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Abraham Romanowsky, a Mexican Immigrant Success Story

Author: Mimi Pollack
Created: 21 August, 2015
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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5 min read

Dr. Abraham Romanowsky
Dr. Abraham Romanowsky

Many Americans think that the immigrants who come from Mexico are poor and uneducated, but as a 30 year ESL teacher, I can say that there are many kinds of people with different backgrounds who come to this country seeking a better life. For example, why would a successful dentist leave a thriving practice in Mexico to start over in San Diego? Dr. Abraham Romanowsky did just that. Never one to back down from a challenge, he has sought to take the best path all of his life, starting with his education, the woman he married, and finally moving to the city he now calls home.

Romanowsky was born in Mexico City. His parents were themselves immigrants from Poland. He was raised in a home that valued tradition and education. He was the oldest child followed by two brothers and a sister.

He went to high school at La Prepa Nacional Numero 1, a public high school in Mexico City. He continued on at the Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico [UNAM] where he graduated as a dentist in 1967.

His first big challenge came next when he went to graduate school at Boston University. Not completely fluent and struggling in English, he still persevered and graduated with a degree in Prosthetics Dentistry. He then went on to do one year at Harvard, studying Dental Public Health. Today, he speaks English fluently.

His second challenge came with the woman he married. The Jewish community in Mexico tends to be very conservative and some eyebrows were raised when he married an American Jewish girl from Detroit, Michigan rather than marrying a Mexican Jewish girl. They got married in 1967 and she went to Boston with him. In 1970, when they moved back to Mexico, there was a period of adjustment, but their love and commitment prevailed, and he and Bonnie have been married for 48 years.

They lived in Mexico from 1970 to 1982. He opened up a practice with another dentist, and taught classes at the UNITEC, a technical university in Mexico.

In September 1982, the big devaluation happened in Mexico and many people lost a lot of money. The situation in Mexico was becoming tense. He and his wife felt they could offer his children a better education and life in the United States. Since she was American, it would be an easy adjustment for her, and so the third challenge began, and at the end of September 1982, they began to make all the preparations and moved to San Diego.

At first, it was not easy as he tried to set up a practice in Tijuana. He met some other dentists and doctors, and they decided to open up offices in the Allen Lloyd Building which had just been built close to the border. There were 2 dentists and 14 physicians, and they rented an entire floor. He worked in that office from 1984 to 1990.

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His wife and children adapted quickly to their new life, but it was harder for Romanowsky. He had his practice in Tijuana, but he had to start almost from scratch in San Diego. He went from being a successful dentist and professor in Mexico to preparing to take the California Dental Boards at Loma Linda University. He finally passed in 1987 and got his DDS degree.

All the hard work paid off, and a new door opened.

While at Loma Linda, he was mentored by a dentist who needed someone to rent a space in his office in Vista, and Romanowsky agreed. Thus, he began a freeway flyer existence, commuting between his home and his offices in Tijuana and Vista. He worked six days a week, including Saturdays.

In 1989, a dentist he knew who had a practice in La Jolla, died suddenly in a tragic accident. The widow then sold the practice to Romanowsky. It took two months to set up, and in 1990, he began working full time at the office in La Jolla. His office was in an old building in the Wind and Sea area.

In 2004, the building was sold and the new owners were not very receptive to bringing the building up to modern standards, so he started to look for another place.

He teamed up with a younger, Colombian dentist, Jaime Breziner. Together, they found an office in a building near downtown La Jolla. Romanowsky liked it because it reminded him of his building in Mexico. They rented part of a floor, and set about creating a new dental office. Breziner was very instrumental in helping to design it, and they became full partners. They have had a very successful practice since then, with patients from all over the world.

At 70, Romanowsky still works three days a week. Being active is very important to him, and he plays tennis, runs, and bikes. He has many hobbies, but his favorite one is singing in a choir called the San Diego Jewish Mens’ Choir or Kol Hakavod. They sing in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino.

It is also important for him to give back. He is part of the UCSD Mentorship Program and works in the biology department. He works with students who want to become dentists. They go to his office to shadow him for three weeks at a time. He also works with the San Diego Dental Association. Every February, they hold clinics in the South Bay, giving free dental services to lower income children whose parents cannot afford dental care.

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Finally, Abraham Romanowsky is a family man, and he takes great pride in the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. He is truly an immigrant success story who worked hard and can now enjoy the fruits of his labor. He loves the life he has made for himself, and feels he made the right decision when he left Mexico to move here.

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