UTSA graduate student Melba Gomez earns Ima Hogg Foundation for Mental Health scholarship

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Melba Gomez

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(July 19, 2010)--Melba Gomez knows about mental illness. She has seen family and friends battle to live in the grips of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia and major depression. She could write volumes on caring for a husband and son coping with post-traumatic stress disorder after their tours of military duty.

So, helping others through their struggle is natural for Gomez, an attorney for nearly 20 years and a current student at UTSA working on a master's degree in social work. Her determination and passion to help people who have mental illnesses are among the reasons she recently received the Ima Hogg Scholarship in Mental Health.

The annual $5,000 scholarship is given to graduate students in social work who demonstrate a strong commitment to providing mental health services after graduation. Application is open to students enrolled in one of 11 Texas graduate schools accredited in social work, but only five applicants are chosen. Because this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, which awards the scholarship, 10 applicants were chosen.

"The Ima Hogg Foundation for Mental Health scholarship is a step forward in my career. It is a prestigious organization in the field of mental health," Gomez said. "The distinction of receiving this award is very encouraging, and I feel honored to be one of the recipients."

After graduation, scheduled for summer 2011, Gomez plans to be an advocate for the rights of the mentally ill along with providing mental health services. She especially would like to help Hispanic/Latino and Spanish-speaking populations who are greatly underserved, and she wants to help veterans and their families as they cope with the effects of traumatic experiences.

"Melba has a great deal of wisdom because of her previous work and life experiences," said Rosalie Ambrosino, UTSA professor and interim chair in the Department of Social Work in the College of Public Policy. "What makes her especially outstanding is her passion for helping people with mental health needs and her realization after playing other helping roles that she thinks she can do that best as a social worker."

The Hogg Foundation was established in 1940 by the children of former Texas Gov. James Hogg to promote mental health for the people of Texas. In 1956, daughter Ima Hogg created the scholarship program to increase the number of trained social workers delivering quality mental health services in the state.