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Dr. Teresita Padilla-Benavides helps establish chapter of national organization to advance Latinos/minorities in science

Date Posted: Monday, April 03, 2017

SACNAS chapter at UMMSOn March 29, UMass Medical School will officially launch its new student-led chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. SACNAS is an inclusive organization and all members of the UMMS community are invited to become involved.

“You don’t need to be Hispanic or Native American to join us,” said Teresita Padilla-Benavides, PhD, faculty co-advisor and advocate for SACNAS at UMMS. “Our student chapter is also open to faculty and postdocs and all are welcome.”

Dr. Padilla-Benavides, instructor in biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, spearheaded formation of the UMMS chapter with the students. Jaime Rivera Perez, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, will serve as faculty co-advisor.

The first board of directors will comprise the chapter’s three founding students, with members to be elected in subsequent years. Aurian Garcia-Gonzalez, an MD/PhD student conducting her research in the lab of Marian Walhout, PhD, will serve as president. Daniel Hidalgo, MA, a second-year Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences student in the lab of Merav Socolovsky, MD, PhD, and Raziel Rojas-Rodríguez, a fourth-year graduate student in the lab of Silvia Corvera, PhD, will be sworn in as board members.

SACNAS was stablished in 1973 to foster the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

“Coming from Puerto Rico, I always wanted to help create a community in which rising scientists and medical students find mentorship in someone who can appreciate all the aspects of who they are, including where they’re from and what language they speak,” said Garcia-Gonzalez. “I think national organizations offer incredible platforms to achieve some of those goals as they can provide more structure and opportunities for networking both regionally and nationally.”

The swearing in ceremony for the board will be followed by talks from keynote speakers Deborah Harmon Hines, PhD, professor emeritus of radiology, and José Lemos, PhD, professor of microbiology & physiologic systems.

“Both Tere Padilla-Benavides and I have benefited greatly from being involved with SACNAS for a number of years, me gaining visibility as a scientist at national meetings, and Tere with professional development opportunities they offer,” said Garcia-Gonzales. “So we know the organization is very strong in providing opportunities for students.”

To learn more about SACNAS, visit their website. For more information about joining the UMMS chapter or attending a meeting of SACNAS, email

By Sandra Gray
UMass Medical School Communications