Amelie G. Ramirez to lead Women in Cancer Research Council

photo of Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, UT Health San Antonio
Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH

By: Cliff Despres

Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, MPH, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio and a leading health disparities researcher, has been selected to serve as the 2021-2022 chair of the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The council organizes the activities of the members of the Women in Cancer Research group by fostering career development, recognizing scientific achievements and advising AACR leadership.

Dr. Ramirez is serving a three-year term on the council through December 2022.

“It is a great honor to serve as chair of the Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council for the 2021-2022 term. Despite the challenges we have seen during the pandemic, I am proud to say that women in science are still making strides and progressing in the field of cancer research,” she said. “I want to thank Dr. Margaret Foti and the staff at AACR for continuing to keep the importance of research in the forefront.

“With more than 21,000 members, WICR has built a tremendous community of inspiring, accomplished women investigators who have contributed greatly to the advancement of cancer research,” Dr. Ramirez continued. “Our goal is to continue this support of women through our programs and activities in our institutions and through our programs within the AACR. The contributions of women researchers to the field-at-large are immeasurable. And it is without a doubt that WICR has played a role in those triumphs.”

Health equity research

Dr. Ramirez is an internationally recognized health disparities researcher at UT Health San Antonio.

She is professor and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. She also is associate director of cancer outreach and engagement at the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Ramirez has gained experience developing research and communication models to improve Latino health locally and nationally.

She currently directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Salud America! national multimedia program to empower its vast network of more than 400,000 community leaders to drive healthy policy and system changes to promote health equity and support for Latino families.

“Our mission is to inspire people to drive community change for health equity for Latino and all families,” Dr. Ramirez said.

Latino cancer research

Dr. Ramirez also conducts breast cancer disparities research on quality-of-life and survivorship issues. For example, she directs Quitxt, a bilingual tobacco-cessation service for young Latino adults that deploys encouraging mobile-phone text messages and is funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

One of her aims is to improve Latino participation in clinical trials. She is creating new ways to encourage Latinos to volunteer for cancer and Alzheimer’s clinical trials, supported by a grant from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

“Latinos participating in clinical trials are not only helping themselves, but they are also building a future with better treatments that can help their families and communities in the future,” Dr. Ramirez said.

She also leads the South Texas site of the Avanzando Caminos study. Avanzando Caminos aims to enroll 1,500 Latino cancer survivors from South Texas and 1,500 more from Miami to help unpack the social, cultural, behavioral, mental, biological and medical influences on post-cancer life.

“With the help of Latino cancer survivors, we can help future Latino cancer survivors heal, recover and reduce the chance of cancer coming back,” Dr. Ramirez said of the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Ramirez also has trained or mentored more than 250 Latinos in health fields.

She leads the National Cancer Institute-funded Éxito! training program to help master’s-level students and professionals pursue a doctoral degree and cancer research career. Of 226 Éxito! trainees since 2011, more than 26% have enrolled in or graduated from a doctoral program.

“We work hard to enable Latinos to take the next steps from a master’s degree to get their doctoral degree and focus on careers in Latino cancer research and prevention,” she said.

Service and recognition

Dr. Ramirez is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.

A Susan G. Komen Scholar, Dr. Ramirez serves on the jury for the Fries Prize for Improving Health Award and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. She also is a past member of the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

In Texas, she is on the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council and is Past Board President of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

Additional recognition includes:

Dr. Ramirez earned master’s and doctoral degrees in public health from The UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. She is a native of Laredo, Texas.

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