Discrimination. Micro-aggressions. Going back to college with kids.

With a mother who overcame these hurdles as an immigrant to the U.S. from Honduras, Alejandra Mendez learned resilience.

Now Mendez always looks for opportunities for success, rather than possible barriers. Her optimism has enabled her to help people similar to her mother, conducting research on the impact of racial discrimination, and volunteering to help uninsured clinic patients.

Mendez recently earned her master’s degree in public health in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Under the guidance of her preceptor, Mendez conducted research on how racial discrimination affects health throughout the life course and adverse birth outcomes.

Prior to her work at University of Michigan, Mendez volunteered at a community health center in New Orleans by helping patients who were uninsured or undocumented immigrants.

Given her interest in integrating her public health expertise with her clinical work, Mendez 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.

“The [Éxito!] Summer Institute taught me so much about the process of applying to PhD and MD programs,” Mendez said. “After meeting other researchers, I realized that I still need to figure out my specific passion in public health research, in order to choose a career path that is right for me.”

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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