About

Board Members

Costello
Rosalia Costello, PsyD

Member at Large

Quiroz 1
Yakeel Quiroz, PhD

Member At Large

andrea mejia kurasz
Andrea Mejia Kurasz, MA

Student Representative

Ambar
Ambar Perez Lao, MS

Student Representative-Elect

Committee Chairs

Costello
Rosalia Costello, PsyD

Membership and Elections

Quiroz 1
Yakeel Quiroz, PhD

Membership and Elections

M-1
Mirella Diaz-Santos, PhD

Mentorship and Education

HNS Staff
David M. Lechuga, PhD, ABPP, ABN

Administrative Director

Rob Davis, PhD, MS, ABPP

Web Developer

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We are a group of clinical and research neuropsychologists interested in promoting the competent practice of neuropsychology with Spanish-speaking populations. (read the complete mission statement here) If you are a practicing neuropsychologist or student, we encourage you to consider the many benefits of becoming a member of the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society. (learn more about registration here)
This website offers resources for Spanish-speaking neuropsychologists, students of neuropsychology, and the general public, including:

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• Our public directory of member clinicians
• Find a Spanish-Speaking Neuropsychologist

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Paola Suarez, PhD

As a 13-year-old, Dr. Suarez immigrated from Colombia to Miami, Florida where she completed high school. During this transition, she endured much of the stigma associated with being a non-English speaking foreigner and an English as a Second Language (ESL) learner. Although she was not taken seriously by many of her teachers and peers, who often treated her as “less than,” she had the uncompromising support of her family and an amazing teacher who guided her and other ESL students, through the tedious and, at times, confusing college application process. Consequently, Dr. Suarez was accepted for admission into Barry University, a small Catholic liberal arts university in Miami. There, Dr. Suarez was exposed to several faculty in the Department of Psychology who allowed her to explore her curiosity on the workings of the bilingual brain. Although she had little understanding of neuropsychology at the time, she wanted others to understand that her brain and those of other bilingual individuals processed information in a manner than was different, not “less than.” This passion for ensuring that immigrants, especially non-English speaking individuals, are viewed as fully human fuels what she does on a daily basis.

Dr. Suarez was part of the group, led by former HNS President, Dr. Lechuga, who put together the Houston to Austin meeting in 2015 with the goal of sparking a discussion around how the current guidelines were limited in serving only a few and disproportionately taxing minority clinicians providing services to the underserved. Last year, Dr. Suarez joined the HNS Executive Committee as President-Elect and is currently serving as the President.

Dr. Suarez is a Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Director of the Cultural Neuropsychology Program and Co-Principal Investigator of the UCLA-LACDMH Bilingual & Spanish Interdisciplinary Clinical Training Program (BASIC-T) within UCLA’s Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence. Through the BASIC-T, she is working with colleagues to expand neuropsychological services for the most underserved cultural communities in Los Angeles County. Her clinical work is dedicated to ensuring that bilingual patients get the best neuropsychological services possible and that they are not inadvertently misdiagnosed. Her more recent publications on test norming for Spanish-speakers reflect this interest. She also has the privilege of training externs, interns, and postdoctoral fellows who can carry on the mission of ensuring that others will not be cast aside as “less than.”

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Pre-doctoral internship – UCLA
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – UCLA
  • Past Chairperson, Culture and Diversity Committee, National Academy of Neuropsychology; Past Mentor, Women in Neuropsychology Committee, National Academy of Neuropsychology; Current Mentor, Mentoring Committee, HNS
  • 2019-2020 Outstanding Faculty Housestaff Teaching Adult/Geriatric Division, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
  • 2014 Tony Wong Memorial Postdoctoral Diversity Award from the National Academic of Neuropsychology
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

What Dr. Suarez loves most in the world is spending time with her husband and boys, as well as her parents and siblings. She also equally enjoys watching soccer with her father and brothers in a Colombian soccer stadium.

Veronica Bordes Edgar, PhD, ABPP

Dr. Bordes Edgar was born in Mexico City, Mexico and immigrated to the United States at 5 years of age. Becoming a naturalized citizen at the age of 16, she started to become increasingly aware of the cultural differences around her. Although she did not realize it at the time, she had to learn how to navigate three cultures – Mexican, Mexican-American, and American. This propelled her to want to help other children who struggle with the same challenge.

