The University of Texas at Austin Latino Research Initiative


Deborah Parra-MedinaDeborah Parra-Medina | Director | Professor

Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina is the inaugural director of the Latino Research Institute and Professor in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies. Professor Parra-Medina has extensive expertise in developing culturally competent public health, chronic disease, and healthy lifestyle interventions with underserved communities, including women, Latinos, financially disadvantaged, and immigrant populations. She uses a mixed-methods, community-based participatory approach, often designing and implementing interventions that utilize the promotora model and involve multimedia, text messaging, and other technological communications. Dr. Parra-Medina comes to Austin from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR), where she was a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics from 2008 to 2016. From 1998 to 2008, she served on the faculty of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. She received her Ph.D. in public health epidemiology from the University of California, San Diego/San Diego State University joint doctoral program and her master’s in public health in health promotion and education from San Diego State University.

Laura EsparzaLaura Esparza | Assistant Director

Laura Esparza is the Assistant Director of the Latino Research Institute. Ms. Esparza has more than 30 years’ experience in business and project management, including 15 years in public health research. Her research experience uses participatory methods to design, implement, and evaluate community interventions to promote healthy lifestyles for women, youth, and families in underserved communities. Ms. Esparza has a master’s degree in kinesiology and health promotion from The University of Texas at San Antonio and maintains two professional certifications: Physical Activity and Public Health Specialist and Master Certified Health Education Specialist.

Daisy Morales-CamposDaisy Morales-Campos | Area Director for Training Programs | Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Daisy Y. Morales-Campos is Area Director for Training Programs and Research Assistant Professor at the Latino Research Institute. Her research interests include public health education, cancer prevention, and maintenance of behavior change among Hispanics. She is especially interested in health, culture and reproduction issues that immigrant women from Latin America and their children encounter in the U.S. She has extensive experience in the design and implementation of community-based participatory research, culturally appropriate research methods and protocols, cancer screening studies, and interventions for Hispanics utilizing a promotora model. Her research currently focuses on community-based and health system interventions to promote cancer prevention in underserved communities and in FQHC settings by working with providers and health care systems with an implementation science focus. Dr. Morales-Campos received a bachelor’s in Sociology and Spanish (2001) from St. Mary’s University, a master’s in Medical Anthropology (2004) from Southern Methodist University, and a doctorate in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences (2009) from the UT School of Public Health, Houston.

Ruben Parra-CardonaRuben Parra-Cardona | Area Director for Research | Professor

Dr. Parra-Cardona is an Associate Professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Area Director for Research at the Latino Research Institute. Before coming to UT, he was at Michigan State University where he was an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, College of Social Science; and the associate director of the MSU Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence. He was funded by NIMH to investigate the treatment efficacy and relevance of two versions of an evidence-based parenting intervention culturally adapted for Latino families with young children. He is currently funded by NIDA to extend this line of research to Latino families with adolescent children. He is the recipient of the 2013 American Family Therapy Academy Early Career Award for his innovative work on cultural adaptation research. He has a wealth of experience on research collaborations across the U.S.-Mexico border, and is currently vice-president of the Family Process Institute, a member of the board of directors of the Centro de Investigación Familiar (a leading family therapy institute in Mexico and in Latin America), and a clinical faculty member and researcher in the Instituto Regional de Estudios de la Familia (a leading family therapy institute in northern Mexico).

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  • Latino Research Institute

    The University of Texas at Austin
    210 W. 24th Street | Mailcode F9200
    GWB 2.102
    Austin, Texas 78712