A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program

Network Scholars

Brisa Sánchez

Brisa Sánchez was raised along the U.S.-Mexico border, in Palomas, Mexico, a small town bordering Columbus, NM. Palomas did not have a high school at the time, so Brisa’s parents sent her across the border to a school in Deming, NM. That decision put Brisa on a path to receiving her college education in the U.S., and to eventually earn a PhD from Harvard University and develop a flourishing research career. After graduating from high school, Brisa enrolled at the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP). The tuition structure at UTEP is such that residents from the eight neighboring New Mexico counties, and students from Mexico with demonstrated financial need, may pay in-state tuition. “That tuition policy greatly facilitated my opportunity to go to college,” says Brisa. Read More

Erin Hager

Growing up in a family that struggled with weight, Erin knew from an early age that she wanted to influence people’s ability to be healthy and active. This desire, paired with Erin’s passion for reducing health disparities, has resulted in a mission to help low-income families and children gain access to healthy foods and opportunities to be physically active. Read More

J. Margo Brooks Carthon

If Margo retired tomorrow, she would want her work to have improved policies and practices that influence health outcomes for vulnerable populations. Specifically, she would want her work to have influenced and empowered her community to take control of its own health trajectory. Growing up as a “child of the Civil Rights era,” with a family tied strongly to its community, Margo wouldn’t have it any other way. She has always felt a sense of mission, and was connected to social justice for the community that she loved and cared for. Read More

Denese M. Neu

For someone like Denese Neu, who cares as much about the details as she does the big picture — and is able to see the connection between them — the multidisciplinary field of urban studies is a perfect fit. She has learned through more than 25 years of applied research and experience that urban studies, which is where she sees health and community intersect, can help tackle many of the complexities of cities, including access to services for vulnerable populations. Denese’s work has opened doors and allowed people to understand why urban planners need to care about health, and why medical professionals need to care about physical and social constructs of place. Read More

Shawn Bediako

Most professors choose to take graduate students with a 3.9 grade point average. Shawn Bediako, however, claims his “magic number” is 2.8. He sees something of himself in students on the verge between a C and B — the students who are scrappy and don’t want to give up. Even more specific, Shawn seeks students with explicit interests in taking their research back to their communities, whether it’s Southeast Asia or Appalachian Kentucky. Read More

Carrie Beth Lasley

Carrie Beth Lasley’s home has always included an urban backdrop, so the field of urban studies was a no-brainer for her. Her specific research niche is the intersection of health and homes, for which her home city of Detroit serves as the perfect proving ground. Read More

Hector P. Rodriguez

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hector Rodriguez attended one of the nation’s largest and most diverse high schools. As he left this setting, which he recalls had “no majority population,” Hector began paying attention to how racial and ethnic minority groups experience the health care system. Eventually, this interest would shape his research to center on the organizational factors that affect disparities in health care delivery. Read More

Wrenetha Julion

Wrenetha Julion always knew she wanted to be a nurse. But her “aha” moment as a researcher occurred when she studied an evaluation of fatherhood programs in her doctoral studies. It was then she realized that she wanted to focus her research on African-American fathers who live in homes apart from their children. Read More

DeLawnia Comer-HaGans

DeLawnia Comer-HaGans understands that where you come from influences the changes you want to make in the world. Growing up in El Paso, Texas, in a predominantly Hispanic community, she knew many people who needed frequent medical attention, but often couldn’t access it. Seeing this made her want to pursue health care access for vulnerable populations. Read More

Bertha Hidalgo

Growing up in a blue-collar suburban Los Angeles community, as the daughter of Mexican American immigrants with less than a high school education, Bertha Hidalgo often had difficulty finding academic mentors among her family and friends. “This was such a foreign world for my parents and anyone I knew in my social circle,” she recalls. But despite these challenges, Bertha was a top student, and spent her high school years at the prestigious California Academy of Mathematics and Science, a four-year magnet school. She then applied to Stanford, where she was accepted, and completed a BA in Human Biology. Read More