Dr. Bordes Edgar has been an active member of HNS since 2010. She initially served on the Executive Committee as Secretary from 2015-2017; she was active in the organization of the Houston to Austin HNS Conference in 2015 and the bylaws revision in 2017. She is also one of the founding members who helped establish HNS as a non-profit organization. Dr. Bordes Edgar rejoined the board in 2019 as President-Elect, served as President for three years, and is now the Past-President. She has led another round of bylaws revisions and has been active as a liaison for HNS with other major neuropsychological associations. She credits her HNS involvement, including its mentorship and relationships, for much of her professional success.

Dr. Bordes Edgar is an Associate Professor with joint faculty appointments in Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center. She serves as a bilingual Pediatric Neuropsychologist at Children’s Health and is Co-Director for the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at UTSW Medical Center. Her areas of interest include cultural and bilingual issues in assessment, genetic and neurodevelopmental disorders, and interdisciplinary teaching of medical and psychology trainees.

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Counseling Psychology – Arizona State University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – University of Minnesota Medical School
  • Board-certified through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in Clinical Neuropsychology and Pediatric Neuropsychology
  • 2018 ABPP Early Career Psychologist Service Award recipient 
  • 2021 NAN Tony Wong Diversity Award for Outstanding Work Related to Diversity as a Mentor
  • 2023 Jerry Sweet Leadership Award from the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Fellow status in HNS and NAN
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

Dr. Bordes Edgar and her husband have a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. Bilingualism and biliteracy are strongly valued in their household so both children attend a Spanish-language elementary school. Dr. Bordes Edgar enjoys spending time with her family, camping, golf, and a good early morning workout.

Angela Canas, PHD, NCSP

Dr. Canas was born in Medellin, Colombia and immigrated to the United States at 5 years of age. She was nearly retained in kindergarten due her limited English language proficiency and the scarcity of bilingual programming in Texas at the time but was recommended for enrollment in private schooling following two additional years of English language immersion. Dr. Canas was later awarded a substantive academic scholarship to Southern Methodist University, where she fulfilled her goal of becoming a first-generation college graduate. Her personal experience coupled with her extensive knowledge of special education law has been foundational to her professional work with Spanish-speaking families, particularly as it relates to patient advocacy and liaises with educational entities, medical providers, and community-based organizations. 

Dr. Canas joined HNS in 2019, assuming the Communications Committee Chair position. Through this role, she was able to connect with others who were passionate about providing equitable and quality care to marginalized populations and had the opportunity to raise public awareness about the importance of multicultural issues as it relates to the field of neuropsychology and society at large. Currently, Dr. Canas is serving as Secretary. She hopes that her attention to detail, information tracking, and communication skills will further support the organization as it aims to evolve. 

Dr. Canas is a Clinical Neuropsychologist at Children’s Health and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center. She conducts neuropsychological evaluations of pediatric patients with an array of complex medical, developmental, and neurological conditions, with an emphasis on Spanish-bilingual/monolingual patients, as well as those with Neurofibromatosis, Type 1 and congenital heart disease. She is the Lead Pediatric Neuropsychologist for the Children’s Health/UTSW Neurofibromatosis Program and the Bilingual Neuropsychologist for the Children’s Health Heart Center Fontan Program. She is actively involved in the education and supervision of trainees, serves on the UTSW Clinical Psychology Training Committee, and is a Children’s Health Cultural Diversity Scholar supervisor.

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in School Psychology – Texas Woman’s University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center/Louisiana School Psychology Internship Consortium
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – University of Colorado School of Medicine/Children’s Hospital Colorado
  • Nationally Certified School Psychologist
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

Dr. Canas enjoys traveling, camping, and exploring local markets and restaurants with her husband, Jared, as well as spending time with their fur babies, Pete and Gracie.

Natalia Moss, PhD

Dr. Moss is a second generation Mexican-American who was raised in southern California in a Spanish-speaking household. Her early experiences made her aware of health disparities, and much of her work and training has been dedicated to providing neuropsychological services to underserved communities. Dr. Moss has worked in a variety of settings including private practice, hospital, and community health clinics.

Dr. Moss has been involved in HNS since graduate school through attending conferences, presenting research, and participating as a task force member. Presently, through a leadership position as Treasurer of HNS, she is excited to collaborate with others in the service of promoting the competent practice of neuropsychology with Spanish-speaking populations.

