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Dwayne Martin-Gomez, a Phoenix, Ariz. native, has been interested in pursuing a career in health care and serving his community since he was in high school.
Martin-Gomez, now a senior in Barrett Honors College majoring in global health, has found his path to helping other people.
He received a Bidstrup Undergraduate Fellowship through the honors college that supports the work he does with Dr. Gabriel Shaibi and Allison Williams at the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI) in a research project aimed at diabetes prevention among young Latinos. Bidstrup funding also helps support Martin-Gomez’s honors thesis research in community health.
“I am humbled and grateful to have received this award. It has definitely helped me pay for school while conducting research at the downtown campus close to home. It has helped me focus on research by developing the skills needed in order to compose my honors thesis,” he said.
The goal of the Community-Based Diabetes Prevention Program for Obese Latino Youth: Every Little Step Counts is to test the effects of a community-based diabetes prevention program for obese Latino youth. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is conducted in partnership with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Valley of the Sun YMCA, and the St. Vincent de Paul Medical Clinic.
Martin-Gomez handles data, entering health screening and lab results into a database. He interfaces with participants and their families, providing them with information about the program and taking weight and body measurements from participants. He also works on recruitment and retention efforts via phone calls to potential participants in Spanish and English.
“I see the numbers, but I don’t look at them (program participants) as numbers. I think of how I can serve them and provide the social support they need,” he said.
In addition to working in the CONHI program, Martin-Gomez has completed an internship with the Columbia University Summer Public Health Scholars Program under the Centers for Disease Control Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Initiative in New York City. In addition to taking courses in public health, Martin-Gomez interned in the Columbia University School of Nursing: Center for Health Policy.
Martin-Gomez’s exposure to community health programming has helped him solidify his goal to become a family practice nurse practitioner. His plans to attend graduate school to complete his health care education.
“Internships have been beneficial in allowing me to test the waters in different areas and knowing what I am best fit for, or at least having an idea of what I see myself doing. I believe this public health exposure has allowed me to grow and learn why I want to continue as a nurse practitioner in the future,” he said.
While health care has been his primary focus, Martin-Gomez has put his efforts into other community service activities.
He received a Woodside Community Action Grant from Changemaker Central at ASU to fund a Latinx festival and a program highlighting actions Latinos could take to make their communities more sustainable, such as recycling materials, and using bamboo toothbrushes, metal straws and reusable tote bags.
In September, Martin-Gomez participated in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. where he attended workshops, panel discussions, and award ceremonies celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and trailblazing Latinos and Latinas. Of particular note to Martin-Gomez was a panel discussion on mental health and the steps being taken to make it a priority at local and national levels.
An awards ceremony where Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was given the Medallion of Excellence in the Arts, Entertainment, Media, Music and Sports was a highlight of the conference.
“One of his quotes I will remember is ‘When you are in front of a racist, bigot, and liar, disobey peacefully,’” Martin-Gomez said.
Martin-Gomez’s road to research work and a degree with honors from Barrett has had its obstacles, but he has faced them with determination and resiliency. He entered Barrett in the Fall 2015 semester, left a semester later and returned in the Fall 2016 semester.
“One of the first things I had to tell myself constantly was that I belonged there. The imposter syndrome overwhelmed me at times, which led to me dropping Barrett for a semester. However, the staff and faculty I worked with my freshman year encouraged me to stay and provided me the support I needed to succeed.”
Martin-Gomez realized that he could balance his workload and social life while being active in Barrett activities and campus organizations, completing internships and research, and working as a student assistant to the Internship Coordinator in Barrett for a few years.
“Barrett has made it possible for me to network more with other individuals beyond the classroom. For example, the honors thesis project has allowed me to not only pursue research, but also work for my community, advocate for Latino health issues, and be compensated as a low-income student. This close-knit community has made my college experience the best it can be for my future career,” he said.