Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez Gives Commencement Speech at UTRGV School of Medicine


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Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, a native of Laredo, Texas, and leader of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio, delivered the keynote address at the 2024 Commencement of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) School of Medicine.

Ramirez is an internationally recognized researcher in cancer and chronic disease health disparities among Latinos.

At UT Health San Antonio, she is chair and professor of Population Health Sciences at UT Health San Antonio, where she also is founding director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research and associate director of community outreach and engagement at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio.

Over the past 30 years, Ramirez has led over 100 studies and programs to reduce health disparities, improve health equity, and increase participation in cancer screening and clinical trials.

The UTRGV School of Medicine commencement ceremony was May 4, 2024, at the UTRGV Performing Arts Center in Edinburg, Texas.

This is the school’s fifth group of medical graduates.

“Students, I encourage you to come back, to remember your whole community, the one that shaped you. Like me, you may fall in love with it and find it your life’s work,” Ramirez said in her remarks.

“Looking back over the years, I still love coming to work every day. I still love the ways we are reaching the underserved, saving lives and changing communities. That is the journey you all get to be on; that is the fight you all get to join. You have life-saving knowledge, and the skills to make a difference.”

Watch a recap of commencement.

Dr. Ramirez & Her Healthy Equity Research

For more than 30 years, Ramirez gained experience developing research and communication models to improve Latino health locally and nationally.

Dr. Amelie Ramirez san antonio women's hall of fame
Dr. Amelie Ramirez of UT Health San Antonio

She currently directs the Salud America! national multimedia program to empower its vast network of over 500,000 community and school leaders to drive healthy policy and system changes to promote health equity and support for Latino families.

Ramirez also leads the Avanzando Equidad de Salud: Latino Cancer Health Equity Research Center at UT Health San Antonio.

This center, with support from the American Cancer Society, aims to reduce health disparities across South Texas. The center uses community-engaged research, training, patient assessment, and advocacy to address social determinants of health (SDoH) that deter Latinos from equitable access to cancer care, prevention, early detection, and treatment, and improve patients’ cancer outcomes, survivorship, and quality of life.

“Our mission is to inspire people to drive change for health equity for Latino and all families,” Ramirez said.

Dr. Ramirez & Her Latino Cancer and Education Research

Ramirez conducts research and interventions to reduce Latino cancer disparities.

She aims to reduce lung cancer with Quitxt. This bilingual text-message service helps Latino young adults quit smoking, funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

On the topic of breast cancer, Ramirez is a Susan G. Komen Scholar. Her work has helped increase Latino cancer screening rates and early detection. She has proven how bicultural patient navigation can help Latina patients get more timely diagnosis and treatment after an abnormal mammogram and improve the survivorship journey.

She leads a team — including Drs. Daniel Carlos Hughes and Patricia Chalela at UT Health San Antonio — that is conducting a holistic intervention to improve Latina breast cancer survivors’ physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, thanks to a grant from Susan G. Komen. This project is based on pilot work in holistic care.

Ramirez also leads the South Texas site of the Avanzando Caminos study. The study aims to enroll 1,500 Latino cancer survivors in South Texas and 1,500 more in Miami to help unpack the social, cultural, behavioral, mental, biological, and medical influences on post-cancer life.

Another of her efforts is to improve Latino participation in clinical trials.

Ramirez is enabling Latinos to volunteer for cancer and Alzheimer’s clinical trials. She is highlighting open clinical trials, conducting webinars, and sharing stories of real Latino clinical trial participants. This work is supported by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

Ramirez also has trained/mentored more than 250 Latinos in health fields.

She leads the National Cancer Institute-funded Éxito! training program. This helps master’s-level students and professionals pursue a doctoral degree and cancer research career. Of 226 Éxito! trainees since 2011, over 27% have enrolled in or graduated from a doctoral program.

“We work hard to enable Latinos take the next steps from a master’s degree to get their doctoral degree and focus on careers in Latino cancer research and prevention,” Ramirez said.

Dr. Ramirez & Her Service, Recognition

Ramirez is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.

She also is a Susan G. Komen Scholar, is on the prize jury for the Fries Prize for Improving Health Award and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, and is a past member of the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

In Texas, she is on the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council and is Past Board President of the The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

amelie ramirez health equity in 2014
Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez

Additional recognition includes:

Ramirez also created the Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos biennial conference series.

Launched in 2018 and continued in 2020, 2022, and 2024, the conference welcomes international researchers, physicians, community leaders, patient advocates, and more to tackle Latino cancer from prevention to treatment to survivorship.

Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos is a sanctuary where we can share research, experience, and action to translate basic research into clinical best practices, effective community interventions, and professional training programs to eliminate cancer disparities in Latinos,” Ramirez said.

In 2022, TV personality Oprah Winfrey selected Ramirez as a “Cycle Breaker” for her groundbreaking work to build health equity in the Latino community. Watch the episode featuring Ramirez!

Ramirez earned M.P.H. and Dr.P.H. degrees from UT Health Science Center at the Houston School of Public Health.

She is a native of Laredo, Texas.


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