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Black History Month: A mother’s example paves the way for Turner

Graphic that reads Celebrating Black History Month with photo of Llaran Turner.
(Graphic by UTHealth Houston)

Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of February, UTHealth Houston will highlight stories of students who share the vision and reflect on the people who influenced who they are today.

Llaran Turner, a second-year graduate student at MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, is following in her mother’s footsteps while carving out her own path.

Turner is working toward a PhD in genetics and epigenetics and studying cellular behaviors in zebrafish epithelia. Since joining MD Anderson UTHealth Houston Graduate School, she has become an