Grateful for Scholarship Support During Dental School, Alumna Pays it Forward

Maria Cordero-Ricardo

As an RSDM student ten years ago, Maria Cordero-Ricardo remembers the sense of security and relief that came from knowing she could count on scholarship money.

“Back then, I was so scared about being in debt. But the scholarships allowed me to make different decisions. I could spend more time doing research,’’ she remembered.

Instead of working a summer job to make ends meet, it gave her the freedom to study the demographics of underserved patients during an externship at RSDM’s South Jersey Community Oriented Dental Education (CODE) clinics.

Cordero-Ricardo wanted to provide that same kind of experience for an RSDM student. She found the perfect opportunity with the Chancellor’s Scholarship Challenge, which doubles and triples gifts from alumni and faculty until December 31 of this year. As part of the challenge, she contributed to the RSDM Endowed Alumni Association Scholarship, one of the awards she received as an RSDM student.

“Any time I can help someone who might be struggling in whatever way I can, I want to make a difference. With the scholarship challenge, I decided to do it now, since it’s twice the impact,’’ she said. “I have a small child and young family, and expenses left and right. But it would have been a big loss. Just like having kid, it’s never a perfect time. You just have to do it. It changes the face of your alma mater.’’

Before RSDM, Cordero-Ricardo, whose father and brother are dentists, received a degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University but decided to pursue pediatric dentistry. It allows her to connect with others and have an immediate impact. “It’s one of the few specialties in dentistry where you can have so much hope. Nothing is not preventable,’’ contends Cordero-Ricardo, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at Temple University School of Dentistry. “So often, all children need is good preventive care. It’s that moment when you can start it all before problems begin.’’

Cordero-Ricardo credits RSDM with providing her a rich and varied clinical experience that instilled confidence. “I didn’t feel like I was just a dental student. The faculty expected we could do things. After I graduated, I felt like I had seen heard and experienced so many things dental students from other schools had to wait for.’’