Komen Fellowship

Working to eliminate breast cancer disparities by training a new cadre of highly skilled researchers and practitioners from populations that are disproportionately affected by breast cancer.

Explore degree programs >

About us

The program will prepare some of the brightest master and doctoral students at UTHealth School of Public Health for a career focused on eliminating breast cancer disparities. It offers trainees a rigorous specialized training curriculum that includes formal coursework and mentored research/practice experiences. Patient advocates will be an integral part of the training program, mentoring the trainees and sharing the patient perspective.

Our program emphasizes the recruitment of students from populations disproportionately affected by breast cancer, but all are welcome to apply.

Ultimately, our goal is to increase the number of public health graduates focusing their careers on the elimination of breast cancer disparities so that in the future, breast cancer patients of color or low socioeconomic status get the same quality treatment and survival as more advantaged patients.

About the Komen Fellowship Program

What to expect

Throughout the course of this program the mentoring committee will:

  • Provide all trainees with a mentoring/advising committee with members from different disciplines with expertise in breast cancer disparities.
  • Ensure trainees participate in ongoing research or practice projects directly relevant to breast cancer disparities.
  • Support trainees in the preparation and submission of manuscripts, posters, and grant proposals related to breast cancer disparities.

Fellows in the Komen program are expected to:

  • Complete the rigorous specialized curriculum developed by the mentoring committee.
  • Take courses at the appropriate level to meet the requirements for a Health Disparities Certificate.
  • Write a thesis/dissertation related to breast cancer disparities.


The traineeship basic stipend is $40,000 per year for doctoral students and $30,000 per year for master’s students. Trainees will be funded at 50% time during fall and spring semesters and at 100% time during summer. During the summer, trainees will only qualify for 100% funding if they are undertaking intensive project analysis/writing alongside one of the mentors. The trainee also cannot take any classes over the summer, with the exception of the doctoral seminar PH135 which is required every semester for doctoral-level students.  

Trainees are eligible for benefits and in-state tuition.

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 UTHealth School of Public Health.

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 McGovern Medical School and Baylor College of Medicine.

How to apply

Applications for the 2019-2020 year are now closed. Openings for the 2020-2021 year will be posted in fall 2020.


Successful applicants should be current full-time doctoral or master’s-level students in any department at the UTHealth School of Public Health. Applicants should be able to demonstrate a strong academic record and have an interest in researching breast cancer disparities.

Time frame

Students participating should be enrolled full-time during the fall and spring semesters, and will participate in the internship during the summer semester.  


Meet our program directors

S Vernon
Sally W. Vernon, MA, PhD, Director

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

Cancer-related 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

M Fernandez
Maria Fernandez, PhD, Co-Director

Professor, Chair of Diversity Programs & Director WHO Training Center, Director, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Cancer-related 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

X Du
Xianglin L. Du, MB, MS, PhD, Co-Director

Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences

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

Meet our trainees and advocate

About the advocate role

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

The patient advocates participate in the 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 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. 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 and the requirements of the practicum. 

Venus Gines, current advocate

Venus Gines is a 21-year breast cancer survivor who founded Día de la Mujer Latina (DML), the largest Latina Breast Cancer Network, which covers 39 states, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. She earned a Master of Arts from Georgia State University, focusing on the cultural and system barriers faced by Latinas with breast cancer. Her advocacy work for cancer and women’s rights started when she was appointed to the National Cancer Institute's first Director’s Consumer Liaison Group and 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. Since then, she has served on many national boards, been appointed to the NCI Health Disparities Progress Review Group, and the first 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 the 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.

Current trainees

F Nguyen
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. 

I Jackson
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.

M Arevalo
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.

Contact us

For more information please email the Komen Coordinator at Jo.Ann.A.Gutierrez@uth.tmc.edu