LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Herrera Family Dental was started by a local Las Vegan who says she has always wanted to invest in this community where she grew up.

Dr. Evelyn Herrera worked hard to realize her dream of being a dentist. Her private practice in Sunrise Manor was open barely a year when the pandemic forced her to close.

“We’ve always been trained to deal with infectious diseases, but I think the unknown was more scarier than anything,” Herrera said.

And she worried for her patients.

“Their oral health. How long were we not going to be able see patients because they still need to take care of their oral health? That was a big concern to me,” she said.

Dr. Herrera was forced to furlough all but one staff assistant left to cover phones and help her with  emergency cases — patients who truly couldn’t wait for COVID to be over.

“I was in excruciating pain, my tooth decided it wanted to hurt. It was March, right at the very beginning,” said Gloria Long-Hernandez, patient. “So, I called over here and I said, please do something. I need help.”

Long-Hernandez has been a loyal patient for five years, seeing Dr. Herrera in various dentist offices and now here at Herrera Family Dental on Lamb and Charleston boulevards. Both share roots of growing up in east Las Vegas.

“When she started, she told me ‘I want to help my community.’ She said, ‘I want to be a dentist,’ she wasn’t looking to be wealthy. She wasn’t looking for other things, she was literally looking to help the community,” Long-Hernandez said.

Herrera’s first language is Spanish. Her hard-working parents immigrated from Mexico and made school a priority for their kids. She received scholarships for college then took out loans to attend UNLV dental school and with support from her husband and daughter she’s sacrificed to create a successful practice.

“This area doesn’t have a good reputation, but people don’t really know it,” Herrera said. “There is a lot of history here. I’m proud of the east valley and the sense of family and community that I would like to see more businesses invest in.”

Herrera Family Dental is open again with her staff and COVID-19 safety restrictions still in place.

“I couldn’t have felt more comfortable when everything was uncomfortable,” said Long-Hernandez.

“I think we did a lot for our patients and they definitely did appreciate it because they still come here,” said Alina Ponce, dental assistant.

And Dr. Herrera hopes it’s the beginning of a very long relationship with Sunrise Manor residents.

“I want to be the dentist that continues to grow up with families. How I saw my own dentist on the east side,” she adds.

Around 80% percent of Dr. Herrera’s patients are Spanish speaking. She says some patients are still scared to come back and says it will take a while for all of them to feel comfortable and not afraid of COVID-19. But she’s happy she was able to help the emergency cases and keep people from going to the emergency room last year.