Dr. Moss is an early career pediatric neuropsychologist who provides assessments to children and young adults with a range of cognitive, learning, and social-emotional challenges. She is currently licensed in California and New Mexico and is involved in clinical and research practice in both states. Additionally, she supervises doctoral students at the University of New Mexico on cases involving the neuropsychological assessment of children and adolescents. Dr. Moss’s clinical work inspires her research questions. Her research has focused on cultural differences in childhood cognitive development, the relationship between bilingualism and cognitive abilities in children, and cognitive differences in children born preterm. Most recently, she collaborated on a manuscript (pending publication) that outlines guidelines for training in cultural neuropsychology across the lifespan.  Her interests in neuropsychology, culturally appropriate mental health services, measurement validity in diverse populations, and how medical, developmental, and psychological disorders affect cognitive abilities and functioning in children have allowed her to develop a more holistic insight into her clinical work.

Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – University of New Mexico
  • Pre-doctoral internship – University of New Mexico, Health Sciences Center
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – The Help Group/UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

More personally, Dr. Moss enjoys spending time with her husband and two small children, visiting family in Mexico, hiking, and dancing.

 

Rosalia Costello, PsyD

Dr. Costello is a trilingual (English/Spanish/Italian) Italian American from Chicago, IL. Her interest in languages led to her decision to minor in both Spanish and Italian during her undergraduate education and pursue immersive experiences abroad. Through her neuropsychology training, Dr. Costello actively sought expert mentorship in the ethical and competent delivery of neuropsychological services in Spanish in order to better serve bilingual pediatric patients and their families.

While gaining leadership and organizational experience as the Equity and Inclusion Officer for the Association of Neuropsychology Students and Trainees (ANST) and adjacent experiences in the newer organization “New2Neuropsychology,” Dr. Costello admired and greatly benefited from HNS’s example-setting in the field of neuropsychology. Upon being nominated for the position of Member-at-Large by Dr. Beatriz MacDonald Wer, more committed service to and involvement in HNS felt like the natural next step in her pursuit of culturally responsive practice. Her aim within HNS is to utilize the privilege she possesses as someone with a doctoral degree to serve as a bridge: to students in need of resources, to patients in need of services in their heritage language, and to populations in need of representation in research.

Dr. Costello is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Texas Austin/Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, TX where she primarily works with children and adolescents with epilepsy. Her current research is focused on health disparities and bilingual brain development in pediatric medical populations. She has presented locally, nationally, and internationally and hopes to continue to foster equity and inclusion for patients, students, and providers alike.

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Adler University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – University of Minnesota Medical Center
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine

On a personal note, Dr. Costello lives with her husband and their two dogs (Sadie and Penny Lane) in Austin where they enjoy visiting wineries in the surrounding hill country and cooking elaborate meals at home.

Yakeel Quiroz, PhD

Dr. Quiroz is originally from Colombia and moved to Boston, Massachusetts in the early 2000s to pursue graduate education.  Since very early in her career, she has been committed to conducting clinical research that can benefit culturally and linguistically diverse populations. She has also invested her efforts in creating training opportunities to increase representation of women and Latinos in neuroscience and neuropsychology. 

Dr. Quiroz is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She is the Director of the MGH Multicultural Assessment and Research Center and the Multicultural Alzheimer’s Prevention Program (MAPP). Her current research uses genomics and biomarkers to inform early detection and prevention of age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease dementia. She is the principal investigator of the Colombia-Boston (COLBOS) biomarker study on autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which follows individuals from the world’s largest extended family with a single, AD-causing mutation (E280A in Presenilin1), as well as the Boston Latino Aging Study (BLAST). She also launched and directs the elective in multicultural neuropsychology as part of the MGH/Harvard Medical School Clinical Psychology Internship and the Mass General Brigham postdoctoral fellowship training program in multicultural clinical neuropsychology.

She has been an HNS member for the past ten years. She currently serves as Member-At-Large. In this position, she seeks to represent the interests of both clinicians and researchers working to advance and improve the science and care of multicultural patients.

Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Boston University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
  • Publications available for review via the NIH National Library of Medicine

In her spare time, Dr. Quiroz enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling to new places, attending academic conferences, and listening to music.

Andrea Mejia Kurasz, MA

Ms. Mejia Kurasz was born in New Jersey, where her parents immigrated to from Honduras. She grew up in a rural, small town in North Carolina and was raised in a multi-generational, Spanish-speaking household. Given the lack of Spanish-speaking providers and resources in the area, she learned to value and advocate for patient-centered care and health equity at a young age.

Currently, Ms. Mejia Kurasz serves as the Student Representative and the Co-Chair of the Student Association Committee. She is also a member of the Awards Committee. She hopes to foster community and amplify trainees from historically underrepresented and excluded backgrounds. She also hopes to increase clinical, research, and professional opportunities for trainees centered on cultural humility and intersectionality, moving towards a more equitable practice of neuropsychology. 

