(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
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H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
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H-E-B University Center Ballroom (1.104), Main Campus
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA students to "Pizza With The Prez." Come grab a slice of pizza and take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President. Pizza while supplies last.
Frio Street Building, Food Court Commons Area, Downtown Campus
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McKinney Humanities Building (MH 2.01.12), Main Campus
President Taylor Eighmy is inviting all UTSA faculty and staff to "Tacos With Taylor." Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the President at any one of these casual meet and greets.
Biotechnology, Science and Engineering Building atrium, Main Campus
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East Campus Parking Lot, Valero Way, Main 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.
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