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Posted: May 23, 2006

Sanchez Studies Hispanic Health Interventions in Fort Worth


SanchezMary-Katherine.jpg Mary-Katherine Sanchez wanted to be a doctor when she was growing up. And now she is.

On Saturday, she walked across the stage at the Fort Worth Convention Center and received her doctorate in public health from UNT Health Science Center. But when she was a little girl, Sanchez thought she would be getting her doctorate in medicine.

“Originally, I was planning on applying to medical school,” Sanchez said, “but I graduated early, so I wanted to do something in the interim.”

Sanchez earned her bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M University in three years, and on the advice of a professor at A&M, she enrolled in its School of Rural Public Health, where she earned her master’s of public health degree.

“I got more and more into [public health], and it became my passion,” Sanchez said. “I was hooked. I felt really lucky that I had found something that I loved.”

Sanchez, an Aledo High School graduate, came back to the Fort Worth area to complete her doctorate in public health after her stint at Texas A&M. Her dissertation topic drew on her knowledge of Fort Worth and the Hispanic community.

“I’m interested in looking into health disparities, particularly among the Hispanic population,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez’s research for her dissertation, “Factors that Motivate Hispanics to Participate in Church-Based Health Interventions,” took place at parishes in Fort Worth. She used focus group sessions conducted in Spanish to discover the social and behavioral factors that make Hispanics want to become involved in health interventions at their parish.

“I discovered that a lot of it depended on the familiarity that people had with the church,” Sanchez said. “The church is seen as a gateway in the Hispanic community. Once the word is out and people begin participating, more individuals are likely to come. They think of the church as their second home.”

Sanchez comes from a diverse background. Her father was born in Mexico, and her mother is of Native American and Hispanic descent. Her older sister practices law in Fort Worth and Weatherford. Sanchez is a graduate of Aledo High School, and currently lives in Aledo.

She said she hopes to continue her community work in health disparities.

“I’d really like to stay around here if I can,” Sanchez said. “I’m interested in academia, and I’d really like to continue with my community-based work. This is my passion.”

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Contact: Kay Colley 817-735-2553, cell 817-980-5090, e-mail kacolley@hsc.unt.edu.

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