Ms. Mejia Kurasz is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in the Clinical and Health Psychology Program at the University of Florida, with a training concentration in clinical neuropsychology.  She is currently completing her pre-doctoral internship at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.  Her clinical and research interests center around cognitive aging, behavioral interventions, and health disparities.

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Bachelor’s in Psychology – University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Master’s in Psychology – University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

In her spare time, Ms. Mejia Kurasz enjoys being active (e.g., cycling, boxing, tennis), reading, and spending time with her family.

Ambar Perez Lao, MS

Ms. Perez Lao was born in Panama, a multicultural city, where she lived for 25 years before moving to the United States (U.S.). to start her Ph.D. degree. After finishing her Licenciatura en Psicología (bachelor’s in psychology), she applied for a doctoral scholarship from the IFARHU/SENACYT, which led her to study in the Clinical and Health Psychology Program at the University of Florida. Unfortunately, Ms. Perez Lao moved to the U.S. during the pandemic, which made it difficult for her to interact with other people, including her peers due to required social distancing.

Ms. Perez Lao joined HNS to seek other colleagues and peers that could not only provide guidance on this new academic journey but also offer advice on how to survive the Ph.D. life as an international student from Central America. The support and help that she received from the HNS community propelled her to get involved in the Student Association Committee and the Science Committee, which she joined to improve graduate students’ lives and encourage more research in the Latinx/Hispanic Community. Ms. Perez Lao was recently elected to the HNS Board of Directors as the Student Representative-Elect.

Currently, Ms. Perez Lao is in the third year of her doctoral program. She is eager to learn more about clinical neuropsychology, specifically how to work with underrepresented minorities, and has had the opportunity to provide evaluations and psychotherapy services in Spanish under supervision. Regarding her research, she is currently working on studies that involve cross-cultural psychology, cognitive aging, prevention of dementia, and teleneuropsychology. 

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Bachelor’s in Psychology – Universidad Católica Santa María la Antigua
  • IFARHU-SENACYT Doctoral Scholarship recipient
  • 2022 HNS Student Research Award recipient
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

During her free time, Ms. Perez Lao likes drawing realism, reading, baking, paddle boarding, training, and making her friends and family laugh.

Rosario DeLeon, PhD

Dr. DeLeon was born and raised in Houston, Texas where she was exposed to Tagalog and Spanish alongside English at home. She studied Spanish through high school and discovered neuropsychology as a college extern. She was inspired to hone her Spanish language skills after being sent to rural Mexico as a neuropsychology research assistant to test a Spanish-speaking patient who suffered a traumatic brain injury. That experience clarified that although medical care may be more advanced in the United States, access to equitable care for Spanish-speakers was severely lacking. The first bilingual neuropsychologist Dr. DeLeon met was Dr. Lydia Artiola i Fortuni at the original Houston Conference, who inspired the then-graduate student to focus on further learning about and developing bilingual neuropsychological practices.

Dr. DeLeon was introduced to the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society in 2012 and was thrilled to find a collegial group of like-minded professionals who shared the same enthusiasm for developing and promoting culturally responsive neuropsychology practice and training. Since joining in 2013, Dr. DeLeon has enjoyed meeting and collaborating with peers who share similar passions and goals. Currently, Dr. DeLeon serves as the Chair of the Awards Committee.

Dr. DeLeon is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Texas Dell Medical School/Dell Children’s Hospital where her primary position is in the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. She conducts culturally informed neuropsychological evaluations in English and Spanish for children and adolescents with epilepsy, as well as those with other complex neurological conditions. She also serves as a clinical supervisor in bilingual neuropsychology for externs, interns, and fellows. Recently, Dr. DeLeon established a fellowship rotation focused on providing culturally and linguistically competent neuropsychology services for Spanish-speaking patients and their families.Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – University of Houston
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – University of Texas at Houston Medical School
  • Pre-Doctoral internship – Children’s Assessment Center
  • Past President of the Austin Neuropsychological Society
  • Publications available through Research Gate

In her free time, Dr. DeLeon enjoys spending time with friends and family – especially her husband, 2 sons, and 2 dogs – exploring local hot spots, traveling to other countries and learning about their culture, and pursuing outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, skiing, and kayaking.

