UA Health Sciences Convocations 2017: Meet Some of the Graduates

UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Class of 2017:

Tabarik Al-Abbadi, Ken Zurcher, Akua Minta

Media contact: April Fischer, 602-827-2595, aprilfischer@email.arizona.edu

Inspirational 2017 UA College of Medicine – Phoenix graduates include Tabarik Al-Abbadi, who will pursue a residency in internal medicine at Maricopa Medical Center; Ken Zurcher, who will pursue a preliminary residency in general surgery at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix followed by a residency in diagnostic radiology at the Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education; and Akua Minta, who will pursue a residency in family medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix).

Their profiles are available on the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix website at http://phoenixmed.arizona.edu/currentstudents/milestones/matchday under “2017 MATCH DAY PROFILES.”

UA College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2017:

Tom Lotina

Media contact: UA Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs, 520-626-7301, public@email.arizona.edu

Like most medical students, Tom Lotina, 52, entered medical school with his eyes wide open.

But first he worked for 15 years as an acupuncturist and yoga teacher, always keeping in mind his goal of becoming a physician.

At 48, he enrolled in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2017 to fulfill this mission and never looked back.

It was toward the end of his third year that he realized family medicine was the best fit for him. He found out on Match Day, March 17, where his dream of becoming a physician will take him for his residency training in family medicine.

He matched with the University of Florida in Gainesville for his three-year residency that will begin in July. Lotina’s top choices were the UF and UA family medicine residency programs, but he and his wife, Debbie, were hoping most of all for Gainesville.

“Debbie's family is in Florida,” Lotina said, “and that means she will have lots of support while I work all those long hours. I'll have five weeks of night rotation my first year.”

"I just want to focus now on becoming a really good doctor, in the clinic, in the inpatient setting and in the ER."

UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Physiology:

Albert Alan (Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree with a major in physiology)

Media contact: UA Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs, 520-626-7301, public@email.arizona.edu

Before college, Albert Alan was homeless for three years, living on the street and suffering from illnesses exacerbated by his lack of health insurance.

Yet, Alan will receive three undergraduate degrees from the UA in May. At the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Physiology convocation on May 12, he’ll receive a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree with a major in physiology. He also will graduate from the UA with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and cognitive science and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology.

Rather than allow homelessness to shame or silence him, Alan has become a voice for the broken and the historically marginalized.

“I promised myself I would work to illuminate the struggles of street life because many of the homeless people I know do not have the opportunity to share their stories,” Alan said. “By doing exactly this I overcame the struggles and pain of being homeless which made me a fighter and a survivor.”

As a transient student with few resources, Alan started a pro-bono tutoring service which helped more than 500 underserved STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students like himself to learn challenging concepts and study skills.

Today, Alan serves Tucson’s underserved populations by volunteering weekly with POWWOW (Produce On Wheels Without Waste) to deliver 2,250 pounds of fresh produce to homeless shelters, to date raising more than $50,000 to support and expand this vital food distribution program, and by spending time at shelters educating people about diabetes and other chronic diseases that often go untreated in the homeless.

Alan’s compassion for the underserved is matched only by his passion for medicine. In 2014, he joined the UA Graduate College’s Minority Health Disparities Research summer program, working with professor and UA Cancer Center researcher Kirsten Limesand, PhD, in studying the effects of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer on the salivary glands. He also worked in the lab of Dawn Coletta, PhD, UA associate professor of physiology and endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, studying the molecular basis, genetics and epigenetics of insulin resistance. In preparation for medical school, Alan completed EMT (emergency medical technician) training in summer 2016.

As an undergraduate, Alan consistently made the Dean’s list with ‘Highest Academic Distinction.’ He has received several awards and scholarships, including a UA Graduate Access Fellowship, Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway (P-MAP) Program scholarship, Lauper Scholarship, Wayland Education Foundation Scholarship, Winterhoff Scholarship, Fred & Vera H. Starbuck Scholarship, and the UA College of Science’s Glen W., Vanice, & Keith G. Reid Scholarship.

At the UA convocation, Alan’s accomplishments will be recognized with the Robert Logan Nugent Award (presented to UA students whose accomplishments exemplify the high ideals of Robert Logan Nugent, the UA's executive vice president at his death in June 1963, such as active and enthusiastic participation and service in community and University endeavors) and the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Tenacity Award (presented to a graduating senior who has persevered in the face of significant adverse circumstances to earn a degree).

