Carina Dudas
Carina Dudas

Student Spotlight: UTSA Honors College graduate Carina Dudas will attend med school in homeland Romania, then return to United States

By Lynn Gosnell
Special Projects Writer

(June 2, 2009)--In the May 2009 commencement program, the superlative academic achievements of Carina Dudas were mentioned on two different pages.

In the UTSA College of Sciences, the biology major graduated summa cum laude, signifying the pinnacle of Latin honors. As a member of the Honors College, Dudas graduated with highest honors, an achievement denoted by her completion of an undergraduate honors thesis.

And, a few weeks before graduation, Dudas was named "Most Outstanding Student in the College of Sciences" at the annual University Life Awards.

Yet, these superlatives hint at only a small part of Dudas' identity, which has been shaped by her immigrant history, her faith and her experiences as a UTSA pre-med student.

"When I was seven, my family and I were miraculously given visas to come to the United States from Romania," wrote Dudas in her personal statement for her medical school application. Her family first landed in Sacramento. What followed for the elementary school student were struggles to learn English and an immigrant's determination to excel in school.

In 2004, the Dudas family relocated from Sacramento, Calif., to Boerne, where Dudas finished high school. At UTSA, she enrolled in the Honors College and began pursuing her degree in biology with a minor in psychology. (Dudas now has a brother attending UTSA as well.)

She credits Thomas Forsthuber, professor of immunology in the biology department, for some of the best pre-professional classes she has had at UTSA.

"In the advanced clinical medicine class, we had case studies of patients. We had to try and figure out what disease they had, and then present our study to the class. It's how real medical school is, and I loved it," she said.

Dudas's pre-professional experience also included shadowing two different medical practitioners: a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and a pediatric anesthesiologist. Both experiences were formative, and cemented her determination to work with children in her own future medical practice.

For her honor's thesis, Dudas worked with Clyde Phelix, associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, on research that mapped genes in the hippocampus of a mouse. "We were looking for links to the mechanism of Alzheimer's in humans," she said.

Outside of school, Dudas has maintained cultural and linguistic ties to her home country by being an active member of the local Romanian Baptist Church. She also has volunteered on medical mission trips to Romania, and next month she will move back to Romania to attend medical school.

And, she has yet another milestone coming up. On June 13, Dudas will celebrate with family and friends her marriage to Beniamin Petricau in Romania. The young couple will make their home in Oradea, a small historic city located near the Hungarian border.

"After medical school, I hope to return to the U.S. to complete a residency in pediatric cardiology," Dudas said.

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