CHICAGO — A special dentist on the Southwest Side of Chicago has had a trailblazing career but also has an impressive musical side hustle.
Genaro Romo has made a huge difference for Latino dentists in Chicago. Imagine performing a root canal during the day, then getting people dancing at night. He’s a DJ dentist. Two skill sets with the same goal of helping people smile.
Growing up in Little Village, Romo quickly realized the need for more Spanish speaking dentists on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
“There were a lot of dentists there but not one Latino dentists,” he said.
Romo knew he wanted to be a dentist since high school and credits early inspiration to the Boys and Girls Club which took his group to a career conference in Fort Worth, Texas his freshman year.
“It just so happened that the speaker was a dentist … and that’s how it started,” he said.
At the same time, The Boys and Girls Club sparked his other passion – where he learned to spin records as a DJ. That led to an opportunity at radio station WCYC 90.5 FM.
“One day there was a vacancy and they asked us to submit a mix tape, I submitted it and next thing you know here I am, he said.”
And so the dentist/DJ, known to friends and fans as Gino, started working hard at both skill sets. He quickly realized his talent for DJing parties and at the same time set his sights on dental school with the ultimate goal of opening his own practice serving the Latino community. His studies led him to the University of Illinois Chicago.
“I met the counselor, Oscar Martinez, he gave me a tour and he made me really feel Iike I could do this,” he said.
At the time, there weren’t many Latino dental students and he’s thrilled the profession is now much more diverse.
Today, his practice on South Pulaski serves dozens of Spanish-speaking patients every day.
“I think when the patients come here, not sure for me, for the other doctors who work here, (and) they’re all Spanish speaking,” he said. “The patients feel very comfortable. They know that we get it and we understand and there’s a true connection there.”
He admits his DJing had to take a back seat while becoming a dentist and opening his own practice. But then the pandemic hit. Dental appointments everywhere were cancelled except for emergencies. Like everyone else, he was at home trying to fill the hours and noticed some DJs were live streaming sets.
“And I thought, ‘Do I need to do to do this?’ Maybe I could do a quick live stream. I did one 1,300 people tuned in and they were loving it,” he said.
His music caught on and he quickly built a nice following online. Now he’s back at it doing live gigs and parties.
You wouldn’t think it, but Romo says there are similarities between DJing and dentistry because both skills involving connecting with people on a personal level and making them feel at ease.