Three RSDM Students Receive National Health Services Corps Scholarship

Vanessa Bustos ’26, Anna Aquine Kujaruk ’24, and Fabiola Cuba ’24 have been awarded the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Scholarship.

The NHSC Scholarship Program provides financial support in exchange for practicing in communities with limited access to care after awardees obtain their degrees and licenses. Approximately 10 percent of the applications receive this competitive scholarship, according to NHSC’s website.

Perfect Match

Coming across the scholarship on a Facebook group, Vanessa Bustos ’26 began to dig deeper. The more she learned, the more she realized how it aligned with her plans after dental school.

Photo of Vanessa Bustos ’26 Vanessa Bustos

“It was a perfect fit for me,” said Bustos, a native of Virginia and a first-year student in the traditional DMD program. “There are other scholarships, but I felt like this was the only one that was like, ‘yes, this is exactly what I want to do afterward.’”

Bustos graduated with public health degree from the University of Virginia, where she did a capstone project on dental caries and education of the Latino community. After graduating, she worked in a pediatric dental office as a dental assistant. As an undergraduate and dental assistant, she noticed how important it was to communicate basic yet preventative information to patients.

“When I was reading through National Health Service Corps’ mission statement, it was about helping the community, being part of the community, and also being educators and advocates for your patients,” she said. That resonated with the aspiring dentist.

Another reason that drew her to the program was her own family’s experiences. “My parents are from Colombia, and the health care system in the United States is kind of difficult when you're not fluent in English,” she said. “We need diversity in health care and if I could be that one person that's there for someone like my parents, I would love to be that person.”

Feeling Blessed

“When we received the award, it was a surprise. We were crying. We were so happy,” said Anna Aquine Kujaruk ’24. “We both have children; everything is so hard for us, and this kind of news was like God’s blessing—keep on studying, going forward.”

Photo of Anna Aquine Kujaruk Anna Aquine Kujaruk

A native of Cuba, Aquine Kujaruk received her doctor of stomatology degree with a “Gold Stamp,” the highest academic award for university students, in her home country. Following that, she went to Venezuela for a dental medical mission. But something unexpected happened there. Besides delivering care, she was asked to collect information on patients’ political views. Refusing to do this, she came to the US as a political refugee.

“When I came here, Cuba stripped me of all my documents. My dental degree and everything.” It took years for her to get her papers. When she finally did, she decided to relaunch her career in America. She made a Facebook post during the pandemic, looking for a study buddy for the boards. Fabiola Cuba ’24 messaged.

Photo of Fabiola Cuba Valencia Fabiola Cuba

Cuba followed in her mother’s footsteps and received her DDS as well as a master’s in pediatric dentistry and stomatology in her native Peru. But love brought her to the US. My whole life changed,” she said. “It was a hard decision because I left everything… My degree, my specialty—the world that I love. I was in one of the main hospitals in Peru.”

Teaming up, Cuba and Aquine Kujaruk first passed the boards, then applied to RSDM for its internationally educated DMD program. Here, they found a supportive community, including Associate Dean for Admissions Rosa Chaviano-Moran.She is a person who gave us the opportunity to follow our dreams and to earn a dental degree here,” said Cuba.

This scholarship brought the duo closer to their dreams.

It will not only be a financial relief but also allow them to work with underserved populations, which they love serving and have worked closely with in their homelands. The program will also open a new door to postgraduate training, as it allows further studies in pediatric dentistry as well as in general practice, geriatrics, and public health.

“I'm thinking if I want to study pediatric dentistry again,” said Cuba. “I [now] have the possibility.”

In Aquine Kujaruk's case, she can cultivate her interest in dental public health and dental rehabilitation, which sprouted during her RSDM career. “I’m going to be in the middle of a public health system,” she said. “It'll be a great experience.”