National Nursing Leader to Present Research on Migrant Children

Mary Lou de Leon Siantz, PhD, RN, FAAN

Mary Lou de Leon Siantz, (PhD, RN, FAAN) the assistant dean of diversity and cultural affairs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, will present her research on immigrant and migrant children in “Children of the Road,” the 2011 UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing Ethnic Minority Visiting Scholar Lecture. This free lecture is open to the public and will take place from 3:00-5:00 pm on February 21, 2011 at the School of Nursing.

de Leon Siantz was born in Los Angeles of Mexican immigrant parents. She has spent her career in community health nursing advancing immigrant mental health through research, education and national leadership. “One of the fastest growing populations in the United States is children of immigrants, yet very little is known about them,” she said. “So I studied the children and continue to do research and provide consultation in this area.”

For example, she is currently investigating how to reduce pregnancy and promote reproductive health among Latina girls in work supported by the Office of Minority Health, Department of Health and Human Service. “The risk for premature birth is greatly increased because of the teen’s developmental stage and lack of access to prenatal care in this group. Pregnancy is one of the top reasons that Latina girls drop out of school,” she said.

During de Leon Siantz’s time as the National Mental Health Coordinator for Migrant Head Start, she developed a national network of mental health professionals who provided training and technical assistance for the implementation of the federal mental health standards to local Head Start mental health program directors and classroom teachers.  This national network educated Head Start staff on the mental health needs of children of migratory workers.

In addition, she established the Milagros Center of Excellence in Migrant Health, a training and technical center that translated research on migrant health into practice through a congressional earmark in partnership with the Hon. Ruben Hinojosa’s congressional district in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She also led in the development of a multicultural minor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, integrating her clinical and research expertise into the course on migration and health.

She served on the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality for two terms during the Clinton and Bush administrations. The committee advised the Secretary of Health and Human Service on the research and intervention needed to eliminate infant mortality among African Americans, which resulted in an evidenced-based curriculum focused on reproductive health. “I felt it was very important for public health nurses to be a part of this program,” she said. She brought in University of Pennsylvania student nurses to participate in the program along with pre-med and medical students from historically black colleges and universities. The opportunity has provided student nurses with experiences in a national interdisciplinary network as well as the ability to become pre-conceptual peer educators at the University of Pennsylvania and in the local communities of Philadelphia which experiences a high percentage of infant mortality among its African American population.

de Leon Siantz was the founding member and former President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. She also served as a member of the National Academy of Science and Institute of Medicine Committees on the Health Status of Immigrant Children, Patient Safety and the Workforce Environment and on the National Institute for Nursing Research’s National Advisory Council. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the National Latino Children’s Institute and the Health Subcommittee, Office of Migrant Education, U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to giving the “Children of the Road” lecture, de Leon Siantz will speak to those involved in health care at UNC Hospitals on the importance of cultural competency in the 21st Century and the development of Latino community partnerships, and she will share with School of Nursing students about her professional journey as a Latina nurse.

The Ethnic Minority Visiting Scholar Lecture series was established at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing in 2000 as an initiative to highlight the research and contributions of ethnic minority nurse scholars. The lecture brings outstanding specialists, educators, clinical researchers and directors to Chapel Hill for discussion of timely nursing matters affecting ethnic and minority populations.

The Ethnic Minority Visiting Scholar Lecture will be presented in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing Fox Auditorium located on the L level of Carrington Hall (corner of S. Columbia St and Medical Dr.). Parking will be available in the Dogwood Visitors Deck (directly across from UNC hospitals). For more information, please e-mail Dr. Diane Berry at dberry@email.unc.edu. Directions are available .

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