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Hispanic Cultural Ambassadors

Although Hispanics suffer disproportionately from such diseases as diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers, they are underrepresented in clinical trials. The Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI) is collaborating with JUNTA for Progressive Action to help increase the participation of the local Latino community in clinical trials.  The partnership helps ensure that clinical studies are designed to combat diseases that affect New Haven’s Hispanic community.

Representatives of JUNTA, New Haven’s oldest Latino community based non-profit organization, are serving as cultural ambassadors to Yale’s research programs, advising investigators how best to raise awareness of clinical research. YCCI provides cultural ambassadors with intensive training on clinical research topics so that they are able to answer your questions about participating in research. It is our hope that this collaboration will increase the participation of members of the Hispanic community in clinical research. Our goal is to bring medical advances to patients who need them.

Daniel Reyes

Daniel Reyes, Executive Director, Junta
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
Executive Director of Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Mr. Reyes has been Executive Director of Junta since September 2018, and has over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. He worked at the New York Common Pantry for 15 years where he rose to Deputy Executive Director.  While at the New York Common Pantry, he worked closely with the executive and development staff to increase their operating budget from 1.5 to 13.5 million. Mr. Reyes brings his experience in program design and development as well as executive leadership skills to Junta for Progressive Action.

Cheila Serrano

Cheila Serrano
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
Program Director, Family Management,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Born and raised in New Haven, CT, Cheila Serrano is currently pursuing a career in social work. In 2004 she joined Junta for Progressive Action as a volunteer for the Energy Assistance program. Seven months later she joined the staff as program director for the Family Management program. As a well known and trusted member of the community, she enjoys helping people and making their goals a reality.

Ms. Serrano decided to become a Cultural Ambassador because she recognized the importance for members of her community to be involved in clinical trials and informed about research studies. She knew that although they were not familiar with clinical research, it would benefit them and their families. Today, she feels confident when informing her community about research studies.

“The partnership with YCCI and Junta has open doors for our community to be informed and involved on research studies that some didn’t even know existed,” she said. “Now they have the chance to be informed about studies that could help their families and generations to come.”

Kattia Mendez

Kattia Mendez
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
Instructor,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Kattia Mendez is originally from Cienfuegos, Cuba. She became a Doctor of Medicine in 1996 in Cuba, receiving a specialist degree in general medicine in 2003. She continued to work in medicine until her immigration to the United States in 2008.

In 2008, Ms. Mendez received certification from RMA. She volunteered at the Hospital of Saint Raphael and Yale-New Haven Hospital from 2009 to 2011 and has also worked as a community educator and patient coordinator for Kool Smiles Company. In 2011, she became an instructor at Junta and a medical interpreter at Xtra Mile Interpreting. She also works in New Haven adult education as a Spanish GED teacher in reading, writing, math and science.

Ms. Mendez joined YCCI as a Cultural Ambassador because she enjoys helping the Latino community face many barriers when they come to the U.S. She is committed to promoting health education in order to change the lifestyle of her community. The Cultural Ambassadors program has enabled her to expand her knowledge about risk factors that influence transmissible and non-transmissible diseases. She appreciates the importance of disease prevention and disseminating research to obtain better outcomes when monitoring and treating disease.

Celina E. Fernández

Celina E. Fernández, Case Manager, Junta
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
Case Manager,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Celina E. Fernández (they/them/theirs) graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in Chicana/o Studies and a Minor in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. They are a case manager in JUNTA's Social Services Department. Celina has spoken extensively on Hurricane María's impact on New Haven on WTIC NEWSTALK, News Channel 8, UCONN, and the annual AATSP CT conference.

Agueda Ocasio

Agueda Ocasio
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
The Neighborhood Place, Onsite Coordinator  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Agueda Ocasio is originally from the Dominican Republic.  In 2007, she joined Junta for Progressive Action as the Program Coordinator of The Neighborhood Place.  Agueda earned her Associates degree in Education, from Gateway Community College.  

Currently, she is a paraprofessional at Christopher Columbus Academy.  Over the past years, she is able to refer students and their families to resources at Junta. She is fully bilingual (English and Spanish).

Letticia Cruz

Letticia Cruz, Office Manager, Junta
Photo by Robert A. Lisak
Office Manager,  Junta for Progressive Action and Cultural Ambassador to the Yale Clinical Research program.

Letticia Cruz, Office Manager, joined Junta for Progressive Action in January 2019.  As the Office Manager, she is charged with managing the agency’s administrative processes and building operations; supporting development and communications; and managing volunteers at Junta. Born and raised in New York City, Letticia has worked in Office Administration for several years. She has started a jewelry business as an independent consultant. Her passion is for helping people, especially those living with HIV/AIDS.