Silvia Huerta Lopez spent her early childhood living in the rural countryside of El Zapote de Cuendeo in Michoacan, Mexico. Poverty and the lack of medical infrastructure made access to care and education nearly impossible and eventually led Silvia and her family to immigrate to the United States when she was six. Silvia and her family settled in New Jersey, where their legal status continued to limit their access to dignified working conditions, healthcare, and education. Working low-wage factory jobs to make ends meet, Silvia’s parents exemplified the resilience to build a strong foundation in their new home and enable their children to have a better life. These experiences gave Silvia the resolve to advocate for undocumented immigrants and patients.
Growing up surrounded by the natural world, Silvia’s fascination with nature as a young child developed into a love for science and discovery. After obtaining an AA in biology at Essex County College, Silvia went on to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) where she obtained a BA in biology. At Penn, Silvia began her research training in the laboratory of Doctor Robert Heuckeroth at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she studied the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control enteric nervous system (ENS) development and the genetic basis of Hirschsprung’s Disease. Her work was published in the journals Gastroenterology and Developmental Biology. While at Penn, Silvia worked at Puentes de Salud Health Clinic to provide improved health literacy and access to medical care for undocumented immigrants without health insurance.
Empowered by the work at Puentes de Salud and the impact of her research on patient care, Silvia began her medical and research training through the Harvard & MIT MD/PhD program. While at Harvard, she co-founded Quetzales de Salud, a non-profit organization that aims to improve access to primary medical care for undocumented immigrants through medical accompaniment. The organization supports Spanish-speaking patients through one-on-one phone calls with medical trainees before, during, and after clinic appointments or hospitalizations to ensure they have the resources and services to receive quality medical care. Silvia was awarded the Dean’s Community Service Award in recognition of her work though Quetzales de Salud during the pandemic. She is currently a graduate student in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) Program at Harvard Medical School where she investigates the neurobiology of sensory perception with the support of her research mentor, Doctor Stephen Liberles.
As a DACA recipient, Silvia’s commitment to advocating for undocumented immigrants and patients as a physician-scientist is in honor of the sacrifices that her parents and millions of immigrants make in hopes of a better life and a chance for survival.