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  SAN ANTONIO, Texas –The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) today announced the formation of the HACU Health Sciences Advisory Council to address the underrepresentation of Hispanics in the nation’s health sciences arena.

The new council will contribute its expertise to HACU’s efforts to increase health science education and research opportunities for those colleges and universities serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students. Ultimately, the goal is to increase the ranks of underrepresented Hispanics in the health sciences professions.

“As the nation’s leading voice for Hispanic higher education, we welcome the nationally renowned leadership of this important new council, which will help establish priorities and a practical plan of action to help close the Hispanic health sciences career gap,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores.

“The timing is critical, considering the fast-expanding needs of a health sciences field serving a rapidly aging general population, and the immense potential for the nation’s youngest and fastest-growing ethnic population to contribute to meeting these critical needs,” Flores said. “We applaud the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for supporting the important work ahead for this new council.”

The new advisory council was formed as part of the DHHS/HACU Professions Capacity Building Project, which is funded by the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities and administered through the DHHS Office of Minority Health.

HACU represents 340 member colleges and universities serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students, including the nation’s federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, which have a full-time student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

According to a recent report by the National Council on Educational Statistics of U.S. Department of Education for the 1999-2000 school year, doctoral degrees in the sciences and other advanced fields of study accounted for less than 1 percent of all degrees awarded by HSIs.

The DHHS/HACU Professions Capacity Building Project is directed at increasing the capacity of HSIs and selected faculty members to participate in federal, state, and private-sector scientific and health-related research activities. Dr. Ray Garza, director of the Hispanic Research Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the Principal Investigator for the project.

The HACU Health Sciences Advisory Council will contribute specialized expertise to develop strategies to increase Hispanic health science education and training and research initiatives, to enhance health sciences partnerships between the federal government and HSIs, and to enhance advocacy efforts in support of closing the Hispanic health sciences gap.

Co-chairs appointed to the HACU Health Sciences Advisory Council are: Dr. John Alderete, a professor and director of viral pathogenesis training programs in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Dr. Elma Gonzalez, a professor in the Department of Organismic Biology, Ecology and Evolution at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Other council members are:

Dr. Maria Alvarez, a professor of biology and director of the MBRS (Minority Biomedical Research Support) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Program at El Paso Community College in Texas;
Dr. Cecilio Barrera, associate dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
Dr. Joe Martinez, director of the Cajal Neuroscience Research Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio;
Dr. Joseph Rachlin, a professor of biology at Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York;
Dr. Robert Ross, a professor of biology and director of the MBRS RISE Program at the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey University College;
Dr. Frank Talamantes, vice provost, dean and professor of endocrinology in the Division of Graduate Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz;
Dr. Antonia M. Villarruel, associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, and,
Marc Horowitz (Ad Hoc), director of the Office of Loan Repayment and Scholarship in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health.

For more information, contact Rene A. Gonzalez, HACU Director of Program Collaboratives, at (210) 692-3805. Ext. 3223 (email: Or visit