Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

 

To mark National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), St. Jude spotlights the contributions of some of our Hispanic staff, whose passion, dedication and expertise are critical in advancing our global mission. Here, a few of them share what inspires their work.


 

Fabiola Alarcón-Varkevisser

Fabiola Alarcón-Varkevisser (right) visiting our partner site in Costa Rica.

Fabiola Alarcón-Varkevisser (right) visiting our partner site in Costa Rica.

National heritage: Mexican
Liaison, Radio Development | ALSAC

“I think that I get to meet the best of humanity in this work,” said Fabiola, who has worked for 14 years at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.

When Fabiola was growing up in Tecate, Mexico, the little nephew of a family friend got cancer. His family initially couldn’t find him treatment, but when they were able to send him to St. Jude, the news spread quickly. “It always stuck with me,” she says.  

As part of her work for ALSAC, Fabiola has visited several partner sites in Latin America to help train them on the St. Jude model, an experience she describes as the highlight of her career. “I could see for the first time how St. Jude was this hospital without walls,” she said. “It was life-changing for me.”


 

Gabriela "Gaby" Maron Alfaro, MD

Gabriela "Gaby" Maron Alfaro, MD, and patient Camila

Gabriela "Gaby" Maron Alfaro, MD, and St. Jude patient Camila.

National heritage: Salvadorian
Assistant Member, St. Jude faculty ǀ Infectious Diseases

Gaby Maron Alfaro, MD, remembers the first time she learned about St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She was a pediatric resident at Hospital Nacional de Niños Benjamin Bloom, El Salvador – the first international site to partner with St. Jude.

“I knew St. Jude was exactly where I wanted to train,” Maron Alfaro says. More than a decade later, she uses her training as a clinician and researcher to prevent, detect and cure infections in children with life-threatening diseases.

Maron Alfaro says, “Seeing children who at some point were extremely sick with severe infections doing well is the most inspiring and wonderful feeling ever.”

Last year, Maron Alfaro completed the requirements to become a certified translator for patients and families with a limited proficiency in English. While Maron Alfaro extends care to families from around the world, she says, "I have a very special place in my heart for our St. Jude Latino families.” 


 

Gerardo Cantú

Gerardo Cantú showing St. Jude pride.

Gerardo Cantú showing St. Jude pride.

National heritage: Mexican
Sr. Liaison, Marketing Data and Technology | ALSAC

On Jerry’s first day in Memphis, after moving there as a child, his father told him the story of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas as they drove past the hospital. "I relate to Danny Thomas being the son of immigrants, even though I was not born in the United States like him," said Jerry who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico.

Jerry joined ALSAC eight years ago as part of the Donor Services team, answering calls from donors. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of positions, and now he works on innovative solutions to serve marketing with technology. But his favorite things about working at ALSAC are the people, and the opportunities to serve.

“What I like most is volunteering, especially in the places that host the patients and their families,” he said. “Having contact with the patients and their families is very gratifying.”


 

Marta Jarquin-Pardo, PhD

National heritage: Costa Rican
Program Manager, Global Pediatric Medicine

Marta Jarquin-Pardo, PhD

Marta Jarquin-Pardo, PhD, is managing projects to boost cure rates for pediatric cancers in Central and South America.

Marta Jarquin-Pardo, PhD,  a program manager in Global Pediatric Medicine, uses her scientific and management skills to extend the St. Jude mission to other parts of the world. Eighty percent of children diagnosed with cancer live in developing countries.

Jarquin-Pardo, a St. Jude employee for 10 years, worked as a scientific recruiter in Human Resources before she moved to Global Pediatric Medicine. Now, she helps manage projects that are designed to increase the cure rates for pediatric cancers in Central and South America.

"The best part about coming to work each day is when I have lunch outside and see the patients," Jarquin-Pardo says. She recalls watching one patient happily playing in the Danny and Rose Marie Thomas Memorial Garden—living the present moment, enjoying the sunny day.

Jarquin-Pardo wants to create more sunny days, in countries a world away, for children with pediatric cancer.


 

Blanca Martinez Jimenez

Blanca Martinez Jimenez in the halls of St. Jude.

Blanca Martinez Jimenez is working with Hispanic patients and families as a medical interpreter.

National heritage: Mexican
Medical Interpreter, Interpreter Services

A native of Mexico, Blanca Martinez Jimenez often interprets for Hispanic patients and families. “I can see their faces,” she says, remembering past introductions. “They light up.” 

A three-year employee of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she is a graduate of the University of Memphis Health Care Interpreter Program and a Certified Medical Interpreter.

“I never thought that I was going to be a medical interpreter,” says Martinez Jimenez. Then she watched a poignant story on TV about a St. Jude patient. “It broke my heart,” she remembers. 

She called Volunteer Services and accepted a position in the Linda R. Hajar Family Resource Center. Even then, she empowered patients and families to take an active role in treatment.

Eventually, Martinez Jimenez pursued the educational requirements for medical interpretation. Bilingual competence alone is not enough to be a medical interpreter, she explains.

As a fulltime employee, she delights in delivering good news—telling a patient “no more chemo” and singing the “No More Chemo” song. “We’re like a bridge between the provider and the families,” she says. “I love what I do.”


 

Enrique Ramirez

Enrique Ramirez sharing his story at a fundraising event.

Enrique Ramirez sharing his story at a fundraising event.

National heritage: Mexican
Marketing Analyst | Marketing Operations| ALSAC

Working at ALSAC has a special meaning for Enrique. It means giving back to the hospital that worked tirelessly on behalf of his daughter, Arianna, after she was diagnosed with cancer. 

When Arianna was 3, she was found to have a rare cancerous tumor and started treatment at St. Jude. Weeks before her eighth birthday, she passed away, leaving an indelible mark on the organization. Mr. Shadyac truly loved Arianna," said Enrique, speaking of ALSAC President and CEO Richard C. Shadyac Jr. “Her picture is in his office.”

“It’s definitely my purpose in life to help families like mine,” said Enrique. “I speak the same language that patient families speak. I’ve been through everything they’ve been through as a patient parent. I feel like I’m giving back to everything that St. Jude did for us.”

If Enrique ever switched jobs, he would want to continue working for St. Jude. “I feel like she’s next to me at the hospital. Just having the connection to the hospital is big for me.”

Because the majority of St. Jude funding comes from individual contributors, St. Jude has the freedom to focus on what matters most – saving kids regardless of their financial situation.

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