Assistant Professor for Research at UNM College of Education & Senior Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy, Patient Navigation Expert
Dr. Elba Saavedra’s official title is Assistant Professor for Research at the UNM College of Education and Senior Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy. But perhaps a more fitting title would be: the Ultimate Comadre. Comadre is a term used to describe a close female friendship often found in extended families in the Hispanic and Latino communities; a comadre is a godmother, female friend, neighbor . . . or simply someone who supports you.
Elba is the founder and director of Comadre a Comadre, a community based program that offers advocacy, education, information, resources, and support to improve breast cancer outcomes among Hispanic and Latina women diagnosed with the disease. The program uses culturally sensitive, one-to-one support delivered by a team of trained comadres who guide patients through their medical journey and offer them emotional support. The comadres are breast cancer survivors themselves and represent the culture of the women they’re helping. For the women who access the program the comadres are a true lifeline.
The Comadre a Comadre Program exemplifies the focus of Elba’s career -- addressing cancer disparities and improving cancer care for the Hispanic and Latina community. For years Elba has provided outreach, conducted research and offered counseling within the Latino community.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Elba came to UNM in the early 1980s and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She earned her doctorate in community education from UNM in 2004. Since then she’s received numerous grants to extend her good work and accepted many awards acknowledging her contributions to the community including the 2005 Governor’s Award to Outstanding New Mexico Women and the 2007 Women Making A Difference Award.