their gifts and give back to their own blocks.