Latino Mental Health Research Trainees: Summer 2012

Vanessa Calderon, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

I am a senior at Yale University completing my undergraduate degree in psychology. I intend to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. I am interested in working with the Latino community, addressing the discrepancies in help seeking behavior and access to mental health care. My research interests include exploring the factors that contribute to the disparity in treatment amongst minority populations and developing effective interventions to address this issue. In particular, I am interested in working with families dealing with depression and substance abuse and providing culturally sensitive therapies. I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to explore these issues through the Latino Mental Health Research Program in Puebla this summer. I look forward to what will undoubtedly be a truly rewarding and invaluable experience.

Jessica Carmona, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Jessica CarmonaIn Spring of 2013 I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor´s of psychology and sociology from the University of Texas at Brownsville. For the last two years, I have been conducting research with Hispanics under the mentorship of Dr. Cody Cox and Dr. Jared Montoya. I am especially interested in the promotion of multicultural research and in studying the role that culture and society play on mental health.  On the Summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to conduct research in Puebla, Mexico. To be accepted into this program was a great opportunity. It gave me the chance to work with individuals with serious mental illnesses and their families. It was a great learning experience that has profoundly shaped my current research and professional goals.  In February, I received that news that I had been accepted into a PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Brigham Young University. I have accepted their offer and I will start their program in this coming Fall. In the future I hope to become a competent researcher and practitioner. I want to achieve cultural competence to provide quality service for minorities.  I would also like to promote research and higher education among Hispanics.

Mifta Chowdhury, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Mifta Chowdhury

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the spring of 2013 with a major in Psychology and a certificate in Spanish. After graduating, I returned to my hometown of the Bronx, New York, where I conducted positive psychology research on the relationship between resilience and shelter use as a Penn Fox Alumni Research and Service Fellow, with support from the NYC Department of Homeless Services. After completing my summer fellowship I began working at a policy research organization called MDRC on a project evaluating GED and adult education programs at community colleges throughout the country. During my summer in Puebla with MHIRT, my project partner and I designed and conducted a qualitative interview investigating factors contributing to a delay in treatment of psychosis. I have since come to rely on the research interview skills I developed as a MHIRT trainee and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the program.


Marissa Garcia, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Marissa Garcia

I graduated with highest distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish in May 2012. Under the mentorship of Dr. Eric A. Youngstrom, I spent the summer of 2011 conducting my own research in a rural community in Guanajuato, Mexico, in which I was interested in seeing if Mexican culture influenced maternal attitudes towards mood symptoms in children and adolescents.  I spent my senior year working as a research assistant in Dr. Youngstrom’s Mood Emotions Clinical Child Assessment (MECCA) Lab assisting a graduate student with a meta-analysis of bipolar disorder symptomatology. My research interests include Latino mental health disparities and psychometrics.  In particular, I am interested in the factors within Latino culture that contribute to the low rates of bipolar disorder and depression among Latinos.  In addition, I am interested in whether the current diagnostic tools that exist are effective in diagnosing mood disorders among Latinos. I spent this summer conducting research at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Under the mentorship of Dr. Rolando Diaz-Loving and Dr. Sofía Rivera Aragón, I designed my own research study that measured the reliability and validity of the Familism scale in Mexico City. My goals are to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and conduct research to provide a better understanding of Latino mental health disparities and propose solutions that would ideally eliminate these differences.


Gilberto Lopez, MPH, MA
Graduate Trainee

Gilberto Lopez

My research interests include analyzing the intersections of migration, health, and power/politics. More specifically, I am interested in how said intersections play a role in the conceptualization, attitudes, and behaviors of health and illness among migrants in sending and receiving communities. My research experience includes: researching perceptions and attitudes of mental health treatment in a binational Mixteco community; research among military veterans with spinal-cord injuries; applied research aimed at improving HIV preventive and testing services among heterosexual-identifying Latino MSM’s; and researching explanatory models of HIV/AIDS among young adults in Mexico City. 

I am currently completing a biostatistics certificate through the University of California, San Diego and have been admitted into the social and behavioral sciences doctoral program at the Harvard School of Public Health (fall 2013 start). My additional academic formation includes: an MPH in social and behavioral sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; an MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University; and BA’s in Anthropology and Chicano Studies, with a minor in Philosophy, from Fresno State University.


William Martinez, Ph.D.
Graduate Trainee

I am a fourth-year graduate student in the Clinical-ChildWilliam Martinez Psychology Ph.D. program at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. In 2010, I was awarded a fellowship through the American Psychological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program. At DePaul, under under the mentorship of Antonio Polo, Ph.D., I have been examining the impact of cultural and contextual factors on the mental health of Latino youth as well as a cultural adaptation of a school-based group intervention for depression targeting ethnic minority youth. My research interests include the development, implementation, and dissemination of evidence-based treatment programs for youth of underrepresented groups with an emphasis on treatments for pediatric stress, anxiety, and trauma in immigrant Latino youth populations. Currently, I am working on my dissertation where I am employing hierarchical linear modeling techniques to examine how individual family cultural factors and neighborhood contexts interact and impact internalizing and externalizing symptoms in Latino youth. I particularly strive to address advocacy, policy, and social justice issues throughout my research.


