Amelie Ramirez, DrPH, MPH, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has won the 2023 Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) Cancer Health Equity Award.
The award recognizes exceptional leadership in promoting health equity, mitigating cancer disparities, and advocating for diversity and inclusion at a cancer center. Ramirez is associate director of cancer outreach and engagement at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio. The Mays Cancer is one of four National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers in the state of Texas and the only center with this elite status in South and Central Texas.
Ramirez, nominated by the award by former Mays Cancer Center Executive Director Ruben Mesa, MD, will be recognized at AACI’s annual meeting Oct. 2.
“I am honored to receive the AACI Cancer Health Equity Award. It recognizes the hard work we do at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio to promote health equity, study new approaches to reduce health disparities, and improve cancer care for the people in our community,” Ramirez said.
Healthy equity research
Ramirez is an internationally recognized health disparities researcher at UT Health San Antonio, where 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.
For more than 30 years, Ramirez gained experience developing research and communication models to improve Latino health locally and nationally. She currently directs the Salud America! national multimedia program to empower its vast network of over 500,000 community and school 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,” Ramirez said.
Latino cancer and education research
Ramirez conducts research and interventions to reduce Latino cancer disparities.
She aims to reduce lung cancer with Quitxt. This bilingual text-message service helps Latino young adults quit smoking, funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
On the topic of breast cancer, Ramirez is a Susan G. Komen Scholar. Her work has helped increase Latino cancer screening rates and early detection. She has proven how bicultural patient navigation can help Latina patients get more timely diagnosis and treatment after an abnormal mammogram and improve the survivorship journey.
Ramirez also leads the South Texas site of the Avanzando Caminos study. The study aims to enroll 1,500 Latino cancer survivors in South Texas and 1,500 more in Miami to help unpack the social, cultural, behavioral, mental, biological and medical influences on post-cancer life.
Another of her efforts is to improve Latino participation in clinical trials.
Ramirez is encouraging Latinos to volunteer for cancer and Alzheimer’s clinical trials. She is highlighting open clinical trials, conducting webinars, and sharing stories of real Latino clinical trial participants. This work is supported by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
Ramirez also has trained/mentored more than 250 Latinos in health fields.
She leads the National Cancer Institute-funded Éxito! training program. This helps master’s-level students and professionals pursue a doctoral degree and cancer research career. Of 226 Éxito! trainees since 2011, more than 27% have enrolled in or graduated from a doctoral program.
“We work hard to enable Latinos take the next steps from a master’s degree to get their doctoral degree and focus on careers in Latino cancer research and prevention,” Ramirez said.
Service and recognition
Ramirez is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.
She is also on the prize jury for the Fries Prize for Improving Health Award and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, and 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 The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).
Additional recognition includes:
- 2011: White House Champion of Change
- 2014: APHA Everett M. Rogers Public Health Communication Award
- 2018: Icons in Health Care Award from CentroMed
- 2018: Leadership of the 1st Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos conference
- 2019: Lifetime Achievement Award in Health Equity from the Society of Behavioral Medicine
- 2019: Bluebonnet Award of the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- 2020: Leadership of the 2nd Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos conference
- 2020: CDC Board of Directors
- 2021: Heroes of the Fight Against COVID-19 of Latino Leaders magazine
- 2021-2022: Chair of the the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
- 2022: Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues Award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, Inc.
- 2023: Inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame
Ramirez also created the Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos biennial conference series.
Launched in 2018 and continued in 2020, 2022 and 2024, the conference welcomes international researchers, physicians, community leaders, patient advocates and more to tackle Latino cancer from prevention to treatment to survivorship.
“Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos is a sanctuary where we can share research, experience and action to translate basic research into clinical best practices, effective community interventions and professional training programs to eliminate cancer disparities in Latinos,” Ramirez said.
In 2022, TV personality Oprah Winfrey selected Ramirez as a “Cycle Breaker” for her groundbreaking work to build health equity in the Latino community.
Ramirez earned MPH and DrPH degrees from UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health.
She is a native of Laredo, Texas.