Erika Bonilla: Working to Help Latino Families Thrive


BonillaErika Exito 2018 participant
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Like the beautiful photo of Erika Bonilla’s tia and father that serve as a reminder of her El Salvadorean roots, Bonilla is on a mission to see Latino families thrive.

Bonilla holds bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s of public health degree from California State University, Long Beach.

Bonilla is a Research Associate at the CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training. Her research focus includes: maternal and child health, adolescent health, women’s health, cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS prevention, childhood obesity prevention, community-based participatory research, education, and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students of multiple disciplines in health science and human services majors.

Having already gained valuable experience by working to promote breastfeeding among Latinas, she has witnessed firsthand the importance of helping children have a healthy start.

To further her experience and education, Bonilla applied for the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program.

The Éxito! program, led by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez at UT Health San Antonio with support from the National Cancer Institute, recruits 25 master’s-level students and professionals each year for a five-day summer institute and optional internships to promote doctoral degrees and careers in Latino cancer. A recent study found significant increases in summer institute participants’ confidence to apply to a doctoral program and academic self-efficacy.

“I really appreciate all the information that was provided during the [Éxito! summer] institute, it allowed me to see that I can apply for a doctoral program. I also felt I gained more family and a greater support network in the staff and participants,” Bonilla said. “Éxito! has truly been an empowering experience and have gained an extended family and network.”

She had some advice for those thinking of applying to the program.

“If a doctoral program has crossed your mind, but you are unsure, apply! If you know you are applying to a doctoral program, apply! Éxito! has given me to skills to know that I can and will be admitted into a doctoral program.”

Editor’s Note: This is the story of a graduate of the 2018 Èxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program at UT Health San Antonio, the headquarters of the Salud America! program. Apply now for Èxito! 2019.

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of Latino kids suffer four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACES).

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