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Alumnae Honored as Role Models for Minority Students
Chioma Umeh (Class of ’06, B.S., Biology) was honored as a role model for her fellow students; photo by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore

Alumnae Honored as Role Models for Minority Students

Lissette Renteria (Class of ’06, B.S., Biology) and Chioma Umeh (Class of ’06, B.S., Biology) received the Student Role Model Award from Minority Access, Inc. ( at the organization’s annual meeting held in Las Vegas in September. The former Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U*STAR) scholars were nominated for this honor by Thomas Landefeld, professor of biology.

“As U*STAR scholars, Lissette and Chioma were accomplished student researchers, competing successfully with presentations of their research both locally and nationally at scientific conferences while at the same time maintaining excellent academic credentials on their way to graduation,” says Landefeld, who is the program’s director.

Alumnae Honored as Role Models for Minority StudentsRenteria, who aspires to be a pediatrician, volunteered this past summer at Los Angeles Biomedical Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Her resulting work, “Platelet Activating Factor Modulates Activity of Cyclic Nucleotides in Fetal Ovine Pulmonary Vascular Smooth Muscle” was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and is available in the FastForward section of the online edition at

While preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Renteria is involved in a UCLA program that provides peer mentors for students headed for medical school. As a student at CSUDH, she served as president of the Pre-Professional Organization, a club that provides networking opportunities, promotes community service learning, and helps students find information about medical and professional schools in health and related fields.

“I am a ‘people person’ and enjoy giving back when I can,” she says of her mentoring experiences. “Before I graduated, I went with my mentor, Dr. Basil Ibe from Los Angeles Biomedical Institute, to Carson High School for peer mentorship. These students were so bright and interested in learning about the biomedical research both Dr. Ibe and I were doing. It was an exciting and rewarding experience that left me with a big smile on my face.”

Pre-med advising is not available on campus, so Renteria did most of her research on medical school herself by searching online and attending pre-medical conferences. However, she appreciates the efforts made by her professors to steer her on course.

“Some of my professors have been great mentors,” she says. “I found encouragement in their words and letters of recommendation. Dr. Landefeld, Dr. (John) Roberts (professor of biology), Dr. Sofia Pappatheodoru (associate professor of chemistry), Dr. Connie Vadheim (adjunct faculty, Biology) and several others have great spirit and a willingness to help students.”

Umeh plans to tutor CSUDH students in Organic Chemistry lab this spring. While also studying for the MCAT, she is working as a lab assistant at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. She maintains her goal of becoming a heart surgeon while experiencing motherhood for the first time.

Landefeld commended the alumni for their involvement with fellow CSUDH and community college students who were part of the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Degree program, and their co-leadership of the Pre-Professional Organization on campus.

“They are excellent role models, not only through their successes but also by their mentoring,” he says. “Both of these students have displayed attributes that are essential for a scientist to be successful, including dedication, perseverance and commitment. Chioma and Lissette are but two of several U*STAR alumni who have received this recognition by this national organization.”

- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore

Photo above: Celebrating her Student Role Model Award with Lissette Renteria (Class of ’06, B.S., Biology) are professor of biology Thomas Landefeld and president and CEO of Minority Access, Inc. Andrea D. Mickle (at right). Photo courtesy of Thomas Landefeld

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Last updated Monday, January 15, 2007, 4:29 p.m., by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore