Tell me about yourself.
I think I’ll just start by saying I never thought in a million or so years that I would be a PhD student. I am fortunate to be in this position and to have met so many wonderful people who have helped me get to this point. I received my B.A. in psychology from UTSA’s Honor’s College in 2015 and went on to complete an MPH with a concentration in epidemiology in 2018. During these two degrees, I was a dog groomer to help support myself. It was a lot of fun!
I also volunteer with Scientist’s Inc., a non-profit organization that runs a taste of science program, an annual science festival and an event series that brings neighborhood scientists to meet people where they live. Some of our own faculty have participated as speakers with taste of science. Science communication is near and dear to me because I believe we all have a stake in research, and it should not be siloed to academic settings. Most recently, I have worked with an amazing group of people to create another program called Peers’n’Pubs where we incorporate tidbits about the publication process. It is also a fun program because we ask our scientist presenters to pick a friend or family member to present with them. Science communication is an integral part of translational science.
I’m quite the homebody and enjoy playing Call of Duty zombies with my husband, reading, snacking, and generally just chilling out! I also have two cats and a 17 year old dog who is the love of my life! The cats are okay.
One last thing I’d like to add: I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder and depression late in 2019. Because of my employment at UT Health San Antonio, I was able to get consistent treatment for both, something I wasn’t able to do before because my insurance coverage was inconsistent. I try to be open about my mental health journey to normalize it for others. You never know how your journey might help someone else.
What is your hometown?
I would have to say San Antonio is my hometown at this point. I have also lived in Oklahoma and Germany and was born in Agana, Guam. But I love San Antonio for its diversity and scrumptious food. Sorry, Austin.
Why did you choose UT Health San Antonio?
I am a first generation, working student. I felt that the structure and support I needed to facilitate this lifestyle was here, and this has been my place of employment for about 3-4 years. I started as a research associate with Dr. Susanne Schmidt (who just happens to be my mentor) and now work as a conflict of interest analyst with Melanie Zuniga Rapp in the VPR office. I’m quite excited to be both a student and employee of UT Health San Antonio. It’s almost like I’ve come full circle.
What drew you to your program?
I like the flexibility of the degree. I can take classes at several institutions which will allow me to tailor my time in the program to my interests. Translational science has many, many avenues to pursue, from basic science to population health, so it supports my passion for science communication and public health and opens collaboration across disciplines.
What are your career goals?
My research interest includes how policy influences public health. This is especially relevant right now because of the pandemic. For example, vaccine hesitancy and implementing equitable vaccine programs can be challenging and evaluating these policies helps to make that process iterative. I also have interest in research ethics and the impact of the historical missteps of the scientific enterprise such as the rise of eugenics in the 1800’s. To me, it goes back to the implementation of public policy based on poor science; but that had a lasting impact and some of those ideas are still present today. I want to be able to affect change in these areas, which is why I want to pursue this Ph.D.