Kayleen Ball, PsyD

Dr. Ball was born and raised in Miami, Florida to Colombian parents. Growing up in Miami allowed Dr. Ball to learn about most Latin American countries through her peers. She attended Albizu University (formerly Carlos Albizu University), where she devoted much of her training to working with the Latinx community. During her time in training in Texas, Dr. Ball became aware of the barriers to treatment that Latinx individuals/families face on a daily basis in the United States. She also personally experienced the culture shock of living in cities where the Latinx community is not the majority. These experiences drove Dr. Ball to pursue formal specialized training in bilingual neuropsychological assessment with the goal of providing culturally competent neuropsychological services to her community.  

Dr. Ball joined HNS with the goal of advocating for the Latinx community and trainees. She was a member of the HNS Communications Committee from 2019-2021 and is now serving as the Chair of that committee. In this position, Dr. Ball hopes to increase HNS’ social media presence and following, as well as utilize social media to highlight crucial topics for the black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and Latinx communities. 

Dr. Ball is a clinical neuropsychologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. She provides bilingual assessment services to patients with a variety of medically complex conditions. She is the bilingual neuropsychologist for the Neuro-Cardiac Developmental, Neuro-Oncology, and Epilepsy Surgery Outcomes Clinics. Dr. Ball is actively involved in the education and supervision of neuropsychology track interns and neuropsychology fellows. Trainees rotating with Dr. Ball focus on bilingual assessment, diversity, and multiculturalism.  Dr. Ball hopes to collaborate with colleagues to develop culturally appropriate norms for the Latinx pediatric population and promote culturally competent neuropsychological assessment.

 Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Albizu University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston/McGovern School of Medicine
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship – Children’s Health

Dr. Ball enjoys traveling, foodie experiences, and attending concerts with her husband, Christian, as well as soaking up all the cuddles/hugs from her newborn baby, Brooklyn Rose.

Santiago Palmer Cancel, PsyD

Dr. Palmer Cancel was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At an early age, he saw the impact of cerebrovascular accidents and how they affected the lives of all family members. Neuropsychology in Puerto Rico is not nearly as developed as it is in the United States, and the effects of hurricanes, as well as decaying government, education, and health systems make it harder for professionals to grow and obtain specialized training within the island. Dr. Palmer Cancel’s personal experiences and need for in-depth training ignited his desire to continue postdoctoral training, with the goals of providing quality services to Puerto Ricans (and their families) affected by neurological conditions and creating training opportunities for students from non-traditional backgrounds. 

Dr. Palmer Cancel has been a member of HNS since 2019 when he was a doctoral student. In 2023, he became the Co-Chair of the Social Event Subcommittee in preparation for the 2023 HNS Conference, as well as the Co-Chair of the Communications Committee. By actively serving in HNS leadership, Dr. Palmer Cancel hopes to help Hispanic students with non-traditional training backgrounds become competent clinical neuropsychologists and further develop the field of neuropsychology in Puerto Rico. 

Dr. Palmer Cancel is a second-year fellow at Brain and Behavioral Associates with current responsibilities that include providing comprehensive outpatient clinical neuropsychological evaluations and consultation, in both English and Spanish, to a primarily adult population presenting with a wide range of acquired, neurodegenerative, medical, and psychiatric conditions. He also conducts pediatric neuropsychological evaluations of Spanish-speaking children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as forensic evaluations for competency to stand trial and other civil and criminal cases. Being fully Spanish-bilingual and a native Spanish-speaker, he has been able to provide services in Spanish to underserved communities with few resources. Dr. Palmer Cancel’s specific clinical and research interests are related to the psychosocial impact of acquired brain injuries on patients and their families. Dr. Palmer Cancel will join the Center for Transitional Neuro-Rehabilitation at Barrow Neurological Institute in winter 2024 as a staff neuropsychologist.

Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, PsyD – Ponce Health Sciences University
  • Pre-doctoral Internship – Ponce Health Sciences University
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship – Brain and Behavioral Associates
  • Apprenticeship on the APA Division 40 Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (Div40 SCN) Education Advisory Committee (EAC)
  • Member of the Advisory Panel for the Saugatuck Institute for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation (SINR) and the International Neuropsychological Society’s (INS) Social Media Committee
  • Publications available through Research Gate

Dr. Palmer Cancel enjoys going to the beach, watching movies, reading, and walking with his dog.

Beatriz MacDonald Wer, Ph.D

Dr. MacDonald Wer was born and raised in Guatemala and moved to the United States at 20 years of age to complete her college degree at Harvard University. She is fluent in English and Spanish, and proficient in Italian, which she learned while in college so that she could explore  Italy. Having lived in Guatemala, Italy, Boston, Denver, Albuquerque, Houston, and Dallas, Dr. MacDonald Wer has a deep commitment to promote the inclusion and equity of cultural and linguistic diversity.

