By Pablo Jaime Sainz
Erlinda “Chulie” Ulloa believes that science and medical research should serve the underserved.
That’s why she has volunteered as a translator at Mid-City Community Clinic. That’s the reason why she also volunteered at a Tijuana clinic that serves needy families.
But most of all, that’s what made her apply to the Fullbright Student Program to do medical research in Argentina.
“Science is always a positive thing when it serves people who are underserved,” said the 25 year-old San Diego resident.
Ulloa is one of over 1,200 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2006-2007 academic year through the Fullbright Student Program. The competitive program’s purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the rest of the world.
Ulloa was scheduled to leave for Argentina last Monday, September 4. She will receive a monthly stipend during the year her grant lasts.
There, the University of California, San Diego, graduate will conduct research in neuroscience at the Fundación para la Lucha contra las Enfermedades Neurológicas de la Infancia, a leading Argentinean institute specializing in neurosciences.
She will work under the supervision of Dr. Esteban Fridman on a project that will try to find out how different parts of the brain are affected by a major stroke.
“With this opportunity, I will gain exposure to research outside of academia, and hone my analytical abilities, laboratory skills, and theoretical knowledge,” she said. “I will also acquire an appreciation for global health complexities in a social context. I will increase my knowledge of the sociocultural determinants of health, and directly see how interactions between patients and physicians influence the research questions that are asked.”
Her goal is to help people who have suffered a stroke to have normal body functions again.
“A major goal of the Fulbright Program is to break barriers that divide us by increasing mutual understanding and respect across borders through public service,” Ulloa said. This coincides with my desire to tackle controversial and complex issues by integrating culture and medicine in order to eliminate health disparities in underserved communities.”
Ulloa, who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, graduated from UCSD in 2005 with degrees in Animal Physiology & Neuroscience, and Psychology. At UCSD, she was involved assisting professors in research projects.
She was also active with UCSD´s Health and Medical Professions Preparation Program (HMP3), an organization that helps students interested in the medical field.
In all the areas she was involved at the university, Ulloa left an important mark, said Adele Wilson, director of HMP3.
“She was a terrific role model for other students,” Wilson said.
Wilson highlighted Ulloa´s interest in helping minority students accomplish their goals in medicine.
“She excites people,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Ulloa is the first HMP3 student and one of the few UCSD students to receive the competitive Fullbright Scholarship.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. Among the thousands of prominent Fulbright alumni are: Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation; Mohamed Benaissa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Morocco; and Luis Ernesto Derbez, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mexico.
Ulloa said that she thinks her project will be of great relevance to neurosciences.
“A stroke can happen to anyone. I think this is going to benefit a lot of people,” she said.
She will live in Argentina until August, 2007.
When she first learned that she had been selected for the grant, Ulloa said she was really excited.
She said her interest in helping the underserved came from the principles her mother and grandmother instilled in her.
Her goal is to become a researcher and continue contributing to science.
“Most of my research will be focused on helping low-income communities,” she said.
To learn more about the Fullbright Scholar Program, visit www.cies.org.