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Dr. Mirella Díaz-Santos: Fighting Alzheimer’s in the Latino Community


Dr. Mirella Díaz-Santos: Fighting Alzheimer’s in the Latino Community

Dr. Mirella Díaz-Santos has a personal fight to end Alzheimer’s Disease. Her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Díaz-Santos was in school. “I needed to know more about how this ‘disease’ can change someone who you love so much. How can it change it completely?” Díaz-Santos said. Díaz-Santos is an assistant professor in residence at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in the department of neurology and psychiatry. She’s also the director of research of the Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and is involved with the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s within the Latino community. Although she’s experienced bias and discrimination ...

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Maria Maldonado: Why This Latina Mom Chose to Vaccinate Her 9-Year-Old Son


Maria Maldonado: Why This Latina Mom Chose to Vaccinate Her 9-Year-Old Son

Maria Maldonado knows what it’s like to experience the tragedy of COVID-19. She lost five family members to the virus in the past year, including her mother. “It was just a tidal wave. And it was just very hard for us to go through something so tragic, back to back. It was a very difficult time,” Maldonado said. When the vaccine became available for adults, Maldonado couldn’t wait to get one. “I was not hesitant at all. Why? Because I trust science. They developed it fast, but they still took the protocols and the safety measures that they had to take,” Maldonado said. Once the vaccine was available for children ages 5 to 11, Maldonado got her 9-year-old son Jacob vaccinated. She hopes that other Latino parents will vaccinate their children and help protect ...

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Donají Stelzig: How Éxito! Helped Me Build My Network


Donají Stelzig: How Éxito! Helped Me Build My Network

Like many Latino students, Donají Stelzig was unsure if she should pursue a PhD. She was intimated by the barriers and didn’t think she was capable of doing it, especially since she already had a full-time job and family. But after attending the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training at UT Health San Antonio, the researchers and scholars she met encouraged her to apply and followed up with her even when she was doubtful. Now, Stelzig has a doctoral degree and is a visiting assistant professor and lecturer at the University of Houston, where she also directs the Community Health Worker Training Center at the Honors College. She’s grateful for the Éxito! experience and how it helped her build a network to succeed throughout her career. Learning About ...

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Dr. Philip Ponce: Increasing Access to HIV Treatment for LGBTQ Latinos


Dr. Philip Ponce: Increasing Access to HIV Treatment for LGBTQ Latinos

Growing up as a gay, Latino man in the 1990s, Dr. Philip Ponce saw the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS. It pushed him to a medical career. “A lot of people in my community were dying of AIDS. I knew I wanted to work with other gay men, and I knew I wanted to take care of people with HIV,” Dr. Ponce said. Dr. Ponce is the Medical Director at Kind Clinic San Antonio, a clinic that provides sexual health services such as HIV testing and treatment, STI testing and treatment, access to HIV prevention medication known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and gender-affirming care. He’s also an assistant professor of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio and director of transplant infectious diseases at the University Transplant ...

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Jeraldine Ortiz: Finding Life Through a Breast Cancer Clinical Trial


Jeraldine Ortiz Breast Cancer Survivor Clinical Trial featured

Jeraldine Ortiz knows that breast cancer is tough for Latinas. Breast cancer is the top cause of Latina death. This stems from cultural barriers to care, low screening rates, and low participation in clinical trials studies trying to find better treatments. This is why Ortiz, when diagnosed with breast cancer, volunteered for a clinical trial. Today, after more than 15 years as a cancer survivor, Ortiz said she strongly believes her participation in a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio helped her get better treatment and better quality of life in her post-cancer journey. “Clinical trials give the opportunity to better treatment for all populations," Ortiz said. "We have a better future." Ortiz Chooses a Breast Cancer Clinical Trial In 2006, Ortiz was diagnosed with ...

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Melawhy Garcia: Éxito! Connected Me to Other Latino Professionals


melawhy garcia exito latino cancer research leadership training

Dr. Melawhy Garcia wanted to elevate her work to improve health among Latinos in California by applying for PhD programs, but she wasn’t sure about it. She wanted to hear from experienced faculty and scholars about what the process would be like. That’s why she attended the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training at UT Health San Antonio. “I actually knew some of the faculty presenting at [Éxito!], so I definitely wanted to hear from them and see what their journey was like going through a PhD program,” Garcia said. Éxito! helped Garcia apply to PhD programs and get accepted to a joint Doctoral Program in Public Health from the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University. Now, Garcia is an assistant professor in the Department of ...

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Alma Lopez: Better Health Through a Breast Cancer Clinical Trial


Alma Lopez-breast-cancer-clinical-trial

Breast cancer is the top cause of death for Latinas. But Alma Lopez has been a breast cancer survivor for more than 15 years. She believes participating in a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio helped her get better treatment and better long-term health in her survivorship journey. “Clinical trials are great for finding new treatments that help people,” Lopez said. “And it helps the scientists. It gives opportunity to better medication for all populations. It builds a better future.” Lopez Chooses a Breast Cancer Clinical Trial About 15 years ago, Lopez was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lopez began weighing her treatment options. At first, she had doubts about whether to volunteer for a clinical trial. She thought it might take too much time, or cause ...

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Natalicio Serrano: What Éxito! Taught Me About Latino Representation in Academia


Natalicio Serrano: What Éxito! Taught Me About Latino Representation in Academia

Natalicio Serrano wasn’t sure he wanted to get a PhD. He knew the journey would be difficult, especially as a Latino going into a field with little representation. However, the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training at UT Health San Antonio changed that. “For me, Éxito! painted a clearer picture of what I could do with a PhD. It gave me the energy to want to apply and continue on with this academic journey,” Serrano said. Participating in Éxito! motivated Serrano to apply and get accepted to a PhD program in Public Health with the Prevention Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Serrano is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Cancer Education and Career Development program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on ...

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Dr. Martha Bernal: The First Latina with a PhD in Psychology


Dr. Martha Bernal: The First Latina with a PhD in Psychology

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor Dr. Martha Bernal, the first Latina to receive a PhD in psychology in the U.S. Bernal contributed greatly to the field of ethnic minority psychology and inspired many generations to follow her. “Dr. Martha Bernal demonstrated outstanding initiative and dedication to promoting the presence of ethnic minority psychologists in the profession. She provided guidance and inspiration to a wide range and large number of psychologists of color, men and women,” according to Society for the Psychology of Women. In addition to her contributions to the field, Bernal was a fierce advocate for justice and equity. “She was passionate about her ideas, she spoke out effectively against injustice, she maintained high standards of scholarship ...

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