Dr. MacDonald Wer has been an active member of HNS since 2015. She has served as Student Representative (2016-2017) and Secretary (2018-2019) on the Executive Committee and as a member of the Mentoring and Education Committee (2018-2021) and the Membership and Elections Committee (2017-2021). She was asked to be the Program Co-Chair of the 2019 3rd Biannual HNS Conference, Cultural Neuropsychology in Action. Currently, Dr. MacDonald Wer serves as the Chair of the Continuing Education Committee. She loves being part of the HNS familia and supporting the growth of such an important organization!

During her time at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Dr. MacDonald Wer founded the Multicultural Excellence in Neuropsychology Training and Evaluation (MENTE) Program, a center dedicated to providing clinical training, research, and service delivery to linguistic minorities. During her time at Baylor College of Medicine/ Texas Children’s Hospital, Dr. MacDonald Wer was a Leader of Inclusive Excellence, Co-Chair of Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, and a Pediatric Clinical Neuropsychologist in the Psychology Division at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. She also served as the Interim Co-Director of the Postdoctoral Neuropsychology Fellowship. In 2022, Dr. MacDonald Wer joined the faculty of the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Her interests focus on programmatic systems and didactics to support cultural and linguistic equity and inclusion, epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorders, and mentorship and sponsorship.

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – University of Denver
  • Pre-doctoral internship – University of New Mexico, Health Sciences Center
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – University of New Mexico Hospitals
  • 2018 NAN Outstanding Work Related to Diversity as an Early Career Professional
  • 2020 Distinguished Professor, Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala
  • Co-developed the SALUD Strutt MacDonald Equitable Healthcare Model
  • At-Large Delegate – Minnesota 2022 Update Conference on Education and Training in Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

Dr. MacDonald Wer and her husband are raising a strong biracial (Black American and Latina), bilingual 7-year-old that keeps them on their toes. Dr. MacDonald Wer loves spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, impromptu dance parties, and traveling!

Mirella Díaz-Santos, PHD

Dr. Díaz-Santos is from Villas de Loíza, Canóvanas Puerto Rico. She attended public schools with supportive teachers who believed in their students. During middle school, she was mentored to apply to a science and math program at Berwind High School (San Juan). La Escuela Superior de Berwind is where she learned about her passion for science and psychology.

With a clear sense for the importance of kind-authentic mentorship and sponsorship for Latino/a/x trainees, Dr. Díaz-Santos began her journey as the Chair of the Mentoring and Education Committee in January 2020. She and her committee members re-launched the Mentoring Program during the Fall of 2019 with the vision of fostering connections “a la distancia” via mentoring-pairing, peer-to-peer mentoring, and an virtual educational program to engage the whole HNS community in the topics of mentoring, sponsorship, scholarly identity, and professional currency. 

Dr. Díaz-Santos is an Assistant Professor In-Residence with dual appointments in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine. She is also a Faculty Neuropsychology Lead for the Community Engagement Core at UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Director of the Equity for Latinx-Hispanic Healthy Aging (ELHA) Lab. Her work focuses on prevention, early detection/diagnosis, and management of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in Latinx communities. 

Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Boston University
  • Post-doctoral fellowships (UCLA) – Medical Psychological Assessment Clinical/Cultural Neuropsychology Program (clinical neuropsychology); Human Connectome Project: Aging and the Depression Grand Challenge (research) 
  • Member, National Academy of Neuropsychology Culture and Diversity Committee
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

Dr. Díaz-Santos loves dancing, karaoke, and hiking, as well as spending virtual time exercising and/or singing with her nephews and niece who live in Puerto Rico.

Heidi Bender, PHD, ABPP​

Dr. Bender was born and raised in the melting-pot of Brooklyn, New York. She has resided in four of the five boroughs of New York City throughout her lifetime and has sought every opportunity to become immersed in the vibrant tapestries unique to each neighborhood, through her friendships, exploration of the arts, and food. Her deep awareness of and respect for a person’s unique life experiences, and their cumulative influence on the person’s past, present, and future continues to imbue her work today.

Membership and leadership involvement in HNS seemed to be a natural fit for Dr. Bender, as the espíritu de inclusión y familia, is one that strongly resonates with her personal and professional missions. Dr. Bender served as the Member-At-Large (2020-2021) and is the current Practice Committee Chair for the organization. She is especially passionate about creating educational opportunities aimed at improving the cultural awareness and sensitivity afforded to the Latinx community, as well as directly supervising and supporting Latinx trainees and early-career neuropsychologists to ensure that future generations are as linguistically-, racially-, culturally- and experientially-diverse as the patient populations that they serve.

