MSTP LEADERSHIP IN DIVERSITY FELLOWSHIP
2020 – 2021 RECIPIENTS
The University of Minnesota MSTP is pleased to announce the 2020 – 2021 Leadership in Diversity Fellowship recipients. This new fellowship program recognizes MSTP students who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through leadership in initiatives that foster the program’s commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive, equitable and just climate. Congratulations to the recipients!
Ifeolu (Iffy) is completing PhD studies in tissue and organ regeneration and plans to continue addressing prejudice and exclusionary practices that persist in academic and biomedical settings, mentoring trainees from all backgrounds, and supporting the inclusion of individuals of all backgrounds into medicine and research. Together with Brian Trieu, Iffy co-founded the MSTP Undergraduate Mentoring Program through the student-led Diversity and Inclusion (DANDI) working group. This program has to date provided longitudinal mentoring for 14 undergraduate students, many from underrepresented groups, at the University of Minnesota and other local colleges. Iffy has also represented the MSTP at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), served as a pre-MSTP seminar coordinator, provided support and guidance to underrepresented applicants to the MSTP, and continues to provide guidance and counsel to undergraduate students at his alma mater, the University of Maryland – Baltimore County.
Alexandria Kristensen Cabrera
Alexandria (Alex) is focused on reducing disparities in maternal and infant birth outcomes, with a specific interest in measuring how structural racism impacts these disparities. To better understand how structural racism impacts our Black communities, Alex is conducting community based participatory research to better understand how Black women experience structural racism and how that may impact birth outcomes. Her advocacy and policy work includes serving as the Global and Migrant Health Chair for the Latino Medical Student Association, helping to organize and co-write content for the Twin Cities Health Care for Black Lives Protest organized by White Coats for Black Lives, volunteering as a street medic in North Minneapolis and with MaskUp North Minneapolis, leading social media efforts and creating educational materials for Hands on Advocacy, and serving as the sole student board member of the Political Action Committee of the Minnesota Medical Association. Alex helped start the MedEd Coalition Reform and is serving on the MSTP DANDI group and the Student Admissions and Recruitment Committee.
Roberto Lopez Cervera
Roberto is focused on understanding the neural correlates of cognition and affect through invasive electrophysiological methods in humans, developing non-invasive neuromodulation methodology to treat affective neuropsychiatric disorders, advocating for the integration of trauma-informed practices into social institutions, and partnering with marginalized communities to advocate for equitable policy changes related to health or education. In the MSTP, Roberto has catalyzed efforts to make the program more inclusive by diversifying social activities, serving on DANDI, mentoring an undergraduate student as part of the Undergraduate Mentoring Program, and modifying admissions information to include multicultural communities and events in the Twin Cities. Roberto has also worked with Hands on Advocacy, received funding to provide mental health education and conduct community-based research in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria, and helped to organize community health and legal fairs in underserved Latinx communities and humanitarian trips to the US/Mexico border to provide psychosocial care for asylum-seekers. Roberto is also actively involved in new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience.
Carlos Perez Kerkvliet
Carlos seeks to better integrate surgical oncology with the emerging field of personalized medicine, to improve and personalize healthcare for underserved populations, and to be a role model to individuals underrepresented in medicine who would like to pursue a STEM career. As a Spanish-English interpreter at the Philips Neighborhood Clinic, Carlos was recognized in 2016 as Medical Clinician of the Year. He was one of the founding members of the University of Minnesota chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Carlos has returned to his alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico – Cayey, to give scientific workshops that he designed. He served on the Student Admissions and Recruitment Committee for two years, represented the MSTP at the SACNAS National Conference and ABRCMS, and served on the search committee for the Medical School’s Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. While participating in the Yale Ciencia Academy, Carlos joined You Can Do STEM, which produces Youtube videos on various topics of interest to students from diverse backgrounds interested in STEM careers. Carlos co-founded the En Arroz y Habichuelas podcast, which provides Spanish speakers from Puerto Rico, other Latin-American countries, and the US with information about COVID-19 and other science topics of interest.
Brian is blending the principles of internal medicine and psychiatry to push our understanding of what we currently define as psychiatric disease. He is also focused on mentoring students from marginalized and underrepresented communities who are developing an interest in science and for those who are already on a path towards a career in biomedical science. Together with Iffy Akinnola, Brian co-founded the Undergraduate Mentoring Program, a longitudinal mentorship program for underrepresented undergraduate students that aims to reduce the time to apply to MD/PhD programs and to increase the retention of future MSTP students indirectly by establishing a supportive network. Brian has focused on recruitment in order to increase the reach of the mentoring program to other colleges in the Twin Cities. Brian has served on the MSTP DANDI Working Group since the establishment of DANDI in 2016, and has been invited to participate in undergraduate career development opportunities, such as the Empowering Seminar organized by the Medical School Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, the Pursuing the Highest Degree workshop organized by the North Star Stem Alliance, and the Inspire Conference organized by the Institute for Engineering in Medicine. Brian is also actively involved in new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience.
Sruthi seeks to help underserved communities as a physician and a researcher. Her research interests include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food insecurity, and the evaluation of policy interventions designed to help ameliorate hunger at the community level. Sruthi has been involved in the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), mentored underrepresented students, completed coursework in Critical Race Theory, incorporated equity into her own research, co-authored letters to leadership asking for change, participated in panels on decolonizing curricula, and led the development of a year-long seminar series on incorporating anti-racism in nutrition research. Sruthi has served on the MSTP DANDI Group since 2016 and led efforts to develop the MSTP climate survey and organizing program-wide discussions on microaggressions and anti-racism. Sruthi is also a member of the Women in Science and Medicine Group and helped develop roundtable discussions, networking dinners, and informal social events. Sruthi has been involved in anti-racism work in the Division of Epidemiology, such as the development of new diversity, equity and inclusion statements for syllabi of courses.