Mentorship Duo Discovers Rising Cervical Cancer Rates in Low-Income Women

Headshots of Trisha Amboree, PhD, MPH, and Jane Montealegre with greenery and school logo on left hand side.
Trisha Amboree, PhD, MPH, and Jane Montealegre co-authored a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Alumnae Trisha Amboree, PhD, MPH, and Jane Montealegre, PhD, collaborated on a recent study revealing an increase in cervical cancer rates among both White and Black women in low-income communities in the U.S. The study, co-authored by the mentorship duo, was published in the International Journal of Cancer this spring.

“The findings are quite concerning,” said Amboree, a 2016/2021, MPH and PhD graduate, and current postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Amboree served as lead author on the study. Researchers discovered a 4.4% annual increase in rates of distant-stage cervical cancer among White women in low-income counties.

In their recent collaboration, they shed light on the disturbing rise of cervical cancer rates among low-income women in the last 15 years. Despite existing recommendations for cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccine prevention methods, sub-optimal uptake of these efforts has hindered efforts in cancer control, particularly in low-income communities, as also examined in their recent publication. The study signifies the importance of increasing preventative measures of cancer control research for women and a milestone achievement for Amboree and Montealegre.

Within their relationship as mentor/ mentee, Amboree and Montealegre represent the transformative impact that professional guidance can have not only on an individual, contributing to personal growth and development, but the broader effects of influencing research.  The women shared a connection on addressing women’s health challenges.

Almost six years before this publication, which has garnered media attention and amplified the need for more cancer research, Amboree was introduced to Montealegre by a guest lecturer at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. This would mark the start of a mentee/ mentor relationship, establishing a profound connection and generating critical public health research.

“Along with the lived experience and wisdom she freely shares with me, Dr. Montealegre truly cares about the communities we work with, and she has modeled first-hand what it looks like to keep the work in the context of the needs of those we serve,” said Amboree. As a public health graduate, now working as a postdoctoral fellow, she sees the effect of working on impactful research and implementing safety measures to better community health.

Amboree remains steadfast in her endeavor to work as a scientist addressing women’s health issues of current and future generations. “Trisha’s tenacity, curiosity, and keen ability to translate her curiosity into thoughtful and meticulous research will undoubtedly continue to propel her impactful contributions to women’s health.” Women’s health remains an under-represented group in public health research, increasing the critical faction of public health work to improve the unique healthcare challenges they face.

For mentees like Amboree, seeing successful leaders, like her mentor, drive health forward and propels younger women to enter spaces such as STEM-fields, academia, and public health. “I believe it is very important for younger generations to see women represented in leadership positions as this can help show them the great things that are possible.” For mentors like Montealegre, seeing women mentees grow and flourish as scientists and public health researchers is an immense source of pride. “It has been one of the biggest joys of my professional life to witness an incredibly talented young scientist find her passion and set off on what I know will be a highly impactful and meaningful career.”  

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