Contact Us!

The goal of the training program is to train a new cadre of innovative and highly skilled researchers and practitioners, from populations who are disproportionately affected by breast cancer, who are committed to the elimination of breast cancer disparities.

The program will encourage the brightest master and doctoral students at the University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) to pursue careers as researchers or public health practitioners focusing on breast cancer disparities. The program will provide trainees with the necessary skills needed to successfully reduce breast cancer disparities by offering a rigorous specialized training program that includes formal coursework and mentored research/practice experiences. Patient advocates will be an integral part of the training program and will mentor the trainees as well as add the patient perspective.

Specifically, we expect that we will:

  1. Recruit three trainees from populations who are disproportionately affected by breast cancer from the brightest doctoral and master students at UTSPH to be trained in the Komen traineeship to pursue careers as researchers or public health practitioners focusing on breast cancer disparities.
  2. Provide all trainees with a mentoring/advising committee with members from different disciplines with expertise in breast cancer disparities.
  3. All trainees will participate in ongoing research or practice projects directly relevant to breast cancer disparities.
  4. All trainees will prepare and submit manuscripts, posters, and grant proposals related to breast cancer disparities.
  5. All trainees will engage/plan to engage in a research or practice career that contributes meaningfully to reductions in breast cancer disparities.

Our goal is that students who graduate from the program focus their careers on the elimination of breast cancer disparities so that breast cancer patients of color and of low socioeconomic status get the same quality treatment and survival as more advantaged patients.


The traineeship basic stipend is $40,000 per year for doctoral students and $30,000 per year for master students and trainees will be funded at 50% time during fall and spring semesters and at 100% time during summer. Trainees will only qualify for 100% time in the summer when the intensive project analysis/writing with one of the mentors is active, and cannot take any classes (with the exception of the doctoral seminar PH135 which is required every semester).  Trainees are eligible for benefits and in state tuition.



The objective of the traineeship is to encourage bright master and doctoral students at UTSPH to pursue careers as researchers or public health practitioners focusing on research on breast cancer disparities. The program provides trainees with the necessary interdisciplinary training and skills needed to successfully impact breast cancer disparities by offering a rigorous specialized curriculum that includes formal coursework and mentored research and practice experiences. Trainees will be full time student at UTSPH during the fall and spring semesters and will participate in an internship during the summer semester.

The summer internship can vary and mentors can guide the student to select the best opportunity.



Doctoral student (Ph.D or Dr.PH) or master student (MPH/MS) in any Department

Strong academic record

Interest in researching breast cancer disparities



Complete the rigorous specialized curriculum developed by the mentoring committee. Master and doctoral students will take courses
at the appropriate level and courses will be selected so that trainees meet the Health Disparities concentration

Write a thesis/dissertation related to breast cancer disparities.

Mentoring Plan

Each trainee will have an interdisciplinary Komen mentoring committee consisting of the primary mentor and at least 2 additional members, including at least one advocate. The mentoring committee will include at least one of the principal mentors at UTSPH. In addition to being the Komen mentors, these mentors are also the student’s academic advisor or academic committee member. Additional mentoring committee members will be chosen based on the trainee research interest from breast cancer researchers at UTSPH, MDACC and BCM.

Program Directors 


Sally W. Vernon, MA, PhD, Director

Chair, Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences; Blair Justice, PhD Professorship in Mind-Body Medicine in Public Health; Professor of Epidemiology and Behavioral Sciences

Research Interests: Cancer screening (breast, cervical & colorectal), HPV vaccination, Informed decision making for prostate cancer screening, Developing & validating measures of psychosocial constructs & self-report behaviors, Dissemination & implementation, Systematic reviews of cancer control interventions, Social epidemiology

Co-PI Image-MF

Maria Fernandez, PhD, Co-Director
Professor, Chair of Diversity Programs & Director WHO Training Center, Director, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Research Interests: Cancer Prevention and Control, Cancer Screening (breast, cervical & colorectal), HPV and HPV vaccination, Cancer Epidemiology, Dissemination and Implementation Research, Evaluation, Health Disparities, Hispanics Health, Global Health, Health Communication, Use of Tailoring and Technology in Health Education, Community-based participatory research


