Who We Are
“Between the first and later [Mil Familias] meetings, people change. They already know that taking care of themselves and exercising is important. Mil Familias is going to be proud in the future when they see the results because they already put the seeds of change inside of the participants.”
Beatríz (Betty) Angeles joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017. Betty is one of the first Mil Familias Especialistas and has been a community health worker in other health programs for over 5 years. Betty traces her inspiration to be a promotora back to her mother. During Betty’s childhood years in Peru, her mother would throw “parties” to feed those short on food so that they would not feel it was a handout. Betty carried her mother’s giving spirit with her to college, as many friends would often confide in her about their struggles. Rather than giving out money, she would help people find jobs, information, and resources.
An active parent in the schools of her 4 children, Betty has decades of experience volunteering as a way to give back to her community. Since then, she has become especially passionate about her work as a promotora because of the need for greater investments within Latino communities. To Betty, education is a crucial part of diabetes prevention and management. She feels that most people are so concerned with taking care of their family that they don’t think about themselves, which is why education is a foundational part of Mil Familias.
“Growing up, I always had something limiting me. However, Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI) saw potential in me. It has motivated me to learn and better myself, so I can help and serve the Latino community.” Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Veronica Carrillo has been involved with SDRI since 2018, and serves as an Especialista.
Veronica is a proud wife and mother whose dedication motivates her to go beyond her comfort zone. Veronica is an exemplary parent who has supported her husband since her immigration to the United States to improve the quality of life for her family. She is an outstanding leader in making Santa Barbara County’s Latino community aware of available resources and promoting diabetes health care. She aims to become an advocate for others, letting them know their rights and assisting them to achieve appropriate care. To Veronica, it is very important to have access to health care, which is why her goal as an Especialista for Mil Familias is to be a resource for diabetes research by assisting participants with questionnaires while maintaining confidentiality, ultimately being a bridge between education, research, and care that reaches all parts of the Latino community.
“An Especialista is someone whose goal is to learn and support and ask for tangible help, with the goal of contributing to the social wellbeing of the Latino community.”
Martina Martinez joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017. Martina has been a community health worker for 4 years and has experience with health education at health fairs, schools, and events throughout Santa Barbara County. She began her work as a community health worker by volunteering countless hours to education programs and has since expanded her role to include a prominent position as one of the first Mil Familias Especialistas.
Martina’s inspiration comes from her love for education, which she believes is a fundamental aspect of helping the Latino community embrace necessary lifestyle changes for improving the lives of those with diabetes. She is committed to practicing her own healthy lifestyle behaviors in order to set an example for others in the community. For Martina, being an Especialista means putting your heart, soul, and mind into your work.
David Kerr, MD – Principal Investigator
Dr. David Kerr is a UK trained physician and diabetes expert and has spent many years trying to help people living with all forms of diabetes. Dr. Kerr went to school and university in Scotland and subsequently spent most of his professional life as a full-time clinician. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Visiting Professor at Bournemouth University and for many years has held a Gold Clinical Excellence Award from the National Health Service in the UK for his service to patients.
Dr. Kerr also spent a year in the San Francisco bay area as editor of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology and since 2001 he has been editor of Diabetes Digest (UK). He is also creator and founder of www.DiabetesTravel.org and www.excarbs.sansum.org – both aimed at reducing the self-management burden for insulin users. In 2017 Dr. Kerr launched Mil Familias which is a 10-year longitudinal cohort study aiming to “break the code” on the confounding combination of factors that drive the unfair burden of cardio-metabolic disease currently affecting Latino families in the United States.
Dr. Kerr joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara in April 2014 as Director of Research and Innovation. At SDRI, Dr. Kerr makes it his mission to help reduce the disproportionate burden of diabetes – taking what is already available and what is being developed to create a modern, technology-based approach to health care to benefit the maximum number of people with diabetes and at risk of developing the condition with the minimum disruption to their lives.
Namino Glantz, Phd – Project Manager
Namino Glantz, PhD, is dedicated to managing the Mil Familias program and related initiatives to understand and reduce the burden of diabetes locally, nationally, and globally. Namino’s fortes include project management, social science research, and leveraging her bilingual/bicultural ease to address the sociocultural determinants of health and wellness. Her work has been published widely and she enjoys serving as a reviewer for social science peer-reviewed journals.
Namino grew up in New England, attended high school on the Navajo Reservation, and studied social science and education at Stanford University. She then did a decade of health research, taekwondo, and childbearing in Chiapas, Mexico before earning her PhD in medical anthropology from the University of Arizona. Namino managed public health planning and evaluation in Boulder, Colorado prior to joining the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2017.
View Namino’s professional trajectory at www.HealthandCulture.org.
Mary Conneely – Lead Promotora Instructor
Mary Conneely is a bilingual/bicultural diabetes educator who has led the launch of several innovative patient-orientated diabetes programs during her 11 years with the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute.
