Campus: CSU Long Beach -- December 02, 2002

California State University, Long Beach Student Named National Genome Scholar

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) selected Yazmin Mojica, a graduate student at California State University, Long Beach, as one of its first Genome Scholars. She is the only nurse and Californian among the 12 honorees chosen for the nationwide honor for 2002.

One of her CSULB nursing professors, Linda Callahan, applied and was appointed to attend the NHGRI’s 2002 Current Topics in Genetic Research Course designed to update college faculty from institutions with substantial minority enrollments on the Human Genome Project and the continuing search for genes that cause various diseases and disorders.

As part of this year’s course, the NHGRI also offered a Genome Scholars Program. College faculty chosen for the course were entitled to recommend a promising student from their institution to attend a week-long learning experience at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Callahan chose Mojica, who was accepted for the scholars program.

The Genome Scholar curriculum paralleled the instructor’s course and exposed students to aspects of careers in genetic research. Mojica’s experience included intensive lectures from leading researchers, facility tours, hands-on laboratory experiences and exposure to emerging genetic tools and technologies.

“It was very educational and I learned a lot about the newest findings in diseases,” said Mojica. “It was fascinating to see how through the study of genes they are able to find out and pinpoint which gene causes a particular disease and how from this knowledge they may be able to find cures or treatment for so many diseases.

“While I was there, I became interested in the ELSI Project which is concerned with the ethical, legal and social implications of genetic research because their findings will no longer only implicate individuals and families, but it will now need to consider large groups of people. Because of my new fields of practice in public health, the knowledge that I have gained in genetics and the ELSI project have given me the desire to continue to learn about this topic and perhaps teach a class in ELSI in a nursing program and also serve as an educator in the community.”

Born in Mexicali Baja California area of Mexico, Mojica came to the United States in 1974 and is the first in her family to attend college. She graduated from Fullerton Union High School’s continuation school at 16 and attended the Los Angeles Job Corps to become a certified nursing assistant. Realizing she could succeed in school despite her attention deficit disorder, Mojica went on to become an LVN, an RN and by 1996 had earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Cal State Fullerton.

She continued her education at Cal State Long Beach, graduating in 2000 with an M.A. in occupational studies. Currently, the National Genome Scholar is enrolled in the MSN/MPH dual degree program and expects to graduate next May.

“Yazmin is a talented, Hispanic graduate student with a voracious appetite for knowledge and a strong desire to be engaged in meeting the health care needs of the Hispanic population on both an individual and community level,” commented Professor Callahan. “Her interests include greater understanding of the ecogenetic factors operant in the increased incidence of diabetes mellitus in the Mexican-American and American Indian communities.”

Mojica also has found success in developing and implementing a preparation course to help students prepare for the RN and LVN licensure exam. The North Orange County ROP, MJC Emanuel Turlock Vocational Education School and Hanford Adult School are among those that have adopted her program. She has her own business, MYEC Education and Consulting Services, and plans to continue to develop new programs to help students succeed in their educational goals.

“I’ve been doing this for two and a half years and of the approximately 500 students who have taken the course, 98 percent have passed their state board exam the first time,” she noted.
“I’ve learned that everyone can make it; they just need to truly want to succeed and find a way to do so,” Mojica emphasized. “In my case, I have had several mentors who have been there for me when I needed them and have taken the time to guide and encourage me throughout my career. Now I would like to serve as a mentor to other students like me who only need a little extra push to make it. I can’t say it has been easy, but I can say that it is possible.”

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