Carlos Cardenas Peralta ’23, School of Dental Medicine

Carlos Cardenas Peralta reflects on his time at UConn

Carlos Cardenas Peralta SODM'23 is a fourth year dental student at UConn School of Dental Medicine

Carlos Cardenas Peralta SODM'23 is a fourth year dental student at UConn School of Dental Medicine. March 20, 2023 (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

Carlos Cardenas Peralta has a great appreciation for oral health and cooking. Lately, he’s been working on baking biscuits and sweets from his native Ecuador, in between getting ready for his patients, mentoring other dental students, and serving multiple organizations in the School of Dental Medicine. Before he embarks on his next step in his professional journey, the aspiring prosthodontist shares some words of wisdom for the students who will follow him: “Trust the process” (and don’t miss the UConn Health cafeteria!).

Why did you choose UConn?

Upon applying to dental school, I was looking for an institution that supported diversity and inclusion. UConn had that and much more. I was able to participate in events sponsored by the Health Career Opportunity Program such as “Bridge to the Future,” and got to meet dental students that became mentors for me along the way.  I was looking to stay close to my family and friends, hence UConn was on the top of my list. Additionally, I liked the fact that medicine was incorporated in my dental education, and with it a pass/fail grading system which decreased competition and increased collaboration between peers.

What’s your major/field of study, and what drew you to it?

I’m pursuing a doctorate in dental medicine at the University of Connecticut. I wanted to help people and have a positive impact in my community. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the health field, and after doing further research, shadowing multiple provides, asking questions, I finally made the decision to pursue dentistry, especially because I want to work with both my hands and brain.

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

It is hard to pick one person. I believe there are many faculty members that cheer for one to succeed. From medical school faculty to our dental school faculty, lab staff, front desk, finances, etc. My favorite class of all was fixed prosthodontics. I loved learning about the details of tooth preparation, restoration, and occlusion.

What activities were you involved in as a student?

During these last four years, I’ve had the pleasure to participate in multiple organizations. I participated at the Urban Service Track (UST) /AHEC Scholars Program which provided me with additional tools and mentoring sessions in order to make be a better provider. Its key goal is teaching students about multidisciplinary care, and having students work together to learn about each other, along with different health professions including social worker, nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant, medicine, and dentistry.

I was also part of the Health Career Opportunity Program, which supported my education since day one by providing me with extra training prior to starting the medical curriculum. It also opened doors for me to become a mentor for other dental applicants by helping them with their studies prior to applying to dental school.

Other organizations I was able to be part and in leadership positions included the Hispanic Dental Association (HSDA), Student National Dental Association (SNDA), Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), Periodontoly Interest Group, South Park Inn Dental Clinic, and UConn American Dental Student Association (ASDA)

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?

The cafeteria and its variety of food. As my Latino community may say, “barriga llena, corazon content” (Full belly, happy heart).

But that aside, I really liked the facilities, technology, support from faculty and staff. I made learning and studying much easier, although I have to say that medical school was tough.

What are your plans after graduation/receiving your degree?

I will be heading down to the land of palm trees and fresh coconuts, the sunshine state of Florida, for one year in an Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program. Perhaps after that year, I will pursue post-graduate degree in the field of Prosthodontics.

How has UConn prepared you for the next chapter in life?

I believe the school provided me with strong theoretical education and foundation. I believe that my clinical judgement will continue to grow along the years. The medical school curriculum has made me a better clinician, this has increased my confidence and comfort to treat my patients.

Any advice for incoming students?

“Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure.”

Do not compare yourself with anyone but yourself. You need to become better and better, but it takes time and work. Do not give up on your first try, keep pushing. Open up to your close friends and find support systems if you are having a hard time. Last but not least, “trust the process.” You will get to the finish line, and once you are there it will make you happy and you will really start appreciating every single moment you had during your education. Enjoy your journey.

What’s one thing everyone should do during their time at UConn?

You must attend “Culture Shock.” You will be amazed by the talented people we have around. The dance, music, modeling, and food. It is a time you do not want to miss.

What will always make you think of UConn?

The Husky family. All the people that worked with me and supported me along the way.