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Angela C. Chen, PhD

DIRECTOR

 

angela@phdreamers.org

Angela’s experiences being undocumented for 16 years, including throughout her undergraduate career, have ignited her passion for working with undocumented students and developing campus resources. Most recently, Angela worked as the Director of the Undocumented Student Program at UCLA, which served over 500 undocumented students, spawned new programs, and built resources across campus departments to better serve undocumented students. Angela’s institutional advocacy also includes leading University of California system-wide efforts to increase awareness about policies that impact undocumented students and guiding universities across the nation to develop support programs for undocumented youth. Angela completed her B.A. in Psychology from UC Irvine and received her M.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA Graduate School of Education with an emphasis on Higher Education. She enjoys meeting people, art therapy, biking, comfort food from all cultures, and storytelling.

 
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Erick Leyva

PROGAM MANAGER

erick@phdreamers.org

Erick immigrated to Santa Ana, CA from Mexico City when he was five years old after the passing of his father. Erick is a recent graduate from UCLA, where he received his degrees in Anthropology and Chicana/o studies. He is currently completing a post baccalaureate program in pre-medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. As a future physician, Erick intends to serve the low-income and immigrant communities of Southern California by providing access to holistic and culturally sensitive health care. Throughout his educational journey, Erick has been organizing throughout Southern California for immigrant health and civil rights, and the passage of the California Dream Act. He has been involved with different organizations such as Latino Health Access in Santa Ana, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the quality of life of residents of Santa Ana through preventive services and educational programs, and has also been a research assistant at the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture (CESLAC) at UCLA under the leadership of Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, where his primary task was to conduct qualitative research and document the Chicano/Latino Health Movement. Erick intends to contribute and serve the PHD community by advocating for more inclusive institutional and financial support for undocumented and DACA students throughout the country. He intends to use his experiences as an undocumented immigrant and knowledge gained from such experiences to alleviate barriers for future undocumented students in higher education and undocumented students pursuing health professions.

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Pia Iribarren

PEEP FACILITATOR

pia@phdreamers.org

Pia is an immigrant from Talagante, Chile who migrated to South Florida when she was 1 and a half years old. She graduated from New York University, Class of 2016, with a BA in Psychology and minors in both Chemistry and Physics, and was elected into Psi Chi, the Psychology Honor Society, in 2016. She later completed her Master’s in Public Health with a Concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the College of Global Public Health at New York University, Class of 2018, and was elected into the Delta Beta Chapter of the Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society in 2018. She successfully defended her thesis, “The Benefits of DACA: The Effect of Improved Access to Employment, Education, and Healthcare on Mental Health”, in May 2018. She plans to continue on to medical school and dedicate her career to improving both the access to and the quality of primary care for migrant communities.


 

Founding Members

 
 
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Denisse Rojas

Denisse Rojas Marquez envisions a health care system where no individual is excluded. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant, she and her family had limited health care options and as a result, they would often delay treatment for illnesses and use free or subsidized health care. Through these difficult experiences, Denisse was inspired to become a doctor in underserved immigrant communities that advocates for all patients and is a leader in shaping health care policies. Denisse was 10 months old when she and her family left Mexico for the United States. As a resident of Fremont, California, her family found new opportunities that enabled Denisse and her two siblings to attend college. Her path, however, had many roadblocks. Due to her status, Denisse was ineligible for financial aid and was often discouraged that no career counselor could offer guidance on her aspirations. Moreover, Denisse was painfully separated from family members who, as a result of stalled policies on immigration, left for Canada. Denisse remained steadfast in her aspirations and co-founded a national organization called Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD) to provide advising, resources and advocacy for other undocumented youth like herself. In just a few years, PHD has reached 800 members in 42 states. Through Denisse’s leadership, the organization co-sponsored legislation to allow CA licensing boards to award professional licenses to undocumented professionals and engaged in institutional advocacy with other academic groups. As a result, over 50 medical schools will consider undocumented students for admission.

 

 
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New Latthivongskorn

New emigrated from Thailand to the United States’ San Francisco Bay Area when he was nine years old and is now a recent graduate from the University of California-Berkeley, with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Throughout college, he funded his education with part-time jobs and private scholarships while staying involved in groups such as the Thai Student Association, Resident Hall Assembly, and the AB540 Coalition on campus. Off-campus, he served as a first co-chair of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education) at Asian Law Caucus, where he advocated and fought for the passage of the federal and the CA DREAM Act of recent years. As a New American Scholar of Educators for Fair Consideration, a non-profit organization supporting students in higher education, he shares his personal immigration experience to portray a different side of “DREAMers”. Most importantly, he continues to speak out as an Asian undocumented youth to increase visibility of API communities in immigration reform, reframe the public’s perception, and create a community for other API undocumented youth.

As an aspiring medical doctor who also hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health, New seeks to remedy the barriers that low-income and immigrant families of America face in accessing healthcare. His time volunteering with the homeless through the Suitcase Clinic and with Oakland’s low-income communities as a Healthy Ambassador of Mentoring in Medicine & Science exposed him to the stories of different communities, but also the struggles shared by all of them. His experience in scientific research includes two years at the School of Public Health at Cal studying the essential genes of the murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) and, most recently, a summer research fellowship in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medical College examining the kidney’s functions. New aims to become a physician who practices medicine through a public health lens, using primary care, research, and policy to shape health for the individual and the community. He has helped start Pre-Health Dreamers in hopes of alleviating the barriers he has faced for future undocumented students pursuing their dreams in the health and sciences.

 
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Angel Ku

Angel Ku is a Mexican immigrant who grew up in northern California. He attended San Francisco State University where he studied Chemistry and Molecular Biology. On campus he aided in establishing SF State’s Undocumented student organization, IDEAS where he lead efforts to host teach-ins and conferences to inform prospective students and staff on how to support undocumented students in higher education.

As an undergraduate he worked with Dr. Marquez-Magaña at SF State’s Health Equity Research Lab to study barriers to recruitment of minority patients onto clinical trials. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, San Francisco’s department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences where he is investigating how cancers become resistant to targeted therapies. These efforts will aid in developing new treatment strategies that will be more effective and safer for patients. In the future Angel seeks to establish his own academic lab where merge his passion for health equity and systems biology to continue to improve the lives of cancer patients.

It was both his passion for advocacy and science that lead Angel to co-found Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD). During his journey, the prospect of becoming a principal investigator seemed at times hopeless due to his immigration status; however, it was through building a community of support that allowed Angel to sustain his motivation to continue on his journey. Angel attributes his success to his family, friends and mentors who always motivated and pushed Angel to develop into a better advocate and scientist.