Two Perelman School of Medicine professors, Kellie Ann Jurado and Arnaldo Díaz Vázquez, have been named to this year's 100 Inspiring Hispanic/Latinx Scientists in America list.
Cell Press, a publisher of biomedical journals, created the list on Sept. 15, the first day of National Heritage Month, which lasted until Oct. 15. The list aims to increase the inclusion and representation of Hispanic and Latinx scientists and to combat the misconception that there are not enough scientists from diverse backgrounds to host seminars and serve scientific roles.
"We must all work to ensure scientists from all walks of life are supported and welcomed into the scientific community in order to build a landscape that more accurately represents the makeup of society," the list's introduction reads.
Scientists were chosen based on their scholarly achievements, commitment to mentoring, and their participation in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, according to Cell Mentor.
Jurado, who joined the faculty of Penn Medicine in 2019, said she discovered her passion for scientific research during her undergraduate studies at New Mexico State University. As a presidential assistant professor of Microbiology, Jurado currently conducts research on how human bodies fight off emerging viral pathogens, specifically in the nervous system and placenta.
As a first-generation doctoral student, Jurado frequently engages with students from underserved high schools and educates communities about the HPV vaccine. She said being included on the list brought her pride and happiness, and reminded her that she is not alone in her academic journey.
“It gave me hope that we, together, can work to change the culture of academia to be more inclusive and to actively open up doors for others,” Jurado wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Vázquez, assistant dean for Research Training Programs and adjunct assistant professor of Pharmacology in Penn Medicine, grew up in a small town in Puerto Rico with a population of less than 20,000. After pursuing his postdoctoral training at Penn, he has now transitioned into an administrative role, where he oversees programs that aim to increase underrepresented minorities in biomedical sciences.
Vázquez dedicates much of his time at Penn to helping students from underrepresented communities pursue research and academic opportunities. He serves as co-director of Penn’s Postdoctoral Opportunities in Research and Teaching program, as well as the director of the Summer Undergraduate Internship Program and co-director of Penn’s Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program.
As a first-generation, low-income student from a town with few role models, Vázquez said the award is important in providing exposure to students with similar backgrounds. He also emphasized the significance of these awards to celebrate and recognize hard-working members of the community.
He said he hopes to use this award as a platform to continue making Penn a space that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable for all members, which begins with listening to the needs of the community.
“We as an institution have to acknowledge that we all come from different places, but we also have something to bring to the table — and we have to expand that table and bring more chairs,” Vázquez said.