Mary has decades of experience in South America, where she founded CEMUR (Centro de Mujeres Rurales), a local, indigenous organization located in the Amazon and committed to train leaders and members of 35 federated women’s centers in the North Santa Cruz lowlands in health care, literacy, empowerment and other skills. She further developed her administrative and program skills while working as Chief Administrative Assistant to the Country Director of the United States Peace Corps in Bolivia, where for 15 years she collaborated in the implementation of rural, income-generating, community development projects.
Mary is a native of Bolivia, South America and graduated from Maryknoll Technical and Business School in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She chose to join SDRI because her outreach work allows her to interact with resilient people who are dedicated to improving their individual and familiar health. Not only is she a certified trainer in Healing & Transformation Multi-cultural Wellness Education (Capacitar), providing stress relief programs that teach individuals simple methods of stress-reduction, she is also the lead trainer for the Spanish-speaking Promotores (Community Health Workers) that work with all our Education Programs: Seeds of Change (Semillas de Cambio), Diabetes and Nutrition, 8 Steps to better health, (8 Pasos a la Buena Salud) and Mil Familias.
Mary is an exceptional and compassionate leader who is determined to provide education to underserved members of the community who are living with, or are at risk of developing, diabetes.
Katie Kinsella – Program Coordinator
Katie’s passion for public health, research and education led her to Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2018, where she has taught nutrition, diabetes prevention and self-management classes. Katie has curated content for our bilingual web resource, latinodiabetes.sansum.org, since its inception in 2018. In 2021, Katie combined her interests in food science, social justice, and education to launch SDRI’s Veggie IQ Program. In this youth-led movement, local teens learn about science, nutrition, technology, and marketing to encourage their peers to think about food as medicine.
Katie holds a Masters of Education with a specialization in working with at-risk youth from marginalized communities. She has devoted her career to helping underserved populations thrive through access to resources, care, and support. Katie has worked in education in South America, and also co-founded a local organization that empowers underrepresented youth on the path to college. Katie is excited to be part of the community-level change that SDRI is creating here in her hometown of Santa Barbara.
Wendy Bevier, PhD – Biobank and Device Manager
Wendy Bevier joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 1990 to work with then Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Lois Jovanovič on studies involving gestational diabetes and exercise, and other type 1 diabetes research studies. In 1995 Wendy taught human physiology and anatomy part-time, worked part-time for the YMCA, and raised her family. She returned to Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2004 and started work on the development of the artificial pancreas system in collaboration with engineers at UC Santa Barbara.
Wendy’s expertise in physiology made her a natural fit as the Biobank and Device Manager for Mil Familias. She has been instrumental in building and managing the biobank as well as leading the activity monitor (also known as “wearable”) portions of Mil Familias research. Wendy sees all of the patients and research participants as family, providing care, support and learning for one another.
Wendy attended high school in Santa Barbara and returned after completing a BS at UC Davis and a MS at University of Oregon. She earned her PhD at UC Santa Barbara in Biology – Human Physiology, and then completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Gerontology and Exercise Physiology.
Arianna Larez – Site Logistics Coordinator
Arianna Larez’ professional passion is working to better facilitate positive community behavioral health changes within marginalized populations, through person centered research and care.
Arianna joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2016. Arianna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Westmont College. Her educational background has strongly shaped her belief that a comprehensive understanding of each individual’s health journey is the key to better serving and supporting the diabetic community.
As a Latina herself, Arianna values the commitment Mil Familias has made to not just working within, but deeply understanding Latino culture in an effort to better serve the community. She appreciates the opportunity Mil Familias has provided her with to partner her bilingualism and passion for organization, with her dedication to improving health awareness and understanding among a community impacted by this serious disease.
On the weekend, you might find her grabbing coffee with friends, taking in Santa Barbara’s beaches, or enjoying a night of star-gazing.
Casey Conneely – Research Assistant
Being the youngest of eight children and growing up in Bolivia, Casey understands the importance of family and solidarity. These values led him to study abroad in the Philippines, where he developed a passion for community outreach work by teaching English, Spanish and capoeira in an informal settler’s village. Here he witnessed the importance of health awareness, as well as the inequity of healthcare for marginalized communities by assisting in a program for malnourished children.
After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts and Social Justice, Casey moved back to Santa Barbara to be close to his family and to once again serve his community. He developed an interest in diabetes research from observing and assisting his mother, Mary Conneely, educate and help the diabetic community of Latino people in Santa Barbara.
Initially hired as a Research Assistant for the Farming for Life program at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2018, Casey’s passion for health awareness and innate sense of community engagement earned him a position as part of the Mil Familias team. He hopes to contribute to and expand on the values of family and solidarity embodied in the Mil Familias mission statement.
Rony F. Santiago – Study Coordinator & Community Liaison
Rony F. Santiago joined Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in 2021. Here, he coordinates type 2 diabetes programs and establishes and strengthens networks through community outreach.
His academic journey started at Santa Barbara City College in 2010, where he earned an AA in Exercise Science and Athletic Training. Subsequently he graduated from Cal-State Northridge with a BS in Kinesiology in 2015 and MA in Public Health Education in 2018.
Rony values balance in life and tries to incorporate that into everything he does. Rony has a passion for teaching healthy concepts and finds that fulfilling. He is always happy to help others reach their healthy goals and improve their quality of life.