Meet Our Scholars
Belen Padilla’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with tourist visas they overstayed. They struggled to provide for their family because they did not speak English, nor did they have legal documentation, or secondary education. After school counselors pressured Belen’s father to take her to therapy to treat my mental health, she realized that his immigration and patriarchal culture disrupted his emotional health. Over time, he developed stress-induced migraines and became intensely angry. He did not receive treatment while undocumented and uninsured. Belen’s father then took his anger out on her family by forcing them to endure domestic violence. Belen’s passion for medicine as a career is rooted in her experiences and desire to broaden access to culturally sensitive healthcare for mixed-status families like her own. She chose to major in neuroscience to gain deeper knowledge about how the stresses experienced by undocumented immigrants can devolve into chronic neurological disorders or emotional instability, as they did with her father. Belen wants to use her research and public service background to create a nonprofit that expands access to healthcare for undocumented families and advocates for policies that remedy race and class-based health disparities at the U.S-Mexico border.