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Honoring their heritage through their work

Learn more about these Hispanic American GI leaders.

AGA continues to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month and the impact Hispanic Americans have had in the field of GI. This week we are highlighting three of our colleagues who are working to better educate and care for their community through their work in digestive diseases.

Picture of Marcia Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD
Marcia Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry
University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer

Dr. Cruz-Correa is professor of medicine at the University of Puerto Rico, adjunct associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and adjunct professor of Surgical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is a physician scientist with a strong focus in chemoprevention, hereditary cancer and health disparities. She is the lead investigator of the Hispanic Alliance for Clinical & Translational Research, NIGMS funded research infrastructure and career development grant. Her multidisciplinary research program has been continuously funded by the NIH for over 19 years and is aimed at understanding the etiology and genetics of gastrointestinal cancer.

Dr. Cruz-Correa has served in multiple leadership roles including becoming the first women executive director of the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2020. She was the inaugural dean for research at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus. Since 2018, Dr. Cruz-Correa has been the chief medical officer of the Pan-American Center for Oncology Trials, a research organization for development and conducting clinical trials in oncology in Puerto Rico. This year she was elected to American Association for Cancer Institutes and the Alliance Foundation for Clinical Oncology and PR Colorectal Cancer Coalition’s governing boards. She is also an editor of several prestigious medical journals including Gastroenterology and AACR Cancer Prevention Research.  

Dr. Cruz-Correa has over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and has mentored over 50 graduate students as thesis/research advisor. She has been instrumental in the training and professional development of many Hispanic graduate students, residents and fellows. She is also a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion. 

Picture of Maria Abreu, MD
Maria Abreu, MD

Director, Crohn's and Colitis Center
University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine

Dr. Abreu is a professor of medicine and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine where she served as chief of Gastroenterology from 2008 to 2016. Currently she serves as the director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center, vice chair of research, department of medicine chair, and International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Diseases at the University of Miami. 

Dr. Abreu is an expert in intestinal inflammation where her research focuses on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer. The focus of her laboratory has been host-bacterial interactions and the role of toll-like receptor signaling in intestinal inflammation and neoplasia. Her team focused on toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) as a model for how recognition of bacteria by TLRs in the intestine functions broadly with an eye to translating this to patients before they develop dysplasia. 

Dr. Abreu is widely known for her leadership in developing the University of Miami IBD Center Clinical Phenotype Database and Tissue Repository which includes one of the largest numbers of Hispanic samples in the U.S.

She has more than 100 publications and has received numerous honors, including the Distinguished Clinician Award in the department of medicine for the University of Miami. 

Dr. Abreu has made numerous contributions to national societies including AGA, most notably serving as the former chair of the AGA Institute Council. Her other AGA committee involvement includes the nominating committee, public affairs and advocacy committee. Dr. Abreu is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion and has served on multiple projects for under-represented minorities, most recently she served as a mentor for the AGA FORWARD program.

Picture of Sandra Quezada, MS, MD
Sandra Quezada, MS, MD

Assistant Dean for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion
University of Maryland

Dr. Quezada is an associate professor of medicine at the Medical School in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. She Received her medical degree from University of Maryland and completed internal medicine, residency and fellowship there.

She has achieved the trifecta in medicine with accomplishments in research, medical education and service. Her research publications are focused on inflammatory bowel disease.

Dr. Quezada is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in medicine and medical education. She serves as the assistant dean for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, assistant dean for Academic and Multicultural Affairs, and associate dean for Admissions. She is the faculty advisor for University of Maryland’s School of Medicine chapter of the Latino Medical Association and is the course director of the Medical Spanish course. She received the 2017 Dean’s Alumni Award for Diversity and Inclusion recognizing University of Maryland School of Medicine alumni for their efforts to foster diversity.

In addition to her work on inclusion at her institution, Dr. Quezada is involved in diversity and inclusion projects nationally. She is a co-chair of the AGA Equity Project, a multi-prong, multi-year project by AGA to improve diversity in all aspects of the organization and in lives of patients with gastroenterological disease. She is the immediate past chair of the AGA Diversity Committee.

In recognition of her efforts, Dr. Quezada received the inaugural AGA Distinguished Service Award in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in 2021.

On a personal level, colleagues agree that she is very positive and has a sunny disposition. Her hobbies include running and cycling.

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