Latinas Who Lead
Diana Martinez, MPH, director of the newly created Learning Environment Office in the UNM School of Medicine, has a long list of accomplishments to her credit, but she isn’t resting on her laurels – she’s working on a doctorate degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Martinez counts herself as fortunate to have been raised with strong family values and a support system of people who helped her find her way after struggling in her early years.
“The investments that people have made in me in terms of their own care and time and love and support – the best way I know to thank them is spreading it and sharing that with others around me,” she says.
The child of academics – Margaret Montoya, emeritus professor in the UNM School of Law, and Charles Boyer, emeritus professor of mathematics at UNM – Martinez was born in Mexico City and lived in upstate New York before her parents settled in Albuquerque about the time she started school.
She struggled at a private elementary school, where only two children were Latinx, but her middle school had a more diverse student body. “My time there I think really helped my identity in that way, feeling more proud of where I come from and who I am, instead of it being this deficit.”
Later, mentors – mostly Latinas – helped her through some low times while she was earning her undergraduate degree in psychology at UNM. “They have just shown me so much love and support and grace and guidance, when it wasn’t their job,” she says. “It wasn’t like they had to.”
The experience also convinced her of the need to pay it forward by serving as a mentor to others.
Martinez helped middle and high school-age Latinas through the Hermanitas mentorship program sponsored by MANA, a national Latina organization. In 2007 she went to work for ENLACE (Engaging Latino Communities for Education), a UNM project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where she gained extensive experience working with the New Mexico Legislature on public policy.
By 2012 she had transitioned in the UNM School of Medicine’s Office for Diversity, which was later was elevated to serve the entire UNM Health Sciences Center. At the Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, she helped secure millions in federal funding to expand educational pipeline programs across New Mexico.
In her new post in the Learning Environment Office, Martinez says, “I have the opportunity to at least help ensure that people feel valued and respected and that they belong here.”
The office provides a safe, confidential means to report instances of learner mistreatment in the School of Medicine and has put in place a structure for investigating and responding to these reports.
Martinez says she hesitated before applying for the position, but ultimately decided “that this was an opportunity for me to be engaged in some institutional transformation, especially around climate and culture.”