Who We Are
“Between the first and later [Mil Familias] meetings, people change. They already know that taking care of themselves and exercising is important. Mil Familias is going to be proud in the future when they see the results because they already put the seeds of change inside of the participants.”
Beatríz (Betty) Angeles joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017. Betty is one of the first Mil Familias Especialistas and has been a community health worker in other health programs for over 5 years. Betty traces her inspiration to be a promotora back to her mother. During Betty’s childhood years in Peru, her mother would throw “parties” to feed those short on food so that they would not feel it was a handout. Betty carried her mother’s giving spirit with her to college, as many friends would often confide in her about their struggles. Rather than giving out money, she would help people find jobs, information, and resources.
An active parent in the schools of her 4 children, Betty has decades of experience volunteering as a way to give back to her community. Since then, she has become especially passionate about her work as a promotora because of the need for greater investments within Latino communities. To Betty, education is a crucial part of diabetes prevention and management. She feels that most people are so concerned with taking care of their family that they don’t think about themselves, which is why education is a foundational part of Mil Familias.
María del Carmen Arias
“I am inspired to support people and help them understand how to combat diabetes, as there is a lot of diabetes in our community.”
María del Carmen Arias joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017. María has been a community health worker for over 6 years and is experienced with mobile health fairs, nutrition classes, and health campaigns. As a family member of a person with diabetes, María del Carmen has had first-hand experience with diabetes management for many years. Her inspiration to be an Especialista is driven by her desire to help people learn about available resources and to offer her intelligence, experience, and hands to community-wide efforts.
To reduce the burden of diabetes in Latino families, María del Carmen believes community health workers can help in 3 areas: education, to teach people how to eat and exercise right; research, to understand why people have diabetes; and care, to help people with diabetes get the doctor’s appointments and medications they need. She believes in the key role of education courses that can reach all parts of the community, including going to where families are (such as homes) when they cannot come to classes.
“An Especialista is someone whose goal is to learn and support and ask for tangible help, with the goal of contributing to the social wellbeing of the Latino community.”
Martina Martinez joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017. Martina has been a community health worker for 4 years and has experience with health education at health fairs, schools, and events throughout Santa Barbara County. She began her work as a community health worker by volunteering countless hours to education programs and has since expanded her role to include a prominent position as one of the first Mil Familias Especialistas.
Martina’s inspiration comes from her love for education, which she believes is a fundamental aspect of helping the Latino community embrace necessary lifestyle changes for improving the lives of those with diabetes. She is committed to practicing her own healthy lifestyle behaviors in order to set an example for others in the community. For Martina, being an Especialista means putting your heart, soul, and mind into your work.
David Kerr, MD – Principal Investigator
Dr. David Kerr is a UK trained physician and diabetes expert and has spent many years trying to help people living with all forms of diabetes. Dr. Kerr went to school and university in Scotland and subsequently spent most of his professional life as a full-time clinician. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Visiting Professor at Bournemouth University and for many years has held a Gold Clinical Excellence Award from the National Health Service in the UK for his service to patients.
Dr. Kerr also spent a year in the San Francisco bay area as editor of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology and since 2001 he has been editor of Diabetes Digest (UK). He is also creator and founder of www.DiabetesTravel.org and www.Excarbs.com – both aimed at reducing the self-management burden for insulin users. In 2017 Dr. Kerr launched Mil Familias which is a 10-year longitudinal cohort study aiming to “break the code” on the confounding combination of factors that drive the unfair burden of cardio-metabolic disease currently affecting Latino families in the United States.
Dr. Kerr joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara in April 2014 as Director of Research and Innovation. At SDRI, Dr. Kerr makes it his mission to help reduce the disproportionate burden of diabetes – taking what is already available and what is being developed to create a modern, technology-based approach to health care to benefit the maximum number of people with diabetes and at risk of developing the condition with the minimum disruption to their lives.
Namino Glantz, Phd – Project Manager
Namino Glantz, PhD, is dedicated to managing the Mil Familias program and related initiatives to understand and reduce the burden of diabetes locally, nationally, and globally. Namino’s fortes include project management, social science research, and leveraging her bilingual/bicultural ease to address the sociocultural determinants of health and wellness. Her work has been published widely and she enjoys serving as a reviewer for social science peer-reviewed journals.
Namino grew up in New England, attended high school on the Navajo Reservation, and studied social science and education at Stanford University. She then did a decade of health research, taekwondo, and childbearing in Chiapas, Mexico before earning her PhD in medical anthropology from the University of Arizona. Namino managed public health planning and evaluation in Boulder, Colorado prior to joining the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017.
View Namino’s professional trajectory at www.HealthandCulture.org.
Mary Conneely – Lead Promotora Instructor
Mary Conneely is a bilingual/bicultural diabetes educator who has led the launch of several innovative patient-orientated diabetes programs during her 11 years with the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.
