The South Texas Academy for Education and Training in Research was officially established within the DHR Health Institute for Research and Development in early 2021. It started as a progressive initiative proposed by Sohail Rao, MD, MA, DPhil and Monica Betancourt-Garcia, MD in collaboration and partnership with the Region One Education Service Center and the Pathways Aligned to Health Sciences (PATHS) grant program. The intent of the initiative was to spread awareness of clinical research opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley and the importance of Latino participation in clinical research via student ambassadors.
The Region One Education Service Center collaboration and partnership expanded in fall of 2021 to include the “GEARUP College Now, Career Connected! “and “GEARUP College Ready, Career Set!” grant programs funded by the US Department of Education. In addition to Dr. Rao and Dr. Betancourt-Garcia, STAETR is supported by three full-time staff, including Melissa Eddy, Program Manager, Veronica Escobedo, MD, Program Coordinator, and Raquel Sanchez, Program Coordinator.
What began as a single innovative idea transformed into a comprehensive, cutting-edge educational entity designed to improve the quality of life and career preparedness in our community in South Texas.
Team Leading South Texas Academy for Education & Training in Research. From L to R: Ms. Raquel Sanchez, Program Coordinator; Monica Betancourt-Garcia, MD, Co-Director; Sohail Rao, MD, MA, DPhil, President & CEO, DHR Health Institute for Research & Development; Ms. Melissa Eddy, Program Manager; and Veronica Escobedo, MD, Program Coordinator.
In the last three years, STAETR has touched the lives of 3099 students, teachers, and parents from elementary, middle, and high schools from some of the most rural and underserved communities in South Texas.
Monica is clinical research fellow and spearheads the DHR Health Institute for Research and Development Biobank initiatives. Monica is a Rio Grande Valley native and obtained her Bachelors of Science from University of Texas Pan-American and her MD from the Universidad Valle de Bravo.
Melissa Eddy is the program manager for research education at the DHR Health Institute for Research and Development. She earned a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in Biology from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Melissa earned her master’s degree in Biology in 2000, with her thesis research focusing on the phenology of drought-adapted plant species, which led to publications in “Texas Journal of Science” and “The Southwestern Naturalist.”
Melissa taught Advanced Placement (AP) Biology for 30 years at McAllen Memorial High School, spending 15 of those years as an adjunct faculty member in the biology department at South Texas College. While at McAllen Memorial, Melissa managed AP instruction and curriculum as the AP Coordinator and served on numerous committees, often in a leadership capacity. Her peers awarded her the “Campus Teacher of the Year” and “District Secondary Teacher of the Year” awards in May 2017. Melissa was also employed as an independent consultant in AP Biology for several years, presenting to teachers in Abu Dhabi, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kazakhstan, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas and South Carolina. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys exercising, gardening, reading, and volunteer work.