USF honors COPH professor with Women in Leadership and Philanthropy award

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Dr. Dinorah Martinez Tyson, a USF College of Public Health (COPH) and Department of Anthropology alumna who is an assistant professor in the COPH, has been given a $5,000 Women in Leadership and Philanthropy (WLP) award from the USF Foundation, a group that connects the university with donors.

Martinez Tyson was presented with the Valerie D. Riddle, MD Award in Health at an awards dinner held April 10 on the USF Tampa campus.

The WLP faculty awards provide annual grants to USF faculty whose research focuses on women and the issues that affect them. To date, WLP has awarded 29 grants totaling $145,000 to deserving faculty members whose research helps support and advance women throughout the world.

“I am so humbled to receive this award,” said Martinez Tyson. “The recipients in the past have been strong, intelligent women, and I am delighted to be among them.”

Martinez Tyson, third from left, with her fellow WLP award recipients. (Photo courtesy of USF WLP and Two Stories Media)

Martinez Tyson started out in public health working with women cancer survivors at Moffitt Cancer Center.

“At the time,” she said, “we were trying to culturally adapt a stress-management program for Latinas undergoing  chemotherapy. But all the programs were in English—nothing was in Spanish. So we created new content to make it more appropriate for Hispanic cancer survivors. A lot of my work has centered on designing information that’s culturally relevant for the Hispanic community, particularly women cancer survivors.”

While at Moffitt, Martinez Tyson was given the chance to conduct a class at the COPH, planting within her a deep love of teaching.

“Working with and mentoring students are some of the most personally rewarding aspects of my job,” she said.

In addition to teaching, Martinez Tyson continues her work with cancer survivors. For more than 10 years, she has facilitated a monthly support group for Latinas diagnosed with breast cancer. She also coordinates an integrative, three-day, Spanish-language cancer-support program. And, currently, she is conducting research on opioid use among women with cancer.

Martinez Tyson stands with her husband, Dr. Will Tyson, at the WLP awards dinner. (Photo courtesy of USF WLP and Two Stories Media)

“There’s a lot of stigma and some misunderstanding surrounding opioids,” said Martinez Tyson. “We’ve found that some women taking opioids don’t know they’re opioids. And other women who need them are afraid to take them for fear of becoming addicted. It’s a complex issue. A lot of women are dealing with unmanaged pain because they are not using these drugs or are using them incorrectly.”

Martinez Tyson plans on using her $5,000 award to continue and expand her research on cancer survivorship and opioid use.

“Six months ago there was very little research about cancer and opioids,” reported Martinez Tyson. “But if you do a literature search today, there are a few more articles. I think we’re ahead of the game, and that’s important. We can get programs in place to help women cancer survivors better manage cancer pain and make informed decisions about the medications they take as we navigate the opioid epidemic.”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health