Celina Caetano ’23, School of Medicine

Celina Caetano reflects on her time at UConn

Portrait of Celina Caetano

Portrait of Celina Caetano, taken on April 11, 2023. (Sydney Herdle/UConn Photo)

Celina Caetano is just about as much a UConn Husky as someone can be: the Waterbury native first attended the regional campus in the Brass City on her way to earning a Bachelor of Science as an undergraduate. Next stop: UConn School of Medicine, where she has been challenged, supported, and inspired in her path toward a career in internal medicine. As she looks forward to the new challenges and triumphs that come with being a doctor, though, she can also look back to that first year in UConn Waterbury, when a professor named Dr. Susan Berlin-Preston helped set Caetano on the path that’s taken her all the way to an MD.


Why did you choose UConn and what drew you to medical school?

I really respected how UConn fosters a community of ingenuity and knowledge in an unrestricted way. You could be a student always asking, “Why?” or “How come?” to a concept, and someone would be willing to investigate it with you. It generates an elite group of physicians that are both knowledgeable and motivated to always give back to the community without question. And who wouldn’t be drawn to the promise of delicious ice cream, the cutest mascot Jonathan, and national champion sports???

What activities were you involved in as a student?

I was involved in the Disabilities Interest Group; Urban Service Tract/AHEC Scholars; Internal Medicine Scholars; First-Generation Medical/Dental Group; and Gold Humanism Honor Society.

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?

I realize how cliché it may sound, but honestly, I was most surprised by the quality of people the university attracts. My classmates are some of the most humble, kind, dedicated, and hardworking people you could meet. The physicians and scientists who instructed us are a wealth of knowledge and have ingrained compassion for patient care. Nurses treat all patients with kindness and respect, and are willing to answer the 20 million questions this medical student had. The staff at UConn greet you with a contagious smile every single day.

Any advice for incoming students or those wishing to apply to medical school?

Medical school is tough, and imposter syndrome is a reality you may experience from time to time. Realize that you are here because someone already believes in YOU. Stay humble. Remove your pride. Work hard. Live a full life of all the things you love to do.

Welcome to the most humbling, rewarding career imaginable. Patients and families will trust you with aspects of their lives that only few are given a glimpse of. Embrace that! Don’t be afraid of this, but make it your motivation to want to learn all you can. UConn School of Medicine will challenge you and prepare you for this. However, remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Therefore, never stop learning (you will learn from patients as much as you teach them). Define what is valuable to you (my motto is “the best physicians are the best humans first”). And most of all, learn to live a full life containing everything that you love.

What medical specialty are you entering and why?

Internal Medicine. As a self-proclaimed “professional nerd,” I want to help people and learn from everyone around me. During my rotations, I found that internal medicine physicians embody a summation of passion for learning and application of medicine with compassion for holistic patient care. They want to know BOTH the disease and the patient by name. They want to learn from experts and from the person they are treating in front of them. Most importantly, they are humans first and physicians second.

Who inspired you most to enter medicine?

I had a professor in my first year of undergrad, Dr. Susan Berlin-Preston, who transformed my life. She was my general biology laboratory professor at the UConn Waterbury Campus. My first day of lab she stayed probably 1-2 hours after class ended to answer a book of nerdy questions I had about the lab topic. Every subsequent week, she would do the same. She inspired me to never stop asking questions, introduced me to the field of research, and helped me establish connections in the clinical realm. She helped me see that to love medicine meant to love people and love science. Most of all, she did not turn me away because I lacked experience, but embraced me and said, “I see something in you kid.” Thank you, Dr. Berlin!