SRPH Graduate Addresses Rotary UN Conference
Elaine Hernandez, M.Ed., M.P.H., a graduate of the School of Rural Public Health at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, addressed a group of delegates from Rotary International and the United Nations on November 5, 2005, at the UN headquarters in New York. She presented her work on tuberculosis along the Texas-Mexico border as part of Rotary International UN Day.
Rotary International UN Day is designed to connect new projects to international resources. As a founding member of the UN, Rotary International works closely with the UN, serving in a consultative capacity. Hernandez presented her work on the Binational Leadership Alliance for Tuberculosis (BiLAT) and TB Plus Campaigns as part of the health portion of the day. Other topics at the conference included hunger, water and literacy.
Hernandez has had an active role in creating the BiLAT program. BiLAT is composed of Rotary Clubs from Texas, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and San Luis Potosi, Mexican Red Cross delegations, Maquiladora Associations in Reynosa, Nuevo Leon, and Matamoros, universities, faith based organizations, government health departments and non-governmental organizations. The latter include the American Red Cross International Services division, Ten Against TB, the US-Mexico Border Health Commission, and the Texas Border Health Foundation. The BiLAT program promotes the TB Plus Campaign, modeled after the Polio Plus Campaign. The plus signifies a linkage between the public and private sector.
While in Guatemala on a Fulbright scholarship, Hernandez had an epiphany to enter the field of public health in an international setting. She was part of the first group to pursue the Master of Public Health program at the School of Rural Public Health by means of distance education classes in McAllen, Texas. Distance education employs video conferencing and Internet-based instruction to overcome geographic obstacles. Hernandez notes: “Undertaking the M.P.H. degree through distance education and video conferencing was not so difficult. The professors were very approachable and interested in the stories coming from the border.”
Her interest in tuberculosis was formed early in her life. “I wanted to know more about tuberculosis, partly because I had a neighbor with TB when I was a child and I remember the stigma attached to TB at that time,” says Hernandez, “and partly because I felt that tuberculosis could become the next world campaign for Rotary International, modeled after the successful Polio Plus Campaign started by Rotary in 1985.”
At present, Hernandez serves as the Health Delegate to Mexico for the American Red Cross International Services Division. She is responsible for supervising a pilot TB project with the Cruz Roja Mexicana in Matamoros. She is also involved in building alliances in support of public health and emergency preparedness and response.