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Graduate students awarded fellowships by Latino health research center

by Beth Krane - May 1, 2006

The University’s new research center devoted to eliminating minority health disparities has awarded its first graduate fellowships for minority students in health-related fields.

The Connecticut Center of Excellence for Eliminating Health Disparities Among Latinos, funded by an $8.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded one doctoral-level fellowship and one master’s-level fellowship to graduate students in psychology.

Both fellowships are annual awards worth $20,000, not including tuition and health benefits, and are renewable for up to three years.

The winners are:

  • Sophia Belay, an Ethiopian-American from Texas. Belay earned her master’s degree from Tulane University and is beginning her doctoral studies in UConn’s psychology department. She will research depression among pregnant minority adolescents under the mentorship of Stephanie Milan, an assistant professor of clinical psychology.
  • Francisco Quintana, a native of Mexico who grew up in California. The first in his family to graduate from high school, Quintana earned his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and is beginning his master’s degree at UConn in psychology. He will research the relationship between drug use and depression in minority communities under the guidance of Michelle Williams, an associate professor of clinical psychology.

“Minorities are underrepresented in healthcare fields nationwide, and that contributes to the lack of culturally competent health care available to minority patients,” says Rafael Perez-Escamilla, a professor of nutritional sciences and director of the new research center.

“These fellowships are a significant new tool for recruiting more minorities to health-related fields. Both Sophia and Francisco’s areas of research are highly relevant to understanding health disparities in the United States.”

In addition to recruiting more minorities to health and health disparities-related fields, the new center, run in collaboration with Hartford Hospital and the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford, will focus during its first five years on nutrition, physical activity, and related chronic diseases among Latinos, with an emphasis on Type 2 diabetes.

The center’s activities will include adapting Hartford Hospital’s existing diabetes peer counseling program, called Amigos en Salud, to include a home-based support component; and conducting a randomized, longitudinal study to evaluate the impact of new, home-based counseling on inner-city Latinos with Type 2 diabetes.

The graduate fellowships will begin in the fall semester. Applications for the next round of fellowships will be accepted during spring 2007.  

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