On May 15, Alan will begin the UA College of Medicine – Tucson’s P-MAP Program. He’ll be one of 12 students selected to attend the 12-month graduate program for Arizona residents who have experienced greater than average challenges in preparing to become competitive medical school applicants. The program includes a Master of Science in cellular and molecular medicine and conditional admission to the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

“Now I speak from the position of the historically marginalized,” Alan noted. “This will help me let my brothers and sisters in the streets, shelters and beyond know that there is a way out! That you can change this world, that your story can become a part of the larger American story.”

UA College of Nursing Class of 2017:

Milena Angelica Carrera (Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Honors student)

Media contact: Jason Gelt, 520-626-2742, jasongelt@email.arizona.edu

Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., Milena Angelica Carrera always knew she had a knack for science. As a high school student, she wondered if it might be possible to pair that interest with her passion for philanthropy. That was when the idea of a career in nursing first came to her, but it wasn’t until she took a Medical Brigade trip to Honduras that she figured out that it was her true calling.

As she helped set up clinics in rural Honduran communities and assisted triage doctor and dental teams, she realized just how passionate she was about medicine and helping people. After returning to the United States, she set her sights on a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Both Carrera’s academic life and extracurricular life have been busy. She is vice president of Student Nurses at the University of Arizona (SNUA), serves as a student representative for the Curriculum and Instructional Support Sub-Committee – Entry and Professional Advancement (CISC-EPA), and is active in the Student Health Advocacy Committee (SHAC).

As a BSN honors student, Carrera has proved herself to be adept at the rigors of research. With the support and guidance of her faculty mentor, Clinical Assistant Professor Connie S. Miller, DNP, RNC-OB, CNE, CCCE, she developed her thesis, “Nonpharmacological Pain Interventions for NICU Infants: Educational Pamphlet Proposal.

Carrera has nothing but positive things to say about her academic experience at the UA College of Nursing. “I’m getting one of the best educations that I possibly could and I’m becoming one of the best nurses I could ever be because of the wonderful professors and courses that are offered here,” she said. “There are people who have done great things for this field working at this college, so I feel lucky to get an education from a community that’s so highly thought of throughout the rest of the country. I feel I’m going to be a good nurse because I know I’m surrounded by a group of people who are so knowledgeable about this field.”

As for the future, Carrera is applying for nursing jobs all around the country, with a focus on intensive care unit (ICU) and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)-related positions.

UA Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs and UA College of Medicine – Tucson Biomedical Sciences:

Jesse Trujillo (Navajo), PhD in Cancer Biology

Media contact: Jean Spinelli, 520-626-2531, jspinell@email.arizona.edu

Jesse Trujillo of the Navajo Nation, the First American Indian Graduate of the Cancer Biology GIDP

Trujillo shares his commitment to education, family, faith, volunteerism and his goal to understand and conquer pancreatic cancer through the following personal account.

Ya’at’eeh. Shi ei Jesse Trujillo yinishyé. Tótsohnii nishłi, Naaneesht' ézhi Tábąąhá bashishchiin, Tábąąhá dashicheii, Naakai dashinalí. Tó Naneesdizí déé’ naashá.

(Hello, my name is Jesse Trujillo. I am Big Water, born for Water’s Edge. My maternal grandfather is Zuni Water and my paternal grandfather is Spanish. I am from Tuba City, Ariz.)

Shi’ma doo shizhe’e ei Marlinda and Roger Trujillo.

(My mother and father are Marlinda and Roger Trujillo).

My mother, who is full Navajo, was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation in a small town called Ganado, Ariz. My father, who is half Navajo and half Spanish, was raised in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Chinle, Ariz. My mother began working in Tucson in the mid-1980s and my father moved to Tucson after serving in the U.S. Army. It is there where they met before moving back to the Navajo Reservation.

I was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation. I was born in Tuba City, where I lived most of my life. I am the oldest of four and have three younger sisters, Neenah, Tammy and Kimberly.

First, I will share with you the “CliffsNotes” of my educational career and describe how I was able to get where I am today.