Dr. Bender is the Director of Neuropsychological Services in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine where she is also an Associate Professor. As an accomplished researcher in the fields of epilepsy and cross-cultural neuropsychology, Dr. Bender has been an invited lecturer throughout the United States and abroad on these and other topics. Moreover, Dr. Bender has published in over 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts in national and international scientific journals, as well as book chapters and encyclopedia entries.

Additional educational and training highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Pre-doctoral internship – The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University (NYU) Medical Center
  • Post-doctoral fellowship (3-year) – NYU School of Medicine, Comprehensive Epilepsy Center 
  • Board certified through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Co-Chair, New York Neuropsychology Group Bilingual Task Force

Dr. Bender enjoys going on “adventures,” as her young son is fond of saying, including hiking, swimming, cooking, and traveling.

Franchesca Arias, PhD

Dr. Arias is from Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. She relocated to the United States (US) with her family after her father was diagnosed with a central nervous system (CNS) condition. Her personal experience, as well as her trajectory as an immigrant woman of color in the US, influenced her desire to study the connection between the brain and behavior and to work to empower persons from underrepresented groups living with CNS disorders. Dr. Arias has been a member of the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society (HNS) for over 10 years and has held numerous positions (e.g., 2011-2013 Student Representative, HNS 2019 Conference Task Force). Currently, Dr. Arias is an active member of the Mentorship and Education and the Membership and Elections Committees. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Science Committee and the Conference Committee. In these roles, she hopes to facilitate the dissemination of peer-reviewed research focusing on culturally sensitive clinical practice. Additionally, she hopes to support efforts within HNS to develop and publish original empirical work.

Dr. Arias is an Assistant Professor in a tenure-track faculty position at the University of Florida. Previously, Dr. Arias worked as a clinical neuropsychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, part of Harvard Medical School, and an Assistant Scientist at the Aging Brain Center at Hebrew SeniorLife. Her clinical and research interests center around the cognitive health trajectories of older adults and cross-cultural neuropsychology as an approach to mitigate health disparities and understand how chronic medical illness interacts with acute medical events and socioeconomic factors to precipitate cognitive decline.

Additional training and professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Fordham University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – The University of Florida, Health Science Center
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – The University of Florida, Health Science Center
  • Elected member – The Ethic’s Minority Affairs Subcommittee of the Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (APA Division 40)
  • Founding member – The Spanish Teleneuropsychological Assessment and Research (STAR) Consortium
  • Publications available via ResearchGate

Dr. Arias enjoys spending time with family and friends, exercising, baking, and listening to music.

 

Zara Melikyan, PhD

Dr. Melikyan is interested in and knowledgeable about different cultures; she grew up in the multicultural city of Moscow, Russia, and is Russian-English-Italian trilingual. She came to appreciate diversity on a new, professional level when she came to the United States to pursue her post-doctoral fellowship in cross-cultural neuropsychology, where she combined Russian and American neuropsychological approaches. Her first-hand experience of challenges that culturally diverse individuals face in different areas of their lives is foundational to her research, mentoring, and work in professional organizations.

Dr. Melikyan joined HNS in 2021 and assumed the position of Science Committee Co-Chair in 2022. Through this role she is able to enhance multicultural aspects of research. She also has the opportunity to strengthen the inclusion of minoritized populations in the research.   

Dr. Melikyan is an Associate Project Scientist at the University of California Irvine’s The 90+ Study. Her research interests include association of modifiable factors, such as sleep and occupation, with the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in the oldest-old (age 90+), norms development, and cross-cultural neuropsychology. She is also involved in educational activities through mentoring undergraduate students and presenting in regular Clinical Pathological Conferences and group research meetings. 

Additional training and professional highlights include: 

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – The Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
  • Pre-doctoral internship – The Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
  • Post-doctoral fellowship – University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA
  • Publications available for review via Google Scholar

Dr. Melikyan enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, learning foreign languages, dancing, and sports.  

Jesús Barreto Abrams, PhD

Dr. Barreto Abrams was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Since childhood, his fascination with languages and the world led him to learn basic signs online. Encountering a Deaf child as a youth counselor sparked his interest further. With his cousin’s help, he learned more signs before formally studying American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States. Pursuing a doctoral degree at Gallaudet University allowed him to specialize in psychological and neuropsychological services for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing populations. Over the past decade, Dr. Barreto Abrams has proficiently used Spanish, ASL, and English in his daily interactions. Grounded in cultural sensitivity and a commitment to language justice, he prioritizes sociocultural factors in his clinical, pedagogical, and administrative work.

