Edith Hernandez, a third-year MD/PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, is a recipient of the 2021 National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF) professional student scholarship award. The award is in recognition of a student who has shown a continued commitment to serving the Latinx community and other underrepresented minority patient populations.

Hernandez grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. It was from there that she commuted across the bridge to school in El Paso, Texas. Ciudad Juárez is infamously known as a high-risk region heavily impacted by cartel activity and a prevalent drug and substance abuse culture. It wasn’t until she moved and attended college that she realized that addiction isn’t always common and can be treated. This is what led her to pursue the study of translational addiction with the goal of developing better treatments than what currently exists. 

“My passion stays within addiction medicine,” Hernandez said. “My research is focused on neuropharmacology of addiction and related behaviors. As far as medicine goes, I really want to practice addiction psychiatry, while focusing on bilingual and multicultural services for underrepresented minority patients on the road to recovery.”

Hernandez initially chose the U of M Medical School for her research interests.

“To say that there’s growing interest in addiction research and medicine in the state of Minnesota is such an understatement,” Hernandez said. “Long story short, given my passion and devotion to the field, this is the place to be.”

Hernandez was recommended for this award by Ana Núñez, MD, FACP, vice dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the U of M Medical School. 

“We are so fortunate to have with us here in the Medical School such a talented future clinician researcher as Ms. Hernandez,” Dr. Núñez said. “From her talent, critical thinking, insight and leadership, she is a role model of excellence. Her contributions thus far have been impactful. Moving forward she will be the catalyst to promote transformational change for all patients, including those from the Latinx community. I am delighted that NHHF selected her and that she received this most appropriate recognition.”

Hernandez has also been recognized for her leadership commitments across the U of M Medical School community as a 2020 recipient of the President’s Student Leadership and Service Award. She served as the President of the Latino Medical Student Association and has been involved in the Student National Medical Association, White Coats for Black Lives and the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction. She also co-founded AddMed, an addiction medicine student interest group.

The NHHF scholarship points to a commitment to helping the Latinx community in the coming years. 

“My dream is to establish a treatment program in the U.S., where bilingual treatment can be offered to Latinx patients,” said Hernandez. “I would also like to make rehabilitation treatment options accessible to people from different cultural and religious backgrounds, which are not always accommodated under existing frameworks.” 

On Dec. 2, Hernandez flew to New York City with her family to attend the 2021 NHHF Scholarship Gala in Times Square, where she was honored for this award.