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“Children of the Road” — immigrant and migrant children — is what nursing leader Dr. Mary Lou de Leon Siantz will discuss on February 21 during the School of Nursing Ethnic Minority Visiting Scholar Lecture.

The free lecture is open to the public and will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the School of Nursing.

Dr. de Leon Siantz, (PhD, RN, FAAN) is the assistant dean of diversity and cultural affairs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

She was born in Los Angeles of Mexican immigrant parents. She has spent her career in community health nursing, advancing immigrant mental health through research, education and national leadership. “One of the fastest growing populations in the United States is children of immigrants, yet very little is known about them,” she said. “So I studied the children and continue to do research and provide consultation in this area.”

For example, she investigates how to reduce pregnancy and promote reproductive health among Latina girls in work supported by the Office of Minority Health, Department of Health and Human Service. “The risk for premature birth is greatly increased because of the teen’s developmental stage and the lack of access to prenatal care in this group. Pregnancy is one of the top reasons that Latina girls drop out of school,” she said.

During de Leon Siantz’s time as the National Mental Health Coordinator for Migrant Head Start, she developed a national network of mental health professionals who implemented federal mental health standards through training and technical assistance for local Head Start mental health program directors and classroom teachers. The network educated Head Start staff on mental health needs of children of migratory workers. In addition, she established the Milagros Center of Excellence in Migrant Health, a training and technical center that translated research on migrant health into practice through a congressional earmark in partnership with the Hon. Ruben Hinojosa’s congressional district in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

She served on the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality for two terms during the Clinton and Bush administrations. The committee advised the Secretary of Health and Human Service on research and intervention needed to eliminate infant mortality among African Americans.

The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing established the Ethnic Minority Visiting Scholar Lecture series in 2000 to highlight research and contributions of ethnic minority nurse scholars.