Congratulations to graduate students Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne, Felina Cordova and Celina I. Valencia, who are already making waves in public health.
Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, received the 2016-2017 UA United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair Graduate Assistantship.
This award provides support for doctoral students conducting research in the area of indigenous water issues. Yoshira is part of a cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the UA who are investigating short-term exposure in Navajo communities after the Gold King Mine toxic spill. Approximately 3 million gallons of acid water and heavy metals from the Gold King Mine poured into Colorado’s Animas River on Aug. 5, 2015. The water flowed into the San Juan River, the primary source of irrigation for Navajo Nation farmers.
Yoshira is looking at how the mine spill has affected the daily activities of the community members and the quality of the San Juan River, in addition to the health risks associated with the water source.
“We are absolutely delighted to support Yoshi’s research on the Gold King Mine Spill. Her work critically engages issues of indigenous communities and water resources that UNESCO is so keenly interested in supporting,” said David Pietz, UA UNESCO chair of environmental history.
“Since the spill occurred community members have mentioned that multiple farmers in the area have chosen not to irrigate their crops with the river water. This has primarily occurred due to fear of contaminating their native seeds passed down for generations with arsenic and lead present in the San Juan River from the Spill. We need to be able to address the communities concerns and to do that we need to develop a risk assessment model that can incorporate all the community-specific routes of exposure,” said Yoshira.
Yoshira has been assisting with community household sampling, laboratory analysis, and training multiple students as part of the Gold King Mine Spill Project.
“The international recognition that Yoshi is receiving highlights the need to answer some of the questions that the Navajo People have about the spill and we are honored that UNESCO chose one of our students to support,” said Karletta Chief, PhD, a Navajo hydrologist and assistant professor in the UA Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences at the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Gold King Mine Spill Project is being led by Dr. Chief and Paloma Beamer, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
Felina Cordova Receives 2016 Centennial Doctorate Degree Award
During the fall of 1987, the Graduate College and the Division of Campus Life established awards to recognize outstanding achievement and contributions of graduate students at the University of Arizona who have shown academic achievement despite facing challenging social, economic, or educational obstacles.
Felina Cordova grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona and is a member of the Hopi Tribe. She will graduate with a Doctorate Degree in Public Health. Her dissertation research is a collaboration with the Hopi Tribe that focuses on stress and resiliency of Hopi family caregivers who provide care to elderly, disabled and chronically ill family members.
Felina received a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona. She is currently an American Indian Research Center for Health Doctoral Fellow, an American Indian Education Fund Graduate Fellow, an American Indian Graduate Center Fellow, and recipient of the Testasecca Memorial Scholarship and Hopi Tribe Scholarship. She has received several honors including the UA Native American Student Affairs Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Academics and the Reva T. Frankle Award. Cordova has published in journals and books and presented her scientific work at numerous conferences.
Felina has held many student leadership positions including chairing the UA Native American Research and Training Center Student Advisory Board, and holding the position of president and founding member of the UA College of Public Health American Indian and Indigenous Health Alliance Club. Through these positions she has helped the American Indian community at the University, in Arizona and nationally. She has gone to high schools on reservations and tabled at events to encourage American Indian high school students to aspire a post-secondary education. Felina organized leadership workshops, an American Indian researchers and physician speaker series, a student solidarity event in support of Standing Rock and established a scholarship for American Indian students. She has organized annual Christmas present drives for needy American Indian families, an annual school supply drive and prom dress drive. Felina is a constant volunteer at Tucson Indian Center events.
Felina is currently in the UA College of Medicine’s Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway Program and will be attending the UA’s College of Medicine next fall. Felina plans to combine her degrees in public health and medicine to decrease the health disparities that American Indians currently face.
Celina I. Valencia Receives Dissertation Grant
Celina I. Valencia, a doctoral student (DrPH) in public health policy and management, received the 2016-2017 Research Program on Migration and Health/Programa de investigación en Migracion y Salud (PiMSA) dissertation grant.
Celina's research will focus on HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV) co-infections and cancer prevention among mobile Latino populations. The evidence generated by her dissertation will be used to develop policy recommendations regarding HPV vaccination policies and programs for Mexico’s Northern and Southern border regions.
PiMSA is a consortium of binational universities based at the University of California, Berkeley. PiMSA research initiatives highlight migratory context and the impact of migration on health with the emphasis of translating research into evidence based public policies.
Celina is a University of California, San Francisco Health and Stress Fellow. She works with Dr. Cecilia Rosales, associate dean and professor of the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health – Phoenix.