In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), St. Jude spotlights the contribution of Hispanic employees who bring their talent, passion and expertise to further the lifesaving mission of St. Jude.
National heritage: Dominican
Software engineer – ALSAC
Because of his experience as a patient, Miguel feels an even deeper connection to St. Jude, which makes it even more meaningful to him to pursue a career with ALSAC. As part of the technology team, Miguel develops solutions to help make it easier and more rewarding for people to learn about St. Jude and support its lifesaving mission.
“After years of seeing my doctors and specialists use their St. Jude employee ID, it was a surreal experience for me to receive mine,” Miguel says. “I wear it with pride every day”.
Among his most satisfying career achievements, Miguel cherishes the moment when his technology team asked him to make the first donation through a new system he helped develop. As Miguel said, "As a St. Jude survivor, it was an honor to be part of this new release and look closely at this organization's commitment to continue raising funds to find cures and treat patients around the world."
National heritage: Mexican and American
Senior Liaison, Radio Development Operations Field Development – ALSAC
Emmeline first heard about St. Jude while working at Univision Radio in El Paso, Texas, helping to coordinate the radiothons that move so many people to help the children relying on St. Jude. That led to a role with ALSAC as part of the Radio team growing Promesa y Esperanza, the fundraising and awareness program within the Hispanic community.
“When the opportunity to work for St. Jude arose, I didn't think I was going to move to Memphis,” said Emmeline. "But after visiting the hospital, I felt I was more than ready to move."
Almost 10 years later, Emmeline enjoys giving tours of St. Jude herself, providing the same moving experience to celebrities and donors who visit St. Jude. As Emmeline said, "For me, it is an honor to be part of their visits and witness how St. Jude and its comprehensive patient care exceeds all their expectations."
National heritage: Mexican/Spanish
Graduate School Student
Victoria Honnell learned about St. Jude at a young age. Her parents were monthly donors and received mail from the hospital.
“I love the mission,” she says. “It’s a mission everybody can get behind.”
After growing up in New Mexico, Honnell moved to Memphis to attend Rhodes College. During her senior year, she began a student position at St. Jude that eventually transitioned into a full-time research technologist job working on preclinical trials for rhabdomyosarcoma. After being offered a spot in the inaugural class of the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, she knew she wanted to stay.
In June of 2019, Honnell earned a master’s degree as a member of the first graduating class at the St. Jude Graduate School.
While she misses the culture and food of New Mexico, as well as being around many other Hispanic families, she says she appreciates the rich history of Memphis and loves how quickly the city is growing.
In her work, Honnell is continually motivated by St. Jude patients and families. While most of her time is spent in the lab, she enjoys how the graduate school coursework has given her more clinical opportunities through following doctors and their patients.
“At the end of the day, you never forget why you’re here,” she says. “It’s really rewarding knowing the work you’re doing could influence patients’ lives.”
National heritage: Puerto Rican
Senior Philanthropic Advisor
Barbara has always been passionate about public relations, event planning and learning about different cultures. By raising funds and awareness for St. Jude through ALSAC, she found a way to develop her career and further her father’s wish for a world where no child would suffer from cancer, just as he suffered.
In her time at ALSAC, Barbara has cultivated relationships with St. Jude supporters by coordinating events to raise funds in the Hispanic community, including the FedEx/St. Jude Angels & Stars Gala in Miami. Barbara currently works in Gift Planning, visiting generous people in South Florida determined to help children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“It is a privilege for me to hear firsthand what motivates these people to be part of the mission of St. Jude,” said Barbara, “as well as making sure they know that, through their contributions, they are becoming part of the history of St. Jude and the fight against childhood cancer.”
National heritage: Puerto Rican
Member, St. Jude Faculty; Senior Vice President, Clinical Trials Administration; Associate Director of Clinical Research, Comprehensive Cancer Center; Charles B. Pratt Chair in Solid Tumor Research
Victor Santana, MD, was in medical school at the University of Puerto Rico when he first heard about the groundbreaking clinical trials available at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that were curing children with cancer.
“From then on, I knew I needed to go to St. Jude if I wanted to advance my career and become a clinical investigator in pediatric hematology-oncology,” he says.
Once he arrived, Santana realized St. Jude is dedicated not just to curing cancer but to taking care of the whole patient including the relationships between the medical, psychosocial and spiritual needs. After growing up in Puerto Rico, he has an interesting perspective on treating Hispanic patients as well as those of other racial and ethnic backgrounds.
“I feel that my heritage has made me a better physician,” he says. “When you treat patients who are different from you, it makes you more sensitive to the cultural aspects that impact how you provide medical care.”
In the 35 years Santana has been at St. Jude, he has had the opportunity to take on many roles, from clinician to investigator to administrator. Holding such diverse positions has kept him intellectually motivated and challenged him to look at things from different perspectives. Not only has he grown personally, but he has seen how the institution has developed.
“One of the changes I’ve noticed is an increased sensitivity to cultural issues,” he says. “It’s amazing the support we have here for families of all backgrounds and cultures.”