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Nearly 40 master’s-level students or health professionals participated in the Institute for Health Promotion Research’s Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program in 2011 and 2012. Below are the inspiring stories of their lives, what led them to Éxito!, and their futures as potential doctoral students and cancer control researchers.
“Having heard the stories of other minority researchers I feel more confident and prepared to pursue a doctoral degree. The Éxito! Summer Institute has reduced the amount of uncertainty I have in pursuing a career in cancer control research.”
During the 2012 Éxito! Summer Institute, Afnan was exposed to the necessary tools, information, and leaders in public health who were able to provide him with the assistance he needed to pursue a doctoral degree and a research career. “The Summer Institute gave me an idea of where I wanted to focus my research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
“Éxito! helped me realize that there are many resources which exist to study cancer,” she said. “I also enjoyed the camaraderie that was developed between my peers and I. It was encouraging to share ideas and thoughts with other individuals such as myself.”
“Éxito! was a boost of confidence and a tremendous encouragement for me to apply to doctoral programs. Now more than ever, I’m confident that Latino researchers are not only needed in our field, but we can make a difference in improving the health of Latinos in the U.S. Éxito! gave me leverage, resources, and lots of moral support to continue in my path to a doctoral program.”
“The program allowed me to realize that I could in fact apply, pursue, and obtain a doctorate degree in public health. I was undecided prior to the Éxito! Summer Institute [in June 2011] and unsure as to whether or not I would be able to apply and be accepted into DrPH program, but the institute helped me to realize that such goals were attainable by giving me the tools necessary to find a right fit for me.”
Once accepted into the program, she learned from respected public health researchers and faculty that there are resources available and many different avenues that can lead to doctoral degree and a career in Latino cancer health disparities research. “Éxito! provided me confidence and tools to apply and be successful in a doctorate program."
“I was very interested in health disparities before attending Éxito!, but the program taught me how important it is that Latinos pursue careers in the field. Éxito! gave me a deep appreciation for the unique point of view and contributions that can only really be made by people who innately understand Latino culture, and now I feel a deep interest and responsibility to pursue a career in health disparities.”
“You hear about the struggles they went through, and some of them pursued their PhDs when there wasn’t programs like Éxito!, or there weren’t other programs, and I heard their struggles and how they went about it, it’s very inspiring. You know, if they were able to do it at a time they didn’t have the support, then if I put my mind to it then I should be able to do it as well.”
A mentor led her to Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training, which aims to increase research in Latino cancer disparities by encouraging master’s-level students and health professionals to pursue a doctoral degree and a cancer research career. Once in the program, Garcia gained the necessary tools, guidance, and mentoring required to successfully apply for a doctoral program.
By the end of the 2012 Éxito! Summer Institute, Gonzales received the necessary tools, information, and mentoring opportunities to successfully apply to a doctoral program when she earns her master’s degree. “The summer institute has provided me with helpful information in pursuing a PhD. I feel that I have established a support system with Éxito! staff.”
“Éxito! definitely sparked a greater interest in the possibility of pursuing a career in health disparities," said Irizarry, who networked with a variety of individuals and left with a better understanding of potential obstacles and tips when pursing a doctorate degree. "I will start making decisions about my future over the next two months.”
“Éxito! has increased my understanding of the opportunities that might be available once I pursue a PhD. I think, for me, that’s been a great gift, because sometimes you get ‘siloed’ into thinking what the opportunities may be, but this has expanded my understanding of what I can do with a PhD.”
“Before coming here I thought that having my daughter was a limitation, and that I wouldn’t be able to pursue my goals. But being here and knowing that the Éxito! staff and Éxito! doctors that work collaboratively with them believe in every single one of us, really pushes you to that extreme to say, ‘You know, I’m going to go back, and I’m going to register for the GRE and apply for my PhD.’”
“As an epidemiologist, there are many areas within cancer research that interest me, but there is one more step I must take to be able to execute my own ideas—a doctoral degree. Éxito! gave me the essential tools to take this next step in the near future.”
By the end of the program, Palomino said the path to pursuing a doctoral degree was much clearer. “[The] Éxito! Summer Institute provided me the insight and clarity for taking the next steps in pursuing a PhD program."
The program provided her with useful information to help her decide to pursue a doctoral degree and perhaps a career in cancer research. “I plan to apply to a PHD program...Éxito! gave me the motivation I needed to apply.”
“Although I was already interested in contributing to health disparities research projects, Éxito! motivated me to lead my own research in the future," said Brietzke, who already is contacting potential mentors and planning campus visits to find the right program(s) and looking to hopefully receive a short-term internship opportunity abroad. "For me, the first step will be to complete a doctoral degree.”
“Being in the Éxito! program, I’ve been able to see a lot of Latino role models, and how they’ve undergone a lot of hardship, and they’ve been able to do it in spite of that. Definitely now, being in this program, meeting these professionals, these Latinos, and also being able to meet other students that are in the situation, they have hardships, I felt like, si se puede. Yes we can.”
“Éxito! has opened up my eyes to cancer research,” said Reyes, who is interested in pursuing a dual PhD/MD program with a concentration in epidemiology. “Because of Éxito! I have read books regarding cancer research and have more of an interest and knowledge of cancer and cancer research.”
“I think listening to some of the investigators that spoke [at the 2012 Éxito! Summer Institute], just to find out about their own journey, with their own experiences, how they got there…to me they seem a little more human. Before I had this picture that these people were like brilliant, they knew exactly what they wanted to do, they were so focused. To me that was kind of refreshing."
The program benefited Carla Rosales in many ways. “Éxito! is a life-changing experience that changed the way I viewed cancer research,” Rosales said.
“Hearing the real-life stories from leaders in Latino public health [at the Éxito! Summer Institute in June 2011] and having learned about the obstacles and achievements of the Éxito! speakers, I feel more confident and prepared in beginning and working to complete my doctorate degree.”
“[Éxito!] served as a guide for my future goals. It has assured me of my many capabilities,” said Campos, who plans to pursue a PhD within the next year or two in an area of substance abuse and mental health in adolescents.
“Before entering into the Éxito! program, I knew I was interested in a career in cancer control within the Latino/Hispanic community, but the Éxito! program helped me realize that this is definitely what I want do. Through the speaker’s presentations, I found a research area—the behavioral sciences research area—that I did not know, and now I want to explore before making my PhD.”
“Attending Éxito! was an incredible, very beneficial workshop. Despite the intense amount of information and continuous hours in a very short time, I felt empowered to execute the next steps that will lead me to pursue a doctoral degree.”
“Before the Institute, I had a lot of concerns about research and starting a doctoral degree after finishing my master’s [degree]. However, hearing all the speakers’ stories, I understand that I can work one step at a time and, at the end, the only thing that matters is all the experience I have gained. I think the institute was crucial because I could see that there’s time for everything.”
“I never expected [Éxito!] would provide me with such great multidisciplinary research insight and motivation for me to continue my path toward the PhD. They brought confidence in me and reasons to believe in academia once again. [Éxito!] has the spark for me to get back up.”
“Éxito! validated my decision to pursue a career in cancer research, it enhanced my vision about cancer disparities among Hispanics, and increased my awareness of how this population suffers disproportionately from cancer. Cancer research is an opportunity for lessening the burden of cancer, and Éxito! helped me to realize that I want to work towards that.”
Unsure of her next educational move, Ms. Valdovinos was encouraged by a mentor to apply to Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training. “It was an inspiration meeting all of the participants."
“The [2012 Éxito! Summer Institute] reaffirmed my belief to apply to doctoral programs. It opened up my eyes to additional opportunities in cancer research that I may not have previously thought of. It was also a tremendous experience to be surrounded by people with your same interests and that motivated me even more to go into a career in cancer research.”
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