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Full-Circle Journey Back to Agricultural Roots

Posted by USDA Research, Education, and Economics Communications Team in Equity Research and Science
Sep 19, 2022
Dr. Anabel Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Texas, San Antonio

Dr. Anabel Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Texas, San Antonio. Growing up, Dr. Rodriguez lived in Rio Grande City, Texas, with her parents and siblings and worked as a migrant farm worker picking grapes and seasonal produce with her family in California. Through her experiences as an agricultural worker, Dr. Rodriguez’s passion for occupational health, safety and epidemiology for agricultural workers began to grow.

With an interest in science and occupational health and safety, Dr. Rodriguez originally planned to enroll in medical school after earning her undergraduate degree at St. Edward’s University in Austin. However, her mentor—Dr. Patricia Baynham—encouraged her to apply to participate in a USDA Hispanic-serving Institutions Education Grant to do her own microbiology research as an undergraduate.

Dr. Rodriguez was selected to participate in the grant and dove into microbiology research. This research experience shifted Dr. Rodriguez’s focus to public health. Dr. Rodriguez continues to research epidemiology as well as occupational health and safety among agricultural workers bringing her full circle to her own roots as an ag worker. Currently, she is finishing a USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) project focused on increasing education among dairy farm workers and meat processing plant workers.

USDA-NIFA’s Hispanic-serving Institutions Education Grant Program is a Justice40 covered program (PDF, 222 KB), which is a type of Federal program that falls within the scope of the initiative because it includes investments benefitting underserved communities. Justice40 is a whole-of-government initiative that works to direct 40 percent of the overall benefits to certain federal investments to underserved communities. Some of the investments that fall within the Justice40 Initiative include climate change, clean energy, and training and workforce development.

Category/Topic: Equity Research and Science