Adrianna Acevedo-Fontanez celebrates her Puerto Rican heritage through music and food, such as using “el castero” to stew rice or fighting for “el pegao.”

But she also knows that Puerto Ricans face dire health issues.

That is why, when she sees people in need, she helps them. Her empathetic spirit and hard work as a community health educator is helping her address issues like lack of healthcare and lack of cancer screening among women.

Fontanez is currently in the final phase of her master’s degree in epidemiology and is a community health educator at the University of Puerto Rico / MD Anderson Partnership for Excellence in Cancer Research at the UPR Comprehensive Cancer Center.

To further her training and education, Fontanez applied for the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program. The 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 to promote doctoral degrees and careers in Latino cancer.

Fontanez is extremely committed to pursuing a doctoral degree in the near future.

“[Éxito!] had a primary role in guiding me toward my next career goals,” she said. “I was unsure of myself and I gained the confidence and tools to successfully apply and get accepted into a doctoral program.”

Fontanez urged others to apply for the program, too.

“Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. This will be the best decision you could ever make for your professional and personal life,” she said. “These people will change your life forever.”

Editor’s Note: This is the story of a graduate of the 2017 Èxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program. Apply now for 2018.


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