2014 CURE Intern: Denise Aquino

Aquino_Denise_150A senior at Molalla High School, Denise Aquino maintains a 4.25 GPA, while taking challenging Advanced Placement classes in science and math. Her academic accomplishments earned her a spot in the National Honors Society. She is also an accomplished long-distance runner, and takes part in her school's Environmental Club and various community service activities.

Denise has been named as Oregon's 2013 Migrant Student of the Year, in recognition of her scholastic achievements while overcoming family hardship. She is ranked second out of 182 students in her school.  The combination of excellent academic performance, leadership in school activities and community service propelled Denise to be declared as the best among more than 19,000 students throughout the state who sought the recognition. She is the first student from Molalla High School to receive the statewide honor.

Moreover, Denise is poised to become the first woman in her family to attain a college education. Her parents moved from Oaxaca to the United States to work in agriculture. It was only recently when Denise's mother had the opportunity to take English classes, while also working long hours at her full-time job as a hostess. Denise helps her mother study English by checking her work and serving as a tutor.

At OHSU, Denise is a returning participant in the highly competitive Ted R. Lilley Continuing Umbrella of Research Education (CURE) Intern Program, administered by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and funded by the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. She is one of eight interns selected from more than 100 applicants to take part in the research program that provides hands-on research laboratory experiences for promising high school students who want to pursue a career in the health and sciences. 

Denise's experience as an English language learner, and her mother's English language tutor has solidified her goals to help the Latino community access high-quality care, particularly those seeking help with eye problems. Denise has set her sights on obtaining a medical degree to specialize in ophthalmology.

"I want to one day participate in a program that facilitates the provision and sustainability of vision care for people who cannot afford nor have opportunities to access care," she says. "Healthcare access does not come easy, and I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to see well."

Interested in the CURE Program? Contact David Martinez for more information.

Posted on July 3, 2014. Photo and write-up by Maileen Hamto.