In high school, I was the first in my family, even the first of my cousins, to become valedictorian. I did well enough in high school that I was able to secure many scholarships, and even a Navajo Nation Scholar Athlete Award. Out of everything I earned, I am most proud of that one. I was able to obtain the prestigious Chief Manuelito Scholarship and the Gates Millennium Fellowship, both of which paved the way for me to attend Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.

At NAU, I gained a love for science and earned my Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology. During my junior year, I became a member of the Blue Key Honor Society, a community service organization. The combination of community service and academic performance led me to receive the prestigious Gold Axe Award, given to students who make contributions to the university through academic performance, service, leadership and participation in activities. I also began working for the Translational Genomics Research Institute at TGen North in Flagstaff. My love for science and knowledge led me to graduate school and my doctorate in cancer biology that I received from the UA in fall 2016.

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get into how all this education really came about, starting with my parents.

There is one particular moment from my final semester at NAU that is burned in my memory and will stay there for the rest of my life. As my mom was helping me move into my apartment, she stopped me, looked me in the eye and said, “You know you’re not done yet right? You know this is not where your education ends.” I responded with a simple “I know.” At the time, I knew I was not finished with my education. However, it wasn’t until years later that I understood what my mother really meant.

You see, my mother didn’t grow up with much. She was raised by a single parent, my grandmother Bessie Blacksheep, on the Navajo Reservation in a small house with seven brothers and sisters.  When I say that she didn’t have much, I mean she had enough to get by until she was able to move out on her own. When my mother met my father, she didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. In fact, she didn’t receive a bachelor’s degree until my freshman year as an undergrad in fall 2007. My mother worked hard to get that degree, but didn’t do it until she knew that her kids could take care of themselves. While my mother went back to school, my father worked long hours for the local school district. A lot of hard work fell on my shoulders. I had to grow up fast during the last two years of high school. There was very little time to hang out with friends and do what I wanted. I was studying, playing football, leading the National Honor Society as president, doing community service, taking care of my sisters, doing everything I could to be the best son and brother I could.

My mother did the best she could to raise me and I believe she did a fine job. To this day, I instill her teachings into my life. I am up before the sun peaks over the horizon. I am running every morning to keep up with faith and good health. I am doing everything I can to keep my parents, my grandparents and my ancestors proud.

Now back to the moment my mother told me I was not done with my education. She only wanted the best for me. She wanted me to accomplish something that neither she, nor anybody else in my family (cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.) had ever been able to. She knew that I was meant for something better and meant to become somebody who will make her, and the Navajo people, proud.

A lot of life lessons were taught by my father, because he constantly was around. He was at home, at my school and on the football field. In fact, I think that it is because of my father that I am able to survive as a minority in this harsh reality of a world. He taught me that the world owes me nothing and that respect is earned, not given. Growing up, my dad raised me as an “old school” father. Sure, I was spanked. Sure, I received an “ass-whoopin” whenever I acted up. I even got yelled at for receiving B’s in high school or missing a block on the football field. It wasn’t a great feeling being yelled at on both sides of my helmet by the head football coach and my dad, who was the assistant football coach. However, this only made me strive to be great. It only made me realize that I should not settle for being average and that I can always be better. I grew up to respect my dad and I still do. I didn’t grow up resenting him. He raised me to be a respectable young adult who treats people with compassion and humility. A lot of what I learned from my dad, in my opinion, is lost in today’s teachings.

In June 2010, my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I watched for six months as cancer slowly ate away at my grandmother. I watched as cancer stole every last bit of energy and strength she had until her dying breath. It was at this point that I realized what this disease could do to a person. Although the cancer was there, that didn’t stop my grandma from laughing or smiling. She was going through hell as chemotherapy flowed through her and as secondary infections began to take hold. Yet, in those moments, I saw strength that I had never seen before in my life.

This was the first time somebody so close to me was taken by cancer. I don’t think I ever cried so much in my life as that day she was buried, all while “Amazing Grace” was strummed on a guitar in the background. All that was left were the memories and her voice calling me “shi yazhi,” meaning “my son” in Navajo. As a Christian, I believe that my grandmother’s time on earth was done, and that she was called to be with the angels. I believe that I will see her again, but that doesn’t stop me from shedding a tear every now and again.