Dr. Barreto Abrams joined the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society in 2023 as the Social Justice and Advocacy chair. He is passionate about equitable care for all individuals seeking neuropsychological and psychological services. He is especially interested in community education and improving access to care within the Hispanic/Latino community, particularly for neurocognitive and neurodegenerative disorders.

Currently, Dr. Barreto Abrams is a clinical neuropsychologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s (PNI), Pacific Brain Health Center, in Torrance, California. He mainly works with adults and older adults presenting with a wide range of concerns. As a lifespan neuropsychologist, he also occasionally holds a pediatric Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing clinic. His research interests include the adaptation of measures with minoritized communities, the development of norms within the Deaf community, and professional practices.

Additional professional highlights include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Gallaudet University
  • Pre-doctoral internship – University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Post-doctoral internship – UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior
  • 2020 Graduate Outstanding Achievement Award, Gallaudet University
  • Publications available via Google Scholar

 

DAVID M. LECHUGA, PhD, ABPP, ABN

Dr. Lechuga was born in Lynwood, California and raised in Carson, California. His mother was Mexican and Filipina American, and his father was Mexican American. He is also of Native American decent. His professional work is viewed through these ethnic and cultural influences. Dr. Lechuga is also a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran.

Dr. Lechuga is a past president of HNS and is the current administrative director. HNS is home to him because of its emphasis on cultural neuropsychology. HNS serves as a source of inspiration for his governance work.

Dr. Lechuga is the director of The Neurobehavioral Clinic & Counseling Center, a private practice servicing individuals with learning, cognitive, and behavioral challenges (www.neuroclinic.com). He conducts assessments and therapy with brain-injured adolescents and adults. Dr. Lechuga is a civil forensic neuropsychologist and serves as the sports neuropsychology consultant for several professional and amateur teams including the LA Kings, LA Football Club, LA Galaxy, and Concordia University. He also supervises interns and postdoctoral fellows at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence.

Additional training and professional experiences include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – UCLA
  • Pre-doctoral internship – UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute
  • Licensed in California, Hawaii, and Arizona
  • Board-certified through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in Clinical Psychology and Rehabilitation Psychology, as well as through the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology
  • Former president of the California Psychological Association and represented California at the APA Council of Representatives for six years

Dr. Lechuga’s life gifts revolve around family; he has been married for 35 years, and has a son, a daughter, a grandson, and a granddaughter on the way! Distractions include music, karate, and paddling his outrigger canoe.

DELIA SILVA, PSYD, ABPP

Dr. Silva’s parents immigrated from Panama and Chile to the United States, and she was born and raised in melting pot that is New York City. She grew up speaking Spanish at home and feels fortunate to have grown up in an environment where cultural diversity was the norm, not the exception.

During her training to become a neuropsychologist, Dr. Silva was often asked to work with Spanish-speaking patients, though most training sites did not have supervisors who also spoke Spanish or had sufficient cultural knowledge relevant to Latinx populations. She joined HNS as a student and found mentorship and training resources that helped her gain competency in providing neuropsychological services to these patients. Dr. Silva has served on the HNS Board as Member-at-Large (2014-2016) and Secretary (2019-2022). She has also been involved with several committees over the years and is currently serving as the Chair of the Information Technology (IT) Committee. She views HNS as the main organization to promote development of professional resources and scientific advancements in neuropsychology that are specific to Latinx groups; she is honored to help the organization in any way she can. 

Dr. Silva is the owner of Pacific Neurobehavioral Clinic, PC, a group practice in San Diego, California that offers neuropsychological evaluation and psychotherapy services to adults with various neuropsychiatric conditions. She engages in clinical and civil forensic work and oversees the clinic operations.

Educational, training and professional experiences include:

  • Doctorate in Clinical Psychology – Florida Institute of Technology
  • Post-doctoral fellowships – Fullerton Neuropsychological Services, St. Jude Medical Center (one year; neurorehabilitation) and University of California San Diego (one year; clinical neuropsychology)
  • Staff neuropsychologist at Sharp Memorial and Grossmont hospitals from 2009-2012
  • Board certified through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME) for the state of California
  • Treasurer and Current Chair of California Psychological Association-Division 8 (Neuropsychology)

In her spare time, Dr. Silva enjoys playing and making music (piano and electronic instruments; she recently took up learning how to play the theremin), playing tennis, karaoke, and spending time with family and friends.