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Milena A Melo

Milena A. Melo
Working for positive change in the Valley

A Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, Milena Melo is shedding light on a growing issue in her hometown in the Rio Grande Valley—the quality of life for undocumented Mexican immigrants. Her dissertation, titled Enacting Life: Hospital Dialysis Among Undocumented Mexican Immigrants, focuses on the struggles many immigrants face in gaining access to specialty healthcare.

“There’s such a high rate of diabetes there. People do what they can to survive, but I really want to educate others about this problem,” Milena says.

A recipient of the UTSA Mexico Center for Education Research fellowship, funded by Carlos and Malu Alvarez, Milena is the first student ever to receive the full annual amount of $3,500 two years in a row. As a result, she has had the opportunity to spend time interviewing immigrants and investigating affordable healthcare assistance.

“The support of Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez shows me that they believe in helping others, and that has given me the confidence to continue the work,” she says.

Milena hopes that her continued research, and partnerships with UTSA faculty and residents of the Valley will start a serious conversation about how to resolve this issue. “I hope that my work will influence the way people think about basic human rights. These rights should apply to everyone,” she says.


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