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TV personality Oprah Winfrey has selected Dr. Amelie Ramirez of UT Health San Antonio as a “Cycle Breaker” for her groundbreaking work to build health equity in the Latino community.
Cycle Breakers is a video series from the Smithsonian Channel that spotlights leaders who are solving health disparities in marginalized communities.
Each Cycle Breaker is chosen by Oprah to augment her documentary, The Color of Care, which chronicles how people of color suffer from systemically substandard US healthcare and how COVID-19 exposed the tragic consequences of this inequity.
Ramirez’s episode, released Oct. 3, 2022, features her life’s work to break the cycles of inequities that worsen health for Latinos.
“Cycles are tough to break. Amelie Ramirez is the driving force behind an innovative health program that’s delivering real information & changing perspectives within the healthcare industry,” according to the Smithsonian Channel, which featured the episode on Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook.
Oprah lauded Ramirez for “sparking the change that we all wish to see in this world.”
“The work that you’re doing to make real change and help correct disparities in our healthcare system is invaluable,” Oprah said in a message for Dr. Ramirez. “I admire your mission and your purpose to do better … I hope you feel empowered now to continue on your path to helping communities take the right step, the right next step, to begin to make a difference.”
Dr. Ramirez & Her Healthy Equity Research
Ramirez is an internationally recognized health disparities researcher at UT Health San Antonio.
Here, she is professor and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. She also is associate director of cancer outreach and engagement at the Mays Cancer Center.
For more than 30 years, Ramirez gained experience developing research and communication models to improve Latino health locally and nationally.
She currently directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Salud America! national multimedia program to empower its vast network of over 500,000 community leaders to drive healthy policy and system changes to promote health equity and support for Latino families.
“Our mission is to inspire people to drive community change for health equity for Latino and all families,” Ramirez said.
Dr. Ramirez & Her Latino Cancer and Education Research
Ramirez also conducts breast cancer disparities research on quality of life and survivorship issues, and directs Quitxt, a bilingual tobacco-cessation service for young Latino adults using mobile-phone text messages, funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
One of her aims is to improve Latino participation in clinical trials.
Ramirez also leads the South Texas site of the Avanzando Caminos study. Avanzando Caminos 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.
Ramirez also has trained/mentored more than 250 Latinos in health fields.
She leads the National Cancer Institute-funded Éxito! training program to help master’s-level students and professionals pursue a doctoral degree and cancer research career. Of 226 Éxito! trainees since 2011, over 26% 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).
Additional recognition includes:
- 2011: White House Champion of Change
- 2014: APHA Everett M. Rogers Public Health Communication Award
- 2018: Icons in Healthcare Award from CentroMed
- 2018: Leadership of the 1st Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos conference
- 2019: Lifetime Achievement Award in Health Equity from the Society of Behavioral Medicine
- 2019: Bluebonnet Award of the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- 2020: Leadership of the 2nd Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos conference
- 2020: CDC Board of Directors
- 2021: Heroes of the Fight Against COVID-19 of Latino Leaders magazine
- 2021-2022: Chair of the the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
- 2022: Leadership of the 3rd Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos conference
- 2022: Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, Inc.
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.