There are times when you may be undecided about what to do with your life. Then there are life events that decide what you are meant to do. The death of my grandmother helped me make that decision. I found my home at the UA in the Cancer Biology Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in fall 2011. I continued at the UA as a Cancer Biology Training Grant Fellow, a Gates Millennium Scholar and a Sloan Fellow. I joined the lab of Dr. Jesse Martinez and began my research into colorectal cancer. Over the past five years, I spent countless hours doing my best to chip away a small piece of understanding the mechanism of what drives pancreatic cancer.

There were many times during graduate school that I felt like quitting. Grad school, as I have mentioned many times to many people, is something that will drag you down and, unless you are able to get back up, will keep you there. It also isn’t just graduate school. I think of life stress as gasoline and graduate school as the match. I am grateful that I had the support system that I did. I would not have been able to make it through graduate school without the help of my friends and family.

There will be moments when you feel that you’ve had enough. The first time I wanted to quit, I talked with the graduate coordinator, Anne Cione. Anne is like a mother to all students so when I first mentioned to her that I wanted to take my Master’s degree and run, I began to question whether I was making the right decision. I’ll never forget talking with Anne. Just like a mother, she saw I wasn’t happy and she only wanted the best for me. I laugh about it to this day, but Anne never did provide the forms I needed to quit.

Next, I remember having the talk with my PI (principal investigator) Dr. Martinez. I remember sitting in his office one morning wanting out. I remember having my head filled with shattering disappointment, not just to the program, but to my family as well. This would have been the first time that I quit anything in my life. But this is what graduate school does. Graduate school eventually takes so much out of you that it becomes difficult to continue. Anyway, as I sat in Dr. Martinez’s office, he basically told me that quitting would not be an option. He told me that I have a lot to offer to the Navajo people. I was meant to become a leader for the Native American people. He was right.

In October 2016, I became the first Navajo to earn a PhD in Cancer Biology. I gave my final oral dissertation defense on the research I worked so hard on for many years, while my friends and family sat in the audience. It was such a surreal feeling. After meeting with my committee, Dr. Martinez walked out of Kiewit Auditorium, shook my hand and said, “Congratulations Dr. Trujillo.” It’s a title that I have to get used to, but for my mother, that’s how she will introduce me for the rest of my life.

With the help of my former PI, I was able to land a post-doctoral fellowship with the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the UA Cancer Center, with a specific interest in health disparities. Although I still am at the UA, I finally am able to do something that I love. I am taking my PhD and helping Native Americans.

Today, not only am I a post-doctoral researcher, but I also volunteer quite a bit of my free time with the Make-a-Wish Foundation as a “wish granter.” My job is to travel to the homes of “wish kids” and determine what their one true wish really is. There is no experience quite like it. You begin to notice that these kids aren’t focused on their disease. You have a kid whose only main concern is just being a kid. I have been involved on many wishes and I am thankful to be a part of these kids’ lives. I love being that ghost in the background that helps make their wish happen.

There was one instance in summer 2016 when I traveled back home to the Navajo Reservation to meet with Cori, a little girl whose disease confined her to a wheelchair. Her wish had just been granted. In fact, she and her family would be on their way to Orlando, Fla., the following day. What was her wish? All she ever had wanted was to go to Disney World. You may be thinking, why do kids always want to go to Disney World when they could have anything they want? Well, that’s just the thing…..these are kids. They grew up watching Disney movies and loving the characters and princesses. Cori’s favorite princess was Mulan. Of course it was. What I saw in Cori reflected Mulan herself. She was a fighter, she was stronger than many people knew her to be, and she loved making the impossible quite possible. This was Cori’s first time leaving Arizona. It was her first time on a plane, and it was her first time seeing the ocean. Not only did Make-a-Wish send her to Disney World, they also gave her the experience of a lifetime with tickets to Harry Potter World and Sea World. I hope that Cori met Mulan and helped her defend China from invaders. I hope that she got the wand she was destined to have from Ollivander. There is no experience quite like being a wish granter. There is a lot of work that goes into granting one child’s wish, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

This is just a fraction of what made me the person I am today and allowed me to accomplish so much, and all before the good ol’ age of 30. I have so much to be thankful for and many people I owe a debt of gratitude: my parents, my grandparents, my friends, my faith, my PI and Anne. I will continue to do what I have been doing my whole life, stay humble, make my family and the Navajo people proud, and help those in need.

Hágoónee'.

(Goodbye.)