Yesenia Mejia, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Yesenia MejiaI  graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in Psychology.  My research interests include increasing public awareness of mental health topics, reducing mental health disparities, and improving quality of life within Latino communities. I am also interested in researching culture and the role it plays in mental health.  As a research assistant, I worked under the supervision of Dr. Andres Sciolla on his research project which involved creating an effective program for treating Spanish-speaking, gay, Hispanic males diagnosed with HIV, affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I also conducted research at the Autism Lab on campus which involved developing better therapies and assessments for children under 3 years of age who show symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Furthermore, as a Wellness Peer Educator at the Counseling and Psychological Services Department I facilitated mental health workshops and promoted outreach on campus which sparked my interest in improving mental health literacy amongst Latinos.  I am passionate about working with underprivileged and minority populations and truly enjoyed working with Dr. Lopez and his research team in Puebla, Mexico on his Psychosis Literacy Project during the summer of 2012.  I am now project assistant for the Reducing the Duration of Untreated Psychosis through Community Education project at USC.  I will be helping to disseminate the educational campaign La CLAve, which aims to increase psychosis literacy and early treatment among Latino populations in the San Fernando area of Los Angeles County.


Perla Padilla, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Perla PadillaI graduated with two BAs, Psychology and Latin American Studies, from the University of California San Diego in 2012. I am from Honduras and moved to United States in 2005. I am interested in conducting research with Latino populations focusing on education, immigration and Latin America politics. I think my research interests are influenced by my experiences as an immigrant and my yearning for my country and Latin America. I became involved in research when I transferred to UCSD which gave me plenty of opportunities to enrich my undergraduate career conducting my own research. In my junior year, I participated in the McNair program and the Psychology Research Honors program.  My research in Psychology was about motivation and learning. During my time at UCSD, I also expanded my research to include the Honduran politics being part of the Research Honors program in my second major, Latin American Studies. As member of the USC MHIRT 2012 cohort, I will be working in Mexico City in the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatria Ramon de la Fuente Muniz with Dr. Shoshana Berenzon.  This project will expose me for the first time to ethnographical research. I am grateful for being able this summer to enhance my research and life experience working and exploring a new country, culture and method of conducting research. 


Nayra Rodriguez Soto, M.A.
Graduate Trainee

I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico,Nayra Rodriguez Soto Río Piedras and received a B.A. in Psychology and Anthropology in 2009. I am currently a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at the same university. During my academic years, I have received research training at the Institute for Psychological Research (IPsi), under the mentorship of Dr. Guillermo Bernal, Dr. Carmen Rivera-Medina, Dr. Eduardo Cumba-Avilés and Dr. Melanie Domenech-Rodríguez. My last project was about an examination of the behaviors related to evidence-based practice among Puerto Rican mental health providers. My research interests are with the development and adaptation of psychological measures into Latino communities that are associated with mood disorders, particularly family related instruments. I am also interested in understanding how family processes and cultural context are related to developmental psychopathologies, and how interventions focused on culturally sensitive parenting are essential to prevent them.


Benjamin Rosado, B.S.
Undergraduate Trainee

Benjamin RosadoI graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012 with a double major in Psychology and Global Studies. Under the guidance of Sue Estroff, I graduated with highest honors for my senior thesis: “Examining Structural Violence in Guatemala through Conceptions of Depressive Symptoms”. I have a strong interest in cultural conceptions of mental health/illness and how they influence help-seeking behaviors. Moreover, I am interested in the interface of mental health and social justice. During the summer of 2012 I conducted research at la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) regarding perceptions of bisexual men in Mexico City and elements of social stigma and prejudice. Currently I am working as a Youth Case Manager with the Latin American Youth Center based in Washington, DC. The program I am with focuses on health disparities in the Latino immigrant/refugee population, specifically addressing issues of substance abuse and co-occurring health issues. I ultimately aspire to go to graduate school for a duel-degree in Social Work and Public Health, and dedicate my efforts towards Latinos and mental health.


Maria Santos, B.A.
Graduate Trainee

Maria SantosI am a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee under the mentorship of Dr. Jonathan W. Kanter.  My research focuses on the development of psychotherapy treatment for depression.  Specifically, I am currently working on a randomized controlled trial of Behavioral Activation (BA) for Latinos with Depression.  I have also conducted a pilot trial of BA for Latino men in group format in the community health setting.  My master’s is on the validation of a measure of activation, the Behavioral Activation for Depression Scale (BADS), with a Spanish-speaking population in the US.  The validated tool will enable measurement of changes in BA’s hypothesized mechanism of action throughout the course of treatment.  I am a second-generation Latina from Los Angeles of Guatemalan heritage.    

 Natalia Jaramillo Vasquez, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Natalia JaramilloI graduated with honors from Clark University May 2012 with a B.A. in psychology and concentrations in Latin American Studies and Ethics & Public Policy. This fall I plan to apply to Clinical Psychology graduate programs. During my time at Clark, I received research training in the Mental Health, Culture, and Community Research Program under the mentorship of Dr. Esteban Cardemil.  I have conducted research examining the relationship between masculinity and depression through the context of acculturation in Latino men. My research interests include understanding help-seeking behaviors among Latinos, as well as developing culturally sensitive treatment interventions geared at improving mental health disparities for minority groups. Since finishing the MHIRT program in Puebla, Mexico, I have been working as a project assistant for the Families and Schizophrenia project at USC.


  • Dr. Steven R. Lopez, Ph.D.
  • University of Southern California
  • Dornsife College, Psychology Department
  • 3620 McClintock Avenue, SGM 501
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061