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Meet the first Ph.D. in Health Equity Sciences Cohort!


Luke Burks

Luke Burks is a 7th generation New Mexico resident with a proud heritage in the agriculture and ranching industries. Luke began taking undergraduate coursework from NMSU-Alamogordo while still in high school, and completed his bachelor’s degree from NMSU in Public Health at the age of 19. Luke's interest in studying public health topics was cultivated as he became aware of the negative health outcomes among people close to him, due in part to misinformation and an apparent lack of system equity and healthcare access, which is seemingly pervasive in rural areas such as the one in which he grew up. As a compassionate citizen, neighbor and friend, Luke determined that he could contribute to making a substantial impact in health outcomes by continuing his education in this field and earning his MPH, which he completed in 2023 at NMSU. While studying at the graduate level, Luke was exposed to the significant impacts that cognitive behavioral research can provide in the improvement of health outcomes in our communities. Luke's Master’s Thesis, titled Latent Profile Analysis of the Tendency to Appraise Stressful Events as Threatening or Challenging, challenged the previous conception of stress appraisal by using Latent Profile Analysis to show that there are more than two types of responses to everyday stressful events, and that individuals who fall along the stress appraisal continuum differ in various psychological outcomes. This published research, alongside his interest in addressing inequitable health outcomes, created in Luke the desire to take an even deeper dive into public health equity research and prompted him to pursue a PhD in Health Equity Sciences. 
With the ultimate career goal of continued research and teaching at the university level, Luke is extremely appreciative of the incredible opportunity to earn a PhD in Health Equity Sciences. Throughout this academic process, it has increasingly become Luke's desire to contribute to the public health field through the discovery of additional tools and resources that may serve to empower, defend and prioritize those who are most vulnerable among us through addressing inequities in order to provide optimal health outcomes for all. 

Isela Garcia 


Isela Garcia has a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science from the University of Texas at El Paso, a Master of Public Health in Community Health Education, and is currently completing a graduate certificate in Borderland & Ethnic Studies from New Mexico State University. Ms. Garcia has 6 years of experience in community outreach during which time she delivered cancer prevention education in her native U.S.-Mexico border region in both English and Spanish. Ms. Garcia also has served as a bilingual health educator for five years with the Conexiones cancer education program for young Latina mothers diagnosed with cancer. Prior to starting her doctoral studies in Health Equity Sciences, Ms. Garcia held the position of Program Manager for the NMSU Cancer Outreach Core for three years and for the U54-funded Tobacco Exposure and Activity in LGBTQIA+ (TEAL) pilot study. During her role as program manager, Ms. Garcia managed teams of health educators, graduate, and undergraduate students, oversaw day-to-day outreach and research activities, prepared and translated research documents, and continued providing bilingual cancer prevention. In 2021, Ms. Garcia was selected for as a Fellow for the National Rural Health Association and is currently leading the development of the NRHA state office for New Mexico. Ms. Garcia’s research and advocacy work has included community-based research, health equity for underserved populations, cultural adaptation of evidence-based programs, border health issues, and rural health equity. These experiences motivated Ms. Garcia to pursue a PhD in Health Equity Science to become a fronteriza principal investigator and conduct community-based research to help advance health equity work along the U.S.-Mexico border region. As part of the Socio-Cultural and Behavioral Sciences concentration, Ms. Garcia’s research will focus on the cultural aspect of health equity for borderland populations as she continues to collaborate in interdisciplinary research with NMSU investigators across the departments of Public Health Sciences, Communication, and Agriculture. The Health Equity Science doctoral program will train Ms. Garcia in the advanced research skills, while situating these skills within a health equity lens.  

Lindsay Keeling 



Lindsay Keeling has a BA in English from The University of Texas at Austin; Masters in Social Work and Masters in Public Health from New Mexico State University. Her time in Kosovo with the Peace Corps piqued her interest in public health, particularly health education and equity. She entered the dual MSW/MPH program at NMSU immediately following Peace Corps and was fortunate to gain real life experience through an internship with Alianza of New Mexico to learn about linkages and wraparound services for populations living with HIV in rural parts of the state. With her field experience with the mobile integrated health unit with the Las Cruces Fire Department, Ms. Keeling also learned about the intricacies of our healthcare system and gaps in services for some of our most vulnerable populations. These experiences, coupled with ACEs research with her advisors, helped round out her experience in the Masters program and set the foundation for my desire to continue her education in Health Equity Sciences.

