Estefany Frias spent the summer researching at New Mexico Center for Advancement of Research, Engagement and Science (CARES) on Health Disparities, whose mission is to advance scientific knowledge about interventions and solutions to health disparities in our state. The facility is located on north campus in the UNM Health Sciences Center.

Frias' mentor and director, Robert Williams, was ranked first in funding among family medicine researchers by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Through his mentorship and that of Christina Getrich, postdoctoral research fellow, Frias assisted in compiling research data on two studies: post-partum depression and cervical cancer screenings. 

While at UNM, Frias learned about the Undergraduate Pipeline Network (UPN), a program that cultivates student interest in research while helping them attain skills needed to apply for and succeed in post-baccalaureate education. Frias graduates from Syracuse University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in public health.

"I knew I wanted to do something different and interesting this summer," Frias said, "so I ran a Google search for student public health programs and UNM popped up. There are three types of programs: science, clinical and community-based public health, and that's what I wanted, public health."

UPN taught Frias how to create a survey, proofread large documents and translate screening questions into Spanish for use in communities. On more than one occasion, she called on her father to help translate a word or two into Spanish. He frequently reminded her how proud he was of the way she was spending her summer.

Frias emigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was a year old because her father wanted a better life for his family. They settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. where she made goals for herself early in life, such as attending medical school and becoming a surgeon who helps children with clef palate.

"I still have a lot to learn about New Mexico and understanding all the cultural aspects that make up the state," Frias said. "But I see that people here work together, and have a strong sense of community."

For more information about NM CARES Health Disparities Center, the Speaker Series, Research Resources and UPN, contact Miria Kano at or (505) 272-3876.

Story by Nora Chavez