Crystal Costa

Growing up around the borders of Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas, Crystal Costa was immersed in Mexican culture.

She experienced good, like the red chili peppers for traditional meals.

She experienced bad, like seeing how doctors didn’t explain health issues to her mother.

Costa’s experience drove her keen interest in working with underserved populations and building capacity among community leaders to improve public health, especially when it comes to environmental justice and health advocacy.

Today Costa is working on her master’s degree in public health at the University of Texas at El Paso. She also works with an interdisciplinary research team and provides support to pregnant and postpartum women recovering from substance abuse and trauma.

To further her experience and education, Costa applied for the Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training program.

The Éxito! program, led by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez at UT Health San Antonio with support from the National Cancer Institute, recruits 25 master’s-level students and professionals each year for a five-day summer institute, optional internships, and ongoing networking and support to promote doctoral degrees and careers in Latino cancer. A recent study found significant increases in summer institute participants’ confidence to apply to a doctoral program and academic self-efficacy.

She said Éxito! gave her “empowerment.”

“I feel more knowledgeable about how to go about the process of pursing a doctoral degree. Enlightened, [Éxito!] taught about new topics and concepts that I either did not know about or knew very little about,” Costa said.

“[Éxito!] was quite a remarkable experience being able to sit down with likeminded individuals but also being able to share stories, experiences, and struggles,” she added. “More importantly it also validated me as a Latina, something that I've never experienced in a group setting like that.”