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Mentorship Over Maternity

UHCOP Student Selected for National Ambrose Scholars Program Plans to Educate RGV Teens on Family Planning, Women's Health Services and Career Options

March 27 — As a native of the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, Pharm.D. student Nancy Aldape saw her share of teenage girls their lives and dreams upended by unplanned pregnancy and failure to take advantage of free or low-cost preventive health services.

Now, as a member of the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research's Paul Ambrose Scholars Program 2020-21 class, Aldape is preparing to launch a "Latina Health Project" to ensure the next generation of RGV teens is not only better informed about family planning and health care resources, but also has college educated mentors to help them realize their education and career aspirations.

Currently a third-year Pharm.D. student at UHCOP, Aldape will put her plan into action over the 40-plus weeks of her fourth-year experiential rotations starting in summer 2020. After being informed of her acceptance into the program, Aldape attended a leadership conference in San Antonio, where she gained new insights into public health projects alongside fellow students from a range of health-related disciplines.

With Ambrose Scholars Program's focus on interdisciplinary approaches to addressing public health challenges, Aldape plans to recruit pharmacy and medical students and residents at other institutions in the region to serve as fellow educators and mentors. Her project aims to provide both classroom-based and individualized sexual education to female middle and high school students in the 13- to 19-year age range.

"Through my involvement with student organizations at UHCOP, I've learned a lot about planning and coordinating health-related events in the community and in area schools," Aldape said. "After implementing a Women's Health Series, it was obvious that there was both a lack of sexual education among the teenagers at our health fairs, but also a genuine interest in learning more about sexual health."

Aldape said not only is teen pregnancy an issue in the region, but the prevalence of teenagers whose families lack health insurance and economic resources in the underserved region puts their health, development and career potential at risk.

"This project will enable me to connect with community teenagers in hopes to convey the message that they do not have to fall within a statistic; they have an equal opportunity to succeed academically and professionally," Aldape said. "The ultimate goal is to help students make wise decisions by providing them with the appropriate knowledge to do so."

Throughout the project, Aldape will work under the mentorship of UHCOP alumna and the college's first Ambrose Scholar Briget Martinez, Pharm.D., now a clinical assistant professor in the college's Rio Grande Valley Pharm.D. Satellite Program and pediatric clinical pharmacist at DHRHealth in the RGV city of Edinburg. Martinez's project was centered around awareness and prevention of diabetes among older adults in the Hispanic community, with monthly blood glucose and blood pressure screenings, medication reviews, and education events held at a Houston community center.

The APTR organization's Paul Ambrose Scholars Program honors Paul Ambrose, M.D., MPH, who was onboard American Airlines flight 77 that was hijacked on September 11, 2001. Paul was the seventh APTR Luther Terry Fellow and senior clinical advisor in the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.