UA College of Pharmacy Class of 2017:

Garrett Berger, Stephanie Lawson, Kelsey Royball and Cassandra Votruba (Pharm D)

Kenneth Leutz (PharmD)

Media contact: Alli Benjamin, 520-626-3389, abenjamin@pharmacy.arizona.edu

Graduating PharmD Students Lead in Research and Publication

While still a fourth-year UA College of Pharmacy student, Garrett Berger had two projects published in the journal Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology.

The first paper, published in the January 2017 issue, was “Brentuximab vedotin for treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphomas,” a systematic review of the use of the drug brentuximab vedotin in 12 subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Berger, who is first author, completed this research with fellow fourth-year UA pharmacy students Stephanie Lawson and Kelsey Royball as part of their Pharmacy Practice Project, a course taught by Marion Slack, PhD, professor in the college’s Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science. The project can be as simple as a survey among pharmacy students, but Berger opted to dive into a more complex topic.

Though publication was not required as part of the assignment, the hard work and subsequent findings encouraged Berger and his team to submit the work for publication in the leading medical journal for reviews in hematology and oncology. His work also was picked up by OncToday.com, an online news and education resource for health-care providers and patients that aggregates oncology disease and treatment information.

“Our initial systematic review provided me with some really great experience regarding how this type of research is conducted, something that many students aren’t well-versed in. This led to researchers in other health sciences disciplines to bring me in on their projects,” Berger said.

UA College of Pharmacy faculty member Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCPS, BCOP, FAzPA, clinical coordinator, hematology/oncology, Department of Pharmacy, Banner – University Medical Center, and a member of the UA Cancer Center, also was involved in this work, and served as a co-author and mentor for Garrett.

Cassandra Votruba“The importance of the team’s research is not trivial and adds to the increasing data on biomarkers as targets for therapeutic treatment. The field of oncology is the fastest-growing disease area in terms of new therapies and companion diagnostics such as biomarkers, pharmacogenomics and next-generation sequencing,” said McBride. “Garrett’s work in this area has led to a more concise analysis of current therapeutic options for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

Also collaborating with Berger on the research were other UA Health Sciences students and faculty: Seongseok Yun, MD, resident physician, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Department of Medicine, UA College of Medicine – Tucson; Kevin Gee, graduate student, UA Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology; Irbaz Bin Riaz, MD, assistant professor of medicine and doctoral student, Clinical Translational Sciences, UA Department of Medicine; Ahlam A. Saleh, MD, MLS, assistant librarian, UA Health Sciences Library; Soham Puvvada, MD, associate professor, UA Department of Medicine; and Faiz Anwer, MD, assistant professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology, UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

Berger’s second paper, published in May, is a sister project titled, “Potential application and prevalence of the CD30 (Ki-1) antigen among solid tumors: A focus review of the literature.” Fourth-year PharmD student Cassandra Votruba and McBride, Gee and Dr. Anwer are co-authors.

New Pharmacist to Open Pharmacy in Rural Florence

Kenneth LeutzRural communities historically have faced challenges in recruiting health-care providers, therefore limiting residents’ access to health care. After he graduates, PharmD student Kenneth Leutz will change that for one community as he launches his career as a pharmacy manager in Florence, Ariz.

Leutz will practice in a new 12,100-square-foot Sun Life Family Center office that includes 12 exam rooms, a laboratory and a drive-thru pharmacy, opening in September.

“The position lines up with why I started practicing in a rural community in the first place,” Leutz said. “I can go beyond being a pharmacist and be a consistent source for providing quality health care in a community that is underserved.”

Leutz credits his interest in working outside of urban metropolitan areas to the Rural Health Professions Program (RHPP), which aims to address the health professional shortage and expose students to the benefits of working in smaller communities. As part of the RHPP, he completed three clinical rotations in rural communities, as well as worked in a Sun Life clinic in Casa Grande for a year and a half.

The RHPP began in 1997 and provides UA medical, pharmacy and nursing students with clinical experiences in rural communities throughout Arizona. Thanks to increases in funding, the RHPP has been able to expand from recruiting four pharmacy students to 22 participants each year. In 2015-2016, the RHPP supported 195 rotations in rural, underserved Arizona communities.

The town of Florence has had extremely limited access to a pharmacist. The pharmacy in the new Sun Life clinic will be the first one open in the downtown area in more than 10 years.

“I have heard that there is quite a bit of anticipation for the new pharmacy from the community,” Leutz said. “This is critical for them as they have not had consistent access to integrated pharmacy services for several years.”

This summer, Leutz will be focused on setting up the pharmacy and ensuring it operates in accordance to the law.

“Between getting registered as a community pharmacy, gaining insurance contracts, purchasing inventory and all the other logistics of opening a new pharmacy, there is a lot to manage,” Leutz said.

When the pharmacy opens, Leutz’s goal is to provide efficient and quality health care. He is responsible for overseeing pharmacy processes and assisting patients and providers with medication questions and medication management.

Elizabeth Hall-Lipsy, JD, MPH, RHPP manager, added that students like Leutz are exactly the type of individual they are hoping participate in the program.

“The UA College of Pharmacy is committed to developing the pharmacy workforce to address the access challenges of Arizona’s rural and medically underserved communities. Access to health-care services is a top priority and how a state’s health-care workforce is distributed affects access to care, particularly in rural and remote areas of that state.”

UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Class of 2017:

Sofía Gómez (Doctorate in Public Health Policy and Management)

Media contact: Gerri Kelly, 520-626-9669, cell phone 312-437-7007, gkelly@email.arizona.edu

Sofía Gómez, MPA, has a passion and commitment to public service that started in Chicago when she began working on issues related to violence prevention in her own community. “Public health is a way to address social justice often tackling issues related to health equity in communities,” she said.

Gómez received a master of public administration (MPA) from the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University in 2003.

A native of Chicago, Gómez fell in love with Tucson’s beautiful desert landscapes and its people when she moved here after graduating from CSU. The University of Arizona was her top choice due to its history of being a land-grant institution and its high research profile offering the most doctoral programs in the state.

“It also houses what I refer to as my mothership, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. The college’s emphasis on research and service helped me further develop the skills necessary to better understand and examine matters related to public health policy and community health.”

Gómez will graduate from the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health with a doctoral degree (DrPH) in public health policy and management. Her dissertation project was “DACAmented Voices in Healthcare.”

Her research examined the impact of state-level immigration policy on health care. Her work explored how mixed status households access health care when one or several members have varied immigration statuses. Gómez worked with immigrant youth to develop the exhibit, DACAmented Voices in Healthcare, a documentary photography project that brings attention to extreme and polarizing attitudes towards immigrants and their exclusion from health services.

Gómez is the recipient of the prestigious Marshall Foundation Dissertation Fellowship awarded to graduate students on the basis of topic, methodology and potential contributions of dissertation research.

She previously worked with the Arizona Prevention Research Center in the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and the UA Binational Migration Institute (BMI) in the Department of Mexican American Studies as a graduate research associate. She received the Excellent Immigration Research Graduate Student Award for 2017 from the BMI.

What’s next for Gómez? She is working on finalizing publications related to her research. On the job front, she is under consideration for positions in California and Washington, D.C., that would expand her work on health equity matters with vulnerable populations, specifically work related to public health policy and advocacy.

“My academic degree in combination with my community research experience has deeply solidified my commitment to public health policy and advocacy. I look forward to expanding my work and to continue addressing matters related to health equity.”

Gómez credits many mentors at the UA for helping achieve her doctorate degree. “I stand on the shoulders of many giants that have conducted community health research and social justice work in this region. It took a village and I was fortunate to work with many formal and informal mentors throughout my academic tenure at UA.”

Specifically, Gómez thanks her mentors from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health; Samantha Sabo, assistant professor; Jill de Zapien, associate dean of community programs; Maia Ingram, co-director of the Arizona Prevention Research Center; and Cecilia Rosales, associate dean of Phoenix Programs; and Anna O’Leary, associate professor, UA Department of Mexican American Studies and co-director of BMI, and Raquel Goldsmith, researcher and adjunct lecturer, UA Department of Mexican American Studies.

Gómez also cites the guidance of Michael Halpern, the chair of her dissertation committee, now associate professor at Temple University College of Public Health.

In the College’s Office of Student and Alumni Affairs, Gómez credits the support of Chris Tisch, assistant dean, and Michael Tearne, coordinator of graduate programs, for their guidance on how to navigate the academic process and seek out and apply for scholarships, fellowships and graduate research opportunities.