Acquiring more hard skills around research and statistical analysis will give Ms. Keeling the knowledge needed to dive into this field with the most fine-tuned knowledge in order to be most effective in health equity. She hopes to continue to work with our most vulnerable populations and use her background in social work to provide the most culturally competent care and consideration for improving health equity.

Meg Long 



Meg Long received her Master’s of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in Community Health from New Mexico State University (NMSU) in 2009. She is also an alumnus of Western Michigan University, having received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Work in 2001. Ms. Long began her career in Public Health in 2002, serving as an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps service worker. She then joined the US Peace Corps and served as a Public Health Volunteer specializing in HIV/AIDS Education and Water Sanitation in Kenya, East Africa from 2003-2005. Through Ms. Long’s multi-decade career in Public Health, she has primarily worked in direct service implementing programs related to suicide intervention and mental health; domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and response; substance use disorder and overdose prevention; food and housing insecurity; and supporting families undergoing medical crisis. Ms. Long also has a strong passion for teaching and has held an adjunct associate professor position with New Mexico State University since 2014; teaching for the Public Health Sciences Department and the Honors College. Additionally, she is a certified Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance (YA) and a Certified Level I Kundalini Instructor through Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) and Yoga Alliance. Ms. Long found her yoga and meditation practice allowed her to keep a balanced and healthy life while working in high stress environments. As a result, she has facilitated various workshops and professional development sessions on resiliency and self-care throughout New Mexico.
The HES doctoral program is an ideal opportunity for Ms. Long to pursue research exploring the effectiveness of yoga, mindfulness, and breathwork to increase well-being, resiliency, and workforce retention, as well as reduce burnout, stress, and failure to thrive due to secondary trauma. Her goal is to create evidence-based interventions for the helping fields workforce, such as social workers, counselors, healthcare and behavioral health providers, and teachers. Ms. Long aims to fill the gaps in research with effect interventions that are tailored to the needs of the southern New Mexico community. Her ultimate goal is to offer these data-driven programs to organizations and schools as a means to sustain their workforce by developing a culture of balance, resiliency, and support.

Adren Warling



Adren Warling received his BA in Anthropology with a certificate in applied anthropology from the University of Texas at El Paso. During his time in undergrad, Adren conducted original research on the intimate partner violence experiences among sexual minorities in the El Paso, TX region. This research was presented at conferences at the local, national, and international levels and led to collaborative research on the psychosocial needs of men enrolled in a batterer intervention program in Pennsylvania, from which one publication has come out thus far. Continuing his education in health-related research, Adren completed an MPH from the University of Texas at El Paso. During his time as an MPH student, Adren served as a congressional intern for 9 months in Rep. Veronica Escobar’s office, participated in the TSAHP Leadership Program, of which only 12 graduate students in the state of Texas were selected, and completed the ASPHN Health Equity Fellowship. Adren also worked as a research assistant for the Rural Community Opioids Response Program - Implementation grant under the Minority AIDS Research Center where he was instrumental in the development and implementation of a process evaluation and served as technical support for a community partner. Completing the Health Equity Internship while working with the RCORP program during various stages of a global pandemic really highlighted to Adren the importance of addressing health disparities and establishing a more equitable health landscape for all people, particularly historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities and rural communities who lack basic access to health and healthcare. Adren’s research interests primarily relate to opioid and substance use disorder, behavioral health, and public health administration and policy. These research interests, combined with a passion for reducing health disparities in marginalized communities prompted him to pursue his PhD in Health Equity Sciences at NMSU. Adren believes that by participating in this doctoral program, he will gain the skills to lead cutting-edge community-based research that lends aid and gives back to the disenfranchised communities who need it the most. Whether this is in a governmental or super-governmental position (I.e., the UN or WHO), Adren hopes to leverage his education, experience, and skills, to help build a more equitable health landscape for all through the implementation of good administration and policy.