ITHACA, NY—A junior at Ithaca College has earned the distinction of being awarded two prestigious scholarships named for U.S. political and civic leaders. Victor Lopez-Carmen, a pre-med health sciences major, was named both a Udall Scholar and the winner of a Boren Scholarship.
Just 60 undergraduates nationwide were recognized by the Udall Foundation for their leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to American Indian nations or to the environment. The scholarship honors the legacies of Arizona brothers Morris and Stewart Udall, both of whom served in Congress and whose careers had a significant impact on American Indian self-governance, health care and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources.
The Boren Scholarship for summer study is a special initiative for undergraduates majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Awarded through the National Security Education Program, it is named for the former U.S. Senator and Oklahoma Governor David L. Boren, currently the president of the University of Oklahoma.
The first Ithaca College student to receive either of the scholarships, Lopez-Carmen intends to seek a dual medical/master of public health degree, with the goal of working as a physician in an Indian Health Service clinic that serves indigenous communities in need.
He is a member of the Crow Creek Sioux on his father’s side and Yaqui tribe on his mother’s side.
“As a Yaqui, I am committed to hold true to what ‘hitevi’ means in my language: ‘healer,’” he says. “In my own community, I seek to implement public health initiatives that provide education on the risks linked to pesticide exposure, poor water quality and work safety. I also aspire to effect change via international conferences where I can advocate for indigenous health rights. Through this approach, I will address upstream public health issues on grassroots and systemic levels while also confronting downstream physical health issues through medical practice.”
Lopez-Carmen has been an activist on Native American concerns on campus, locally and internationally. He is a member of the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission, and in 2014 he gave testimony at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
As a Martin Luther King Scholar at the college, he examined language barriers that limit access to health care in the Latino and Afro-Cuban communities in London. Last year, he took part in the Four Directions Summer Research Program, in which students with a commitment to the health of Native American communities conduct research at Harvard Medical School.
While growing up in Arizona, Lopez-Carmen met many refugees from the Middle East who were resettled near his Yaqui Reservation. He developed an affinity for Arab cultures, and will use his Boren Scholarship this summer to study the Arabic language in Amman, Jordan.
In his recommendation letter to the Udall Foundation, Peter Yucupicio, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, noted that it is difficult to overstate the meaningful contributions Lopez-Carmen has made to his community.
“His public service is motivated by a strong sense of social justice, which he acts upon in sophisticated ways,” Yucupicio wrote. “Victor utilizes the tools of culture, science, health, art, political experience and writing in his mission to help his people, and his dedication is extremely well rounded.”
“The global breadth of my education thus far has allowed me to consider issues from many different cultural perspectives,” says Lopez-Carmen. “By becoming more informed in public health, social justice and global citizenship, I am confident my work as a doctor and advocate will be that much more effective.”