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Janelle Chavez is expanding access to care for medically underserved communities.

Janelle Chavez, ’19

Major: Biology

Biology major Janelle Chavez ventured to Austin for her education and plans to return to the Valley to improve health care.

Janelle Chavez grew up in Port Isabel. Living with her four grandparents, she saw them struggle with broken bones, heart disease and cancer. Those emotional experiences inspired Janelle. “I knew I wanted to be a physician.”

Now a Forty Acres Scholar, Janelle has worked at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, McGovern Medical School, the Texas Children’s and Memorial Hermann Hospital, and UT’s Dell Medical School. All along her journey, she says, “I’ve seen patients who remind me of my grandparents.”

Both her childhood in the Rio Grande Valley and clinical training in Peru taught her the importance of access to health care and especially women’s health care. In Cameron County, where she grew up, the death rate from cervical cancer is significantly higher than elsewhere in Texas. Janelle wants to find ways to expand the state’s health care system in this low-income area at the tip of Texas. “I want to make a difference in Texas,” she says, “and take that out to the world.”

Though she traveled to Austin for her education, Janelle plans to return to the Valley to do medical research.