Xianglin L. Du, MB, MS, Ph.D., Co-Director
Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences

Research Interests: Clinical Epidemiology Of Cardiovascular Disease And Cancer; Health Services And Outcomes Research; Claims-Based Healthcare Studies


Nguyen Frances_Photo (2)

Frances Nguyen, MPH

BA, Sociology, Tulane University
MPH, Health Behavior, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH

Possible Dissertation Topic:

Cultural influences of cancer screening among Vietnamese nail salon workers in Houston, Texas

Research Interests:

Health Disparities Research, Cancer Prevention, Health Promotion for Minority and Immigrant Populations, Intervention Development and Evaluation

Career Aspirations:

To conduct independent research at an academic institution or cancer center, focusing on reducing health disparities for underserved, minority populations. 


Inimfon Jackson, MPH, MBBCh

MBBCh, Medicine/Surgery, University of Calabar
MPH, Public Health, Johns Hopkins University
Working on: PhD, Epidemiology, UTSPH

Possible Dissertation Topic:

Racial disparities and metastatic breast cancer survival

Research Interests:

Breast cancer prevention, Breast cancer disparities, Trastuzumab adherence in metastatic breast cancer patients, Early onset breast cancer in women and predictors for survival.

Career Aspirations:

To contribute to the field of public health by training students and conducting research that will add to knowledge with an aim to reduce the wide ethnic and racial disparities that exist in the society

Arevalo Pic

Mariana Arevalo, MSPH

BA, Psychology, University of South Florida
MSPH, Behavioral Health, University of South Florida
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH

Possible Dissertation Topic:

Dissertation topic will be under the umbrella of health communication and decision making related to Hispanic participation in breast cancer clinical trials.

Research Interests:

Cancer prevention and control among Hispanics, Cancer communications, Clinical trial and biobanking research initiatives, Health literacy, Instrument development and psychometric testing.

Career Aspirations:

My career aspirations include research and teaching at a prestigious cancer center or academic institution in hopes to contribute evidence to improve cancer health outcomes among minority, medically underserved, low literacy, and low income populations.


Advocate Role

Patient advocates will regularly meet with trainees and will participate in a community advisory board, consisting of representatives of community groups, breast cancer advocacy groups, and breast cancer survivors groups which will provide input on the training program and identify breast cancer related community projects for trainees’ participation.

The two patients advocates, Venus Gines and Mary Elliott, will participate in trainees committees and meet with the trainees at least twice a year in order to provide the patient perspective and ensure that the trainee’s research has important impact on breast cancer patients. They will also help identify sites where trainees can intern or volunteer to provide support for advocacy and other breast cancer patient centered organizations. These may include the Komen Affiliates in Houston and other Texas cities and The Rose in Houston. In addition, students in the MPH and DrPH programs are required to have a one semester practicum which they may create. We will work with our advocates to identify a community setting and breast cancer disparities project that meets the goals of the training grant.

Meet the Advocates

Venus Gines is a 21 year breast cancer survivor, who founded Día de la Mujer Latina, (DML).,the largest Latina Breast Cancer Network, ( 39 states, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic). She earned a M.A. from Georgia State University, focusing on the cultural and system barriers faced by Latinas with breast cancer. Appointed to NCI’s first Director’s Consumer Liaison Group and in 1997, invited to present at a Congressional Panel for the recognition of the term “Latino” as a proper category term for the new population from Latin America initiated Venus Gines’s advocacy work for cancer and women’s rights. Nationally, she served on many national boards appointed to the NCI Health Disparities Progress Review Group, /, as well as the 1st KOMEN Latina/Hispanic Advisory Board. Venus Gines has received numerous awards and accolades from CNN, Latino Fox News and Univision. She’s former Adjunct Instructor at the Morehouse School of Medicine and currently an Instructor at Baylor College of Medicine, teaching cultural competence and health literacy. In 2009, DML was the first Latino CBO approved by Texas for State Certification Training Program of Promotores and Community Health Workers. Venus Gines also was selected to the HHS National Promotores Steering Committee and was voted Chair. She is currently the Co-Chair of the OMH Regional Health Equity Council for Region VI and a Komen Advocate in Science member, as well as a research advocate for Research Advocate Network.