Student Speaker Spotlight: Anthony Perez-Pino

Perez-Pino is a DMD candidate and the dental school speaker for the 53rd UConn Health Commencement on May 6, 2024

Anthony Perez-Pino is a UConn School of Dental Medicine student, DMD candidate, and a speaker at the 2024 Commencement. April 2, 2024 (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

Why did you choose the UConn School of Dental Medicine?

I will be honest, 5 years ago, I would have never imagined living in Farmington, CT. I honestly knew nothing about the School before I applied. When I was applying, many of my mentors informed me that I must pay attention to the cost of education. They urged me to apply to state schools that offered in-state tuition to residents of other states. UConn is one of the institutions that met these criteria. Once I decided to apply, I decided to do more research on the School. Much of the information I found online was helpful, and many of the forums I read on Student Doctor Network spoke very highly of the school. Once I arrived on interview day, I was blown away by what the School had to offer. The facilities were state-of-the-art, the overall atmosphere felt very intimate, the faculty seemed genuinely invested in students’ success, I loved the nature of the pass/fail curriculum, and appreciated the School’s commitment to diversity, I spent quality time with the admissions representatives, and got a really good impression from Dr. Paolella’s presentation. I felt like I would fit right in, and I knew if I got accepted, I would be a fool to turn down this opportunity. Choosing this institution to pursue my DMD education, was among the best decisions of my life (after choosing dentistry as a career, of course). My experience as a student here has surpassed all of my expectations, and I will look fondly at these times.

Tell us more about your path to dental school.

I attended high school in Miami, Florida at Belen Jesuit Prep School. This school instilled an obligation within me to serve my community. Early on, I knew I wanted to be a medical professional who was genuinely invested in patients’ lives. I went on to pursue my Bachelor’s degree at Florida State University. Towards my junior year, one life-changing conversation with a pre-dental friend led me to explore the field of dentistry. The rest was history.

What activities were you involved with as a student?

One of this school’s amazing qualities is the number of opportunities available to us. At times, it was overwhelming, because there were so many options, and not enough time in a day to pursue them all! Mainly, my pursuits were centered around research, mentorship, leadership, and service to the community. I was able to pursue multiple research projects with the guidance of my mentors Drs. Tadinada, Yadav, Upadhyay, Watras, Kurup, Cardarelli, and Arteaga. We were able to publish multiple papers in prestigious journals and have others in the works. I would not have been able to do this without them. Additionally, I held roles in organizations such as HSDA/SNDA, ASDA, Admissions, Celebrating Seniors, the Hartford Health Education program, Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), and the Orthodontics Interest Group. Lastly, and most importantly, I had many opportunities to volunteer in the community through organizations such as Hartford Health Education, Farmington High School Mentoring Club, HSDA/SNDA, ASDA, LMSA, South Park Inn, and Mission of Mercy. Among my most fond memories of dental school were my service trips to Ponce, Puerto Rico, and Knoxville, Tennessee. I would like to give a special shoutout to Dr. Ron Albert for his insatiable commitment to serving communities in need around the world. He has given many students, like me unforgettable memories and allowed us the opportunity to give our skills to the world.

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?

I was really surprised about the amount of quality attention we get from our faculty. They are invested in our success, and they know when we need help.

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

If you can, I highly recommend going on a service trip with your classmates. I think these experiences were what left a mark on me in dental school. They made me realize the value of the skills I have acquired over the years as a student here. My classmates feel the same way.

Who inspired you to enter health care? Or who was your favorite mentor here and why?

When I was an adolescent, I had to undergo treatment from a pediatric endocrinologist. My care required me to see him monthly for over a year. His attention to detail, the rapport he built with me, confidence in his treatment modalities, commitment to explaining the treatment plan, warm personality, etc all profoundly inspired me to one day be like him. I knew I wanted to be a medical professional who builds meaningful relationships with my patients and provides quality care.

When I entered dental school, I received a letter from a UConn alumnus, Dr. Jason Raney, an orthodontist in Hebron, CT. At the time, I had an interest in shadowing all of the dental specialties. He was the first specialist in the area that I decided to shadow. When I met him, I immediately saw the provider I wanted to become. He is someone who builds immense goodwill with his community, has amazing relationships with patients, can come up with complex treatment plans within minutes, and has built an amazing culture within his office. I knew I wanted to be like him, and I don’t know if I would have decided to pursue orthodontics if it wasn’t for his guidance early on.

Over the past few years at UConn, I have acquired unbelievable mentorship from so many faculty. It would be unrealistic for me to call someone my ‘favorite’, as they have all influenced me in major ways, and continue to do so. I want to write a list of names, but I fear I will not cover the breadth of faculty mentors I have. There are so many.

Lastly, I would like to give my mother, Isa a special mention. She always believed in me, gave me the resources to pursue my dreams, and has given me unconditional support. She is someone who is a natural born ‘giver’ and is one of the kindest people in existence.

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be attending an Orthodontics residency at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity!

What’s one thing that will always make you think of UConn?

I have built some amazing relationships throughout my time here. Anytime I see or hear from one of my classmates, I will always be reminded of the wonderful times we had together.

What does being a part of UConn mean to you?

I feel that we have a very strong alumni network that is willing to mentor the next generation of professionals. This school feels like a giant family, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

What’s it going to be like to walk across the Commencement stage and get your degree?

I can’t believe that we are here already. I was always told that the time here would “fly by.” They couldn’t have been more accurate with that statement. I am immensely proud of all of us. We went through a lot of hardships to get here, and this is going to be a very memorable day for all of us. I feel blessed to share this moment with the class of 2024.

Any final words of wisdom for incoming students?

Appreciate your time here. It will pass you by before you know it. At times, it seems like there are insurmountable tasks that lie ahead. Your time here may provide you with some of the most difficult experiences you have faced. However, you must enjoy and savor the process. You will look fondly on these times, much like I will. I will miss this chapter of my life, no doubt. Enjoy the journey, not the destination!