Posted: 9/08/22

TAMIU Grad Eyes Public Health with Master’s Program at Cornell University



A recent Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) graduate is ready to secure her future in public health. This Fall, she begins a ​Master's degree in Public Health with a concentration in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Mariana López, a TAMIU May 2022 Public Health honors graduate, feels she’s found her calling. TAMIU offered a home and a chance to explore new directions that helped set her path, she said.

“My decision to seek my undergrad at TAMIU was prompted by not having to leave my home. I have always wanted to study here, and now I was given that opportunity…. Now I am part of the TAMIU story. At first, I wanted to do my undergrad in Kinesiology with minors in psychology and sociology… go to medical school, and become a neurosurgeon.

“I got this email from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences about a new program in Public Health. I did some research and found out that Public Health is very broad. You could choose from infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental health, communicable diseases, and more. You would be helping millions of people at the same time which could be very rewarding. The next day I called my advisor about changing my degree to Public Health,” she recalled.

López said her undergraduate experience at TAMIU during the COVID-19 Pandemic was fully online, but also fully supported by faculty.

“The program was fully online which has its perks, especially during the Pandemic.  Dr. Cindy Salazar-Collier was outstanding...responding to our sometimes very late emails or many emails in a single day. Dr. Salazar-Collier always wanted to help her students -- even with those courses she didn’t teach. From the introduction to data collection, data analysis, cleaning the dataset, results, etc., she was there,” she observed.

Dr. Salazar-Collier, TAMIU assistant professor of Public Health, said she’s sure López will go far and hopes she also obtains the doctoral degree she has in mind.

"Mariana was a pleasure to have in my class. She is highly motivated and dedicated to her studies. She was extraordinarily committed to performing at a high standard in her coursework and I am so excited to see the professional she will become in the field of public health. She will receive a top-notch education from Cornell University and her being accepted to this prestigious program is a testament to her hard work here. I wish her the best in this new venture, and I am extremely proud of her and all our public health graduates," Dr. Salazar-Collier said.

 López said her selection by Cornell for its graduate program was not without stress.

“Before graduation I always knew that I wanted to pursue my Master’s, and eventually my Ph.D. I applied to George Washington University, Boston University, Emory University, New York University, and of course. Cornell. The program at Cornell was Infectious Diseases Epidemiology. I was in the last weeks of my TAMIU program and I had four research papers to turn in and three finals, but when I received my acceptance letter, I was so ecstatic that I was accepted into the Cornell Master’s of Public Health degree program in the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology concentration. I knew that my life in four months was going to change drastically,” she recalled.


She explained her fascination with the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology concentration in her Cornell program.

“Infectious disease is such a broad field, from measles, HIV, flu, and tuberculosis to monkeypox, viral hepatitis, STDs, and more. Being able to study at this prestigious university is life-changing. Cornell wants you to succeed at being a public health professional in the future,” López said. 

If there are any other Laredo students considering following her same path, she has some concise advice.

“Benjamin Franklin said ‘you can do anything you set your mind to.’  I would add that perseverance and dedication get you where you want to go in life. You have to trust in yourself that you are mentally ready to start this next chapter of your life… and you’ll reach it,” she concluded.

 Other members of the May Class of 2022 include Daniela Perez, Gabriela Peña, Luz García, pursuing an MBA in Healthcare Administration at TAMIU; Rebecca Alvarez, Sara Gutiérrez, Christina Garza, and Marisa Parra and Edgar Martínez Mendez, both part of the Master of Health Sciences with a concentration in Health Professions Education and Technology program at  the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. 

Enrollment in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’  Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health has quadrupled enrollment since its launch in the Fall of 2020. Additionally, the new Development of Informatics Accelerated Learning in Laredo (DIALL) program provides TAMIU students the opportunity to complete a 4+1 graduate certificate and accelerated Master’s program with UTHealth Houston. To find out more, email Dr. Collier at cindy.collier@tamiu.edu, or phone 956.326.327.

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences undergraduate programs also include Communication Disorders, Kinesiology, and Nursing.  Graduate programs include Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Nursing Administration.  Certificate and Enrichment Programs are also available and can be explored at https://www.tamiu.edu/conhs/index.shtml


Classmates of the May 2022 graduation class for TAMIU’s Bachelor’s degree in Public Health celebrate with their professor before pursuing next chapters.  Left to right, Daniela Perez, Gabriela Pena, Luz Garcia (pursuing MBA in Healthcare Administration-TAMIU), Rebecca Alavarez, Sara Guiterrez, Christina Garza, TAMIU’s Dr. Cindy Lynn Salazar-Collier, Mariana Lopez (pursuing Master of Public Health with a concentration in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology- Cornell University), Marisa Parra (pursuing Master of Health Sciences with a concentration in Health Professions Education and Technology – University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley) and  Edgar Martinez Mendez (also pursuing the Master of Health Sciences with a concentration in Health Professions Education and Technology at UTRGV).