(July 20, 2016) -- Meet Milena Melo. The UTSA doctoral student is eager to advocate for immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley, and she says the top-tier education she’s getting at UTSA is bringing her closer to her goals.
“I’ve always been interested in immigration because I was born in Mexico and my parents are immigrants,” said Melo. “I was undocumented for the grand majority of my life until Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) came out in 2012.”
Melo said UTSA has made it possible for her to pursue her passions in anthropology and health care. She is focusing her dissertation on access to health care for undocumented immigrants funded by the National Science Foundation, the UTSA Mexico Center and the UTSA Department of Anthropology.
“I’m paying attention to how immigration status matters when it comes to accessing health care and focusing on dialysis as the extreme case study,” said Melo.
During her research, Melo said she’s heard patients’ stories and seen the struggles they face.
“The grand majority only have access to dialysis through hospital emergency rooms when they are on the verge of death,” said Melo.
Melo received a research fellowship from the UTSA Mexico Center last year. Through UTSA’s partnership with the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in Mexico, she was able to conduct research in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
“I received funding through the UTSA Mexico Center Educational Research Fellowship three years in a row that helped with pilot projects each summer,” said Melo. “Meeting Harriett Romo had a tremendous impact on my career.”
Melo even contributed to Romo’s new book Mexican Migration to the United States: Perspectives from Both Sides of the Border. Melo and Jill Fleuriet, associate professor of anthropology, wrote a chapter focusing on how citizenship influences immigrant health care and health care eligibility.
“I know I probably couldn’t have gotten that same support elsewhere. Dr. Jill Fleuriet is amazing. She’s the best professor and mentor I’ve ever had,” said Melo.
Melo has been awarded several fellowships and honors as a UTSA graduate student to help fund her research. Most recently, she was awarded the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, the American Anthropological Association Minority Dissertation Fellowship, and the UTSA Presidential Dissertation Fellowship.
When Melo isn’t studying, she’s mentoring other students interested in medical anthropology and immigration research topics.
The UTSA student hopes to complete her Ph.D. by May of 2017. She has goals to return to the Rio Grande Valley and use her top-tier education to make an impact on a community she loves through teaching and research.
“My ultimate goal is to impact policy one day,” said Melo. “I want to push policy to grant access to health care for undocumented immigrants. I think it should all be the same. Health care is a human right.”
By Kara Mireles
Public Affairs Specialist
The third ceremony, scheduled at 2 p.m. on May 19, will recognize graduates from the College of Education and Human Development, College of Sciences and College of Public Policy.
Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
Jenny Hsieh, professor and Semmes Foundation Chair in Cell Biology and director, UTSA Brain Health Consortium provides an engaging look into the world of gene editing.
South Texas Research Facility, 8403 Floyd Curl Dr., San Antonio
UTSA will offer science, engineering, architecture, sports, music, writing and language and culture camps for kids, teens and adults. Register now.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Future Roadrunners and families prepare for everything they need to know before the fall semester.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Join us for cupcakes and lots of Roadrunner spirit as we celebrate the day UTSA was created by the Texas Legislature.
Sombrilla, Main Campus and Frio Street Commons, Downtown Campus
Join us as we celebrate this momentoud day in UTSA history by paying homage to the moment Governor Preston Smith signed the legislation creating UTSA exactly 50 years ago on June 5, 1969.
The Alamo, 300 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio
The State of Hand Stitch is a survey of eleven women artists in Texas working with thread and needle at a time when embroidery is increasingly recognized as a medium of choice by serious artists. Opening reception is June 5 at 5pm. Exhibit continues through Aug. 9.
Arts Building, Main Art Gallery (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
For the 48th year, the ITC brings culture to life with music, dance, artisanship, food and hands-on experiences that connect Texans to their roots.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.