UT Health San Antonio was named a 2022 Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institution Leader by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The designation recognizes noteworthy engagement that the selected Hispanic-Serving Institutions have achieved during the 2021-2022 academic year with the Fulbright Scholar Program, the U.S. government’s leading international educational exchange program.
Out of the 43 Fulbright HSI Leaders, announced on Oct. 10 at the annual conference of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, UT Health San Antonio is the only health-related institution in the nation to make the list.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, sent a letter congratulating the university on being named as a Fulbright HSI Leader.
The Fulbright Program offers students and established scholars in more than 160 countries the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to mutual understanding, providing opportunities designed to advance scholars’ careers while benefitting their home and host institutions and countries.
Currently, UT Health San Antonio hosts two Fulbright Scholars: Katarzyna Knapczyk-Stwora, PhD, a visiting scientist in the Department of Molecular Medicine’s Institute of Biotechnology, and Virgil Bideau, a second-year PhD student in the Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences.
Knapczyk-Stwora, recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, is a professor and chair of the Endocrinology Department at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, one of the oldest institutions in Europe (where Nicolaus Copernicus studied from 1491-1495).
Her studies focus on the impact of endocrine-active environmental chemicals on reproductive functions. She is conducting research in the lab of Bandana Chatterjee, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine, during her semester-long stay here at UT Health San Antonio, using cutting-edge approaches to study specific endocrine regulations of genes active in reproductive organs. She is also learning a few new experimental techniques, which she will apply to her own research projects that are funded by the National Science Center in Poland.
“I am grateful to Dr. Chatterjee for being such an accommodating academic host, and I thank her research team, especially Dr. Bobae Park, for being so generous with her time to help me get started in my experiments,” Knapczyk-Stwora said of her stay at UT Health San Antonio.
“This experience enables me to gain broad perspectives on cultural diversities, given that each country has its own unique traits, behaviors and attitudes. The Fulbright Program offers me an exciting opportunity. I have a chance to be a part of the American life, visit beautiful places and meet new people,” she said, adding that she hopes her colleagues here in San Antonio will on day have the opportunity to visit Poland.
Bideau hails from St. Lucia in the Caribbean. She studies the cell pathways involved in endometriosis under the mentorship of Nameer Kirma, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine and director of the Bioanalytics and Single-Cell Core lab.
She is the current president of the Graduate Student International Club, a student-led group that provides support and networking opportunities to international students at the university.
Bideau chose to study at UT Health San Antonio because she is passionate about understanding women’s reproductive diseases and health, especially prevalent conditions that cause pain and damage to so many women.
She has enjoyed her time in the U.S. and learning new techniques with innovative research at UT Health San Antonio, and she looks forward returning to her home country after graduating to share what she has learned.
“Coming in as an international student is difficult, everything is different. But the faculty and students are awesome people who guide you and help you. It has been a rewarding experience,” she said. “There’s a saying that you’re a Fulbright scholar for life. When you receive the scholarship, you have a lot of responsibility. I now represent my country and the diversity of St. Lucia. My goal is to take what I’ve learned and return to help improve health and higher education in my own country and continue to foster innovation.”