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Mary Vanellys Diaz Santana values the richness of culture and faith in her native Puerto Rico, but also understands how different cultural aspects can be barriers and enablers to public health.
Santana’s strong passion for investigating the distribution, frequency and determinants of health led her to the University of Puerto Rico’s medical sciences campus, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in epidemiology.
Her capable mentors have shaped her desire to start a career in cancer and chronic disease research.
One of her mentors encouraged Santana to learn more at Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training, which aims to increase diversity in Latino health disparities and cancer research by encouraging Latino master’s-level students and master’s trained health professionals to pursue a doctoral degree and a career in research.
By the end of the five-day Éxito! Summer Institute in June 2011, Santana acquired the knowledge, skill, and networking necessary for successfully applying to a PhD program.
“I believe that 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,” Santana said. “Cancer research is an opportunity for lessening the burden of cancer, and Éxito! helped me to realize that I want to work towards that.”
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