The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) National Alumni Advisory Board was created to advise the SHPEP National Program Office on enhancing alumni engagement, identify opportunities to reach the program’s target population, and overall program activities. The Board is comprised of 11 previous participants from the Medical Minority Education Program (MMEP), Summer Medical Enrichment Program (SMEP), and the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP).
The Alumni Advisory Board holds bimonthly conference calls and convenes annually in conjunction with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) annual meeting.
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Advisory Board Members
Tamana (Bunny) Begay, D.D.S. is a member of the SHPEP National Advisory Committee. Dr. Begay is of Navajo, Seneca, and Mohawk descent and was raised in Portland, Ore., with summers spent on the Northern Navajo reservation.
Dr. Begay began her college career at San Diego Mesa Community College and then transferred to the University of California, San Diego, Revelle College. She graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and minors in art history and psychology.
In 1999, Dr. Begay enrolled in the University Of San Francisco School Of Dentistry’s post-baccalaureate program. Following this program, she began her graduate studies at the University of the Pacific, Dugoni School of Dentistry, in San Francisco. After earning her D.D.S. in 2003, she began working with the Indian Health Service.
Dr. Begay currently works as a general dentist at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, CA. She is involved in several local and national organizations promoting American Indian/Alaska Native students into higher education and professional careers.
Felix Contreras-Castro attended SMDEP in 2012 at Yale University School of Medicine.
Mr. Contreras-Castro’s interest in medicine grew as he witnessed the staggering health disparities affecting marginalized communities. He has advocated, conducted research, and raised awareness on minority health as his main field of study. Inspired from his six-weeks at Yale SMDEP, He has attended internships at the National Institute of Health, John Hopkins School of Medicine, and UCLA where he has been published and presented his research across the country.
Mr. Contreras-Castro is extremely grateful for the SHPEP experience and the inspiration and confidence it gave him to graduate with a biology, sociology, and health services associate degrees from Atlantic Cape Community College. He was then granted a full scholarship to Amherst College where he graduated with a black studies bachelor’s degree with a focus on health disparities. Felix is now an adjunct chemistry and developmental math professor at Atlantic Cape Community College.
Karen Morris-Priester, M.D. attended MMEP in 2001 at Yale University and later graduated from Yale University Medical School in 2007.
She is an anesthesiologist practicing in Allentown, Penn. Dr. Morris-Priester gained national attention in 2007 when she appeared as a guest on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” where Ms. Winfrey recognized her for completing medical school as a single mother of five children and as the first grandmother to attend Yale School of Medicine.
Since then, Dr. Morris-Priester has traveled the country as a motivational speaker encouraging her audiences to follow their dreams. She also acts as a mentor to young people who aspire to become physicians. Serving as Chair of the alumni advisory board, Dr. Morris-Priester hopes to use her time to develop a process that will allow alumni to reach back to assist current participants in their journey to becoming aspiring physicians.
Andy Tang attended SMDEP in 2010 at the University of Washington.
Mr. Tang received his a BS in biology and environmental health from the University of Washington in 2014. He is currently a research scientist in the Department of Radiology, Body Imaging Section at UW Medicine where he participates in ontological imaging research and provides tumor response assessments for patients enrolled in clinical trials.
“My personal commitment to serve on the SHPEP National Advisory Alumni Board is grounded in the belief of improving the health and well-being of medically underserved patients and communities. Our pursuit of this goal may be met by establishing a culture of health through the alignment of a diverse, inclusive, inter-professional team that informs and improves high quality patient, family, and community centered care. As such, I believe the educational pipeline through SHPEP and engagement of our alumni is critical to achieving this goal. Serving on the Alumni Board propagates my passion of reducing health and health care disparities, ensuring that the doors to medicine are wide open to those marginalized and those working towards reducing health and social inequities in health care delivery systems.”
Jazmin Villavicencio attended SMDEP in 2008 at the University Of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE. She is a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe and of Mexican origin.
Ms. Villavicencio graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in public health, Mexican-American studies and Spanish translation and interpretation from the University of Arizona in May 2011.
In 2010, Mrs. Villavicencio was selected as one of eight students for the Four Directions Summer Research Program (FDSRP) at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, MA. The FDSRP focused on training the next generation of Native American leaders in health care.
In 2017, she completed a Public Health Training Certificate for American Indian Health Professionals from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Ms. Villavicencio currently works as Tribal Liaison with the First Things First, Arizona’s Early Childhood Agency, which partners with families and communities to support the healthy development and learning of young children.
She is honored to serve as part of the National Alumni Advisory Board and hopes to be a voice for many other alumni that have participated in this great program.
Rosemary Vergara attended SMDEP in 2014 at the University of California Los Angeles.
Ms. Vergara describes her experience in the program as, “a life-changing experience that really motivated me to envision a career in medicine.”
Ms. Vergara grew up in the Bay Area in California. In 2016, she received her Bachelor of Science in biology with a double minor in biotechnology and public health science at Santa Clara University. After graduation, she had the amazing opportunity to join a lab at the Stanford University School of Medicine as a Life Science Research Professional.
Ms. Vergra currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer for MiMentor and has volunteered in K-12 Outreach with Latinas in STEM. She has also worked as an Emergency Department scribe for Vituity and serves as a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar. Her role models include her parents and her little sister. In the future, she plans to attend medical school and work in an underserved community.