Feb. 12, 2007 — The University of Utah, School of Medicine, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Public Health Program, and the Utah Hispanic Business Leadership Foundation (UHBLF), announced today a partnership to provide ongoing funding for the Senator Pete Suazo Memorial Endowed Hispanic Scholarship in Public Health. George L. White, Jr., Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Director of the University’s Public Health Program, said, “This marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration, a major step towards the goal of eliminating healthcare disparities in Utah.” The creation of the Endowment enables the scholarship, which was originally founded in 2002, to continue with the goal of eventually providing two full-ride scholarships for Hispanic graduate students in public health. A press conference to announce the details of the partnership will be held Wednesday, February 14 at 10:00 a.m., Eccles Broadcast Center, on the University of Utah campus.
Under the endowment the UHBLF will provide $5,000 per year for a total of three years. The U of U, Public Health Program will match the annual donation for those three years. In addition, Lucy Cardenas, owner, Red Iguana Restaurant, pledges a donation of $1,000, and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah pledges $2,500 toward the endowment. This is the only Public Health Program scholarship endowment established specifically for Hispanic students.
According to data from the Utah State Department of Health, Hispanic/Latino Utahns are significantly less likely than other populations in the state to report a usual source of health care. In addition, the proportion of persons covered by health insurance is lowest in the Hispanic/Latino population. Other ethnic minority populations report similar disparities. John Contreras, M.P.H., doctoral student in the Public Health Program, and the last recipient of the scholarship said, “The scholarship endowment provides opportunities to Hispanics to enter the public health field, particularly in Utah where there is a significant shortage of Hispanic public health professionals. As long as this shortage exists, the disparities in health related issues, such as disproportionate incidence of diabetes and problems with access to care, will be difficult to resolve or eliminate. This scholarship will not only benefit the recipient but more importantly will also benefit the whole Hispanic community.”
Alicia Suazo, wife of the late Senator Pete Suazo, expressed thanks, “The Suazo family is humbled by the outreach of Dr. George White and his efforts to build this scholarship endowment in Pete’s name. He recognizes the need to have public health workers in areas that service ethnic populations. We are truly grateful.” Robert Rendon, President, Utah Hispanic Business Leadership Foundation, notes that the UHBLF was founded to support and encourage Hispanic students to further their education, “Education is very important for our students to become successful in life and contribute to our economy. Our Foundation is very pleased to support the Senator Pete Suazo Memorial Endowed Hispanic Scholarship in Public Health, knowing our late Senator, if he were still with us, would be very happy today that we have formed this partnership for our students.”
The scholarship was originally launched in January 2002 with a five-thousand dollar gift from the Hispanic Festival Committee, with matching funds from Dr. G. Marsden Blanch, President of Megadyne Medical Products, Inc, and Dr. Carl Kjeldsberg, President and CEO of Associated Regional University of Pathology (ARUP). Lucy Cardenas, owner, Red Iguana Restaurant, also contributed to the original scholarship fund.