Thursday, January 18, 2024

Third-year Iowa Dentistry student Jorge Ceballos comes from a family of medical professionals—his mother is a nurse, and he has uncles, aunts and cousins who are doctors and dentists. However, his future in the medical field was never guaranteed. Ceballos is a recent immigrant from Cuba, and if it weren’t for a chance encounter with an Iowa Dentistry alum, Jorge’s career path might have taken a different turn. 

Ceballos came to the US in 2016. His parents were already living and working in Carroll, a small town in western Iowa, and once he joined them, he threw himself into the American lifestyle. He finished the last few months of his senior year at Carroll High School and then completed an associate degree at the Des Moines Area Community College in three semesters.

Ceballos received a scholarship to Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, and graduated two years later with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences. He says his undergraduate years were busy ones because he would attend classes during the day and then, at night, watch YouTube videos on the same subjects in Spanish to be sure he understood the course material.

Over the years, Ceballos has worked several part-time jobs to pay for his studies. It was at one of these jobs, at a Mexican restaurant in Carroll, that he crossed paths with Iowa Dentistry alum Lynn Curry. The two had a conversation about dental school that Curry always remembered, and when Ceballos was accepted to Iowa, Curry encouraged him to apply for an employee scholarship that he and his wife started at the local Carroll hospital.

At this point, Ceballos had moved on from the restaurant and was working as a pharmacy assistant at the hospital. He won the scholarship and used the money to defray costs during his first year of dental school. “Knowing there are people who are investing in my success makes me even more motivated to excel,” says Ceballos, who also receives scholarships and financial aid from the college.

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Sherry Timmons said of Ceballos: “Jorge is a great example of the value of connecting and nurturing learners, you never know where a conversation or a word of encouragement can lead someone. Through his demonstrated hard work and commitment to his education, Jorge was identified as someone who warranted all the support we could provide to help him succeed. His story reinforces the value of scholarship funding to support and advance the next generation of healthcare providers. Without these funds some aspirations won’t be realized, limiting our ability to help someone achieve their dreams.”

Ceballos is eager to start practicing general dentistry in Iowa or someplace else in the US. But wherever he goes, he says he will always be grateful for his degree from Iowa Dentistry.

Says Ceballos: “If my kids want to be dentists, no matter where we live, I want them to come to Iowa.”