Michelle Garza, MS
Research Area Specialist
Center for Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH)
I would like to nominate Dr. Luz Garcini and Ms. Michelle Garza for the UTHSCSA Starts of Education Honor. At ReACH, Dr. Garcini and Ms. Garza lead an active research group providing unique experiences, mentorship, teaching, and support to a diverse group of interdisciplinary students.
Over the past year, Dr. Garcini’s group has grown rapidly and now comprises 18 students(!), 2 community health workers, and several ReACH staff members. Special educational features pertain to equity, diversity and inclusion in education, training, and practice, as well as cultural competence skill building for working with underserved and marginalized communities. At the biweekly lab meetings, students present their work and discuss issues involving working with patients and communities of underserved backgrounds. Importantly, most of her students have availed themselves of the opportunity to publish papers in peer-reviewed journals and present abstracts at scientific conferences. Several of her students are also conducting a community service project, VOCES, on COVID-19 vaccination in collaboration with one of our Community Advisory Boards. Hands-on and interactive experiences with underserved communities are the hallmark of the VOCES project.
Often, the most valuable education takes place outside of traditional classrooms. Certainly, Dr. Garcini and Ms. Garza provide such an environment where our students can thrive by learning to integrate science into practice in a way that is culturally sensitive and contextually appropriate to the needs of the most vulnerable communities. They are to be commended for their contributions!