Meet a Roadrunner: Milena Melo hopes to help undocumented immigrants receive health care
(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 Racial Justice Book Club was established at UTSA by members of the campus community to explore social justice following acts of racial violence across the nation over the last few years. We are reading The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas by Monica Muñoz Martinez. We will meet every Wednesday in September and October at 2 pm on Zoom.Virtual Event
We invite you to learn about the process of screenwriting and explore the intersection of identity and pursuing dreams from Jorge Ramirez-Martinez and Raymond Perez, screenwriters for the Selena: The Series, released on Netflix. They will discuss their careers and writing process, including how their identities as Mexican American and gay men have shaped their professional experiences.Virtual Event
Please join us in remembering those who have entered the next part of life by designing a nicho box in their memory. This workshop will provide the necessary items to create your nicho box, though please remember to bring a photo or small object that can fit in a 3.5 x5x1 inch box (small jewelry box).John Peace Library GroupSpot B, Main Campus
Come celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month with La Comunidad at The University of Texas at San Antonio. We will have food, games and dancing!H-E-B Student Union Ballroom 1 & 2, Main Campus
LMSA invites you to join us in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month through an interactive cooking lesson! This cultural experience will teach you how to prepare a popular Mexican dish, street taquitos. You will be able to sample this dish and learn the recipe to use in your own home.Recreation Wellness Center Demo Kitchen
Future Roadrunners will see what Roadrunner life is all about at UTSA Day. All of Main Campus transforms into our UTSA Day open house for Future Roadrunners and their families to explore the university experience.Main Campus
Learn about the LGBTQIA+ community and being an Ally and advocate for LGBTQIA+ people, communities, and the issues that impact the LGBTQIA+ community.Multicultural Student Center for Equity and Justice Lounge, Main Campus