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What path led you to pursue a career in health equity?

I grew up in a family of Public Health professionals. Since very early in my life, I would help my parents with their work and I saw first-hand the challenges faced by different people in Mexico. I first wanted to be a physician, as my parents are, but I remembered clearly asking my mother what I could study that would later help me work on Public Health that wasn’t Medicine. One of her answers was Sociology, so I did that. Very early on during my college training, I started working at Ipas, a global non-profit organization that works to ensure access to safe abortion for women. Slowly I understood the concepts of equality, justice and equity. Working at Ipas allowed me to see the diversity of my country and how our social and economic differences determine our lives. For me, health equity research and practice is guided by the goal that everybody has equal access to the life conditions, opportunities and resources that allow them to be healthy, including an optimal mental health, so a person can live their life to their fullest potential.

What research are you currently working on?

I moved to Chapel Hill in 2007 to coordinate the youth work at Ipas, and as I needed to feel rooted in my new home, I started volunteering for El Pueblo Inc., an organization working with immigrants and Latinxs, and that changed the course of my personal and professional interests. I left Ipas to get my PhD training in Public Health, and I focused my research from day 1 on migrant health. As an immigrant myself, without ignoring my class privileges, I became interested in exploring the aspects related to being immigrant that affect your health, directly or indirectly. Very quickly, I recognized that structural issues, such as immigration policies, are a very important social determinant of migrants’ health. Since then, I have devoted my work to study how documentation status affects the health of migrants, particularly their mental health. More recently, thanks to the opportunities with CHER, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with the project “Surviving After Hurricane Matthew” (SAHM) on the impact of natural disasters on African American communities’ health. I have also explored how a structured curriculum could help improve the emotional wellbeing of Latinas. Most recently, I was fortunate to mentor medical students during their research on migrant farmworkers and diabetes. As I move forward in my academic career, I wish to continue working on issues related to health equity and the impact of migration policies on migrant communities. I am also thrilled of the possibility of working with the African American communities in North Carolina, as we continue the work we started with the SAHM project.