Six Latina UA Students Receive Scholarships for Commitment to Serving Latino Communities

Six Latina students at The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health have received scholarships in recognition of their commitment and professional goals to serve Latino populations.
Six Latina students at The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health have received scholarships in recognition of their commitment and professional goals to serve Latino populations.

The scholarship recipients include master of public health (MPH) students Rebeca A. Arias, Melisa P. Celaya, Charlene Y. Clements, Irene A. Gutierrez, Francisca M. Hernández, and Monica Vasquez. Nationally, the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health has among the highest percentages of Hispanic and American Indian graduates and students enrolled, according to the Association of Schools of Public Health. The Hispanic Women's Corporation and Canyon Ranch partnered to provide scholarship money to Latina students in the field of public health. Applicants were evaluated on academic qualifications; demonstrated leadership in, and awareness of, Latino communities; fluency in Spanish; and English, financial need, among other criteria. Each recipient received either $4,000 or $2,000.

Arias plans to become a physician to improve the health disparities that affect Hispanic and other minority populations. When she worked on a clinical research project at the University of California, San Diego, she realized the importance of being sensitive to patients' cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In addition to working as a research specialist at the UA's Department of Pediatrics, Arias also has worked as a Spanish interpreter at La Clínica del Florido in Tijuana, Mexico, and at Clínica Amistad in South Tucson. She received a bachelor's degree in physiology and neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, in 2003. She is in the MD/MPH dual-degree program at the UA College of Medicine and the Zuckerman College of Public Health. Her long-term goal is to develop culturally competent health-promotion and disease-prevention programs for underserved populations.

Celaya's interest in public health stemmed from her own diagnosis with cervical cancer a few years ago -- while her best friend also received the same diagnosis. Celaya's cancer was caught early, but her friend died, which urged Celaya to determine why there was such a difference in their prognoses. Celaya created a foundation, Kimmie's Joy, to better educate women, especially the Latina population, on cervical cancer. Celaya received a master's degree in education, language, reading and culture at the UA in 2003, and she is a doctoral student in epidemiology. After completing her degree, she plans to work in the field of asthma (she currently is coordinating pediatric asthma clinical trials at the Arizona Respiratory Center). Celaya has received the Latina Student Scholarship for the second consecutive year.

Clements, who is from the small mining town of San Manuel in Southern Arizona, is interested in making a "community connection." As an MPH student with a concentration in family and child health, Clements hopes the program will enable her to address the specific needs of rural communities and improve the lives of Hispanic families affected by drugs. She has worked in the UA College of Medicine's Office of Minority Affairs and has served two years as a health careers ambassador, working jointly with the Arizona Area Health Education Centers. She received a bachelor's degree in physiology at the UA in 2006. After receiving her master's degree, she hopes to develop youth-oriented programs aimed at health.

As a volunteer at Carondelet Hospice, Gutierrez's experiences renewed her compassion for human life and reinforced her desire to participate in the healing process. Having worked on her family's farm in Southeastern Arizona, Gutierrez has experienced the uncertainties, challenges and hard work familiar to a physician. She also has worked at Nuestra Comunidad, Nuestra Salud (Our Community, Our Health) interdisciplinary rural health training project, where she has participated in training health professions students. She also has worked on clinical studies at the Arizona Respiratory Center. Gutierrez received a bachelor's degree in mathematics at the UA in 2001. She is in the MD/MPH Program at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Hernández received a bachelor's degree in elementary education at the UA in 2000, and she is an MPH student in the maternal and child health concentration. With her combined background in teaching and the health field, Hernandez hopes to work with minorities, especially Hispanic and Native American youth. Hernandez, who is of Yaqui and Mexican descent, also plans to work with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Vasquez believes two crucial steps are involved in serving any population - first, provide resources available to them in health care and basic needs. Second, provide the steps and available resources to obtain an education, which could open doors to many career and life opportunities. Vasquez received a bachelor's degree in mathematics, with a minor in molecular and cellular biology, in 2003, and a master's degree in education in May 2004 from the UA. She has taught math at a South Tucson high school and, as an MPH student, her focus remains on youth. She is working as a research technician at the Arizona Respiratory Center. Her work involves pediatric asthma studies serving a large Latino population. She also recruits families to participate in studies that seek to better understand asthma in children and provide asthma education and medication to better control their asthma symptoms. She hopes to pursue a PhD in biostatistics and become a biostatistician at the doctorate level after receiving an MPH in biostatistics.

 


Established by the Arizona Board of Regents in January 2000, The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is the only accredited college of public health in the 12-state Mountain/Pacific region. The UA Zuckerman College of Public Health's mission is to promote the health of individuals and communities with a special emphasis on diverse populations and the Southwest.