Dr. Martha Soledad Vela Acosta

When Dr. Martha Soledad Vela Acosta moved to the Detroit area from Texas, it was winter,she was on crutches and she had just lost her wallet. Despite this inauspicious welcome, she has found herself warming to the area’s amenities. “When it comes to dining, I am just thrilled — I haven’t been able to finish my search, and there is an enormous variety of options for entertainment as well,” she says. “And this winter, there is no excuse, I am trying a class for snowshoeing.” Acosta was born in Mexico and received her medical degree there. She earned a master’s degree in environmental health-epidemiology and a doctorate in industrial hygiene from Colorado State University. Her research on improving the occupational health and safety of migrant and seasonal farmworker families has also taken her to Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Texas-Mexico border. She moved here to work for the Kresge Foundation in Troy, where she manages the Health Team’s Healthy Environments focus area, which fosters healthy and safe communities for adults and children living in underserved urban and rural areas. Her job keeps her on the road quite a bit and Detroit’s position as a major hub for air travel has been beneficial for her. “Direct flights to any main city makes it very very easier to travel,” she says. Additionally, proximity to the Canadian border situates her well for international collaboration. “I have a couple of colleagues in Canada that I hope to collaborate with about Native American communities,” she says. “The issues that we face are trans-boundary issues.” If any area of her transition to Michigan could have been made easier, it would be in the social realm. “I find it is challenging to find adult friends,” she says. “I think that there are a lot of opportunities here, and to…have some place with access to that kind of information, that would be great.”

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