Mary has decades of experience in South America, where she founded CEMUR (Centro de Mujeres Rurales), a local, indigenous organization located in the Amazon and committed to train leaders and members of 35 federated women’s centers in the North Santa Cruz lowlands in health care, literacy, empowerment and other skills. She further developed her administrative and program skills while working as Chief Administrative Assistant to the Country Director of the United States Peace Corps in Bolivia, where for 15 years she collaborated in the implementation of rural, income-generating, community development projects.
Mary is a native of Bolivia, South America and graduated from Maryknoll Technical and Business School in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She chose to join SDRI because her outreach work allows her to interact with resilient people who are dedicated to improving their individual and familiar health. Not only is she a certified trainer in Healing & Transformation Multi-cultural Wellness Education (Capacitar), providing stress relief programs that teach individuals simple methods of stress-reduction, she is also the lead trainer for the Spanish-speaking Promotores (Community Health Workers) that work with all our Education Programs: Seeds of Change (Semillas de Cambio), Diabetes and Nutrition, 8 Steps to better health, (8 Pasos a la Buena Salud) and Mil Familias.
Mary is an exceptional and compassionate leader who is determined to provide education to underserved members of the community who are living with, or are at risk of developing, diabetes.
Jessikah Morales – Project Coordinator
Jessikah Morales is honored to be a part of the Mil Familas program. As a Latina she understands the need for a bilingual approach to health care and the impact it has on a Non-English speaking person managing their life with health issues such as diabetes.
During the pursuit of her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from California State University Channel Islands, Jessikah coordinated several research studies. Then, spending the summer of 2017 living in Mexico City as a research assistant refueled her desire to work closely with the Latino population in the United States. More specifically, Jessikah believes that as medicine becomes more patient-centered, the influence of minority health needs must be taken into consideration. This includes greater minority participation in clinical research and health equity. Therefore, she holds the Mil Familias team with high regard for their dedication to research involvement and health empowerment in the Latino community.
In an attempt to make lasting contributions to Mil Familias, Jessikah vows to couple her bilingualism/biculturalism with her analytical and organizational skills to keep things running smoothly for everyone involved in the program. Jessikah joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2018.
Wendy Bevier, PhD – Biobank and Device Manager
Wendy Bevier joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 1990 to work with then Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Lois Jovanovič on studies involving gestational diabetes and exercise, and other type 1 diabetes research studies. In 1995 Wendy taught human physiology and anatomy part-time, worked part-time for the YMCA, and raised her family. She returned to Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2004 and started work on the development of the artificial pancreas system in collaboration with engineers at UC Santa Barbara.
Wendy’s expertise in physiology made her a natural fit as the Biobank and Device Manager for Mil Familias. She has been instrumental in building and managing the biobank as well as leading the activity monitor (also known as “wearable”) portions of Mil Familias research. Wendy sees all of the patients and research participants as family, providing care, support and learning for one another.
Wendy attended high school in Santa Barbara and returned after completing a BS at UC Davis and a MS at University of Oregon. She earned her PhD at UC Santa Barbara in Biology – Human Physiology, and then completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Gerontology and Exercise Physiology.
Arianna Larez – Site Logistics Coordinator
Arianna Larez’ professional passion is working to better facilitate positive community behavioral health changes within marginalized populations, through person centered research and care.
Arianna joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2016. Arianna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Westmont College. Her educational background has strongly shaped her belief that a comprehensive understanding of each individual’s health journey is the key to better serving and supporting the diabetic community.
As a Latina herself, Arianna values the commitment Mil Familias has made to not just working within, but deeply understanding Latino culture in an effort to better serve the community. She appreciates the opportunity Mil Familias has provided her with to partner her bilingualism and passion for organization, with her dedication to improving health awareness and understanding among a community impacted by this serious disease.
On the weekend, you might find her grabbing coffee with friends, taking in Santa Barbara’s beaches, or enjoying a night of star-gazing.
Casey Conneely – Research Assistant
Being the youngest of eight children and growing up in Bolivia, Casey understands the importance of family and solidarity. These values led him to study abroad in the Philippines, where he developed a passion for community outreach work by teaching English, Spanish and capoeira in an informal settler’s village. Here he witnessed the importance of health awareness, as well as the inequity of healthcare for marginalized communities by assisting in a program for malnourished children.
After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts and Social Justice, Casey moved back to Santa Barbara to be close to his family and to once again serve his community. He developed an interest in diabetes research from observing and assisting his mother, Mary Conneely, educate and help the diabetic community of Latino people in Santa Barbara.
Initially hired as a Research Assistant for the Farming for Life program at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2018, Casey’s passion for health awareness and innate sense of community engagement earned him a position as part of the Mil Familias team. He hopes to contribute to and expand on the values of family and solidarity embodied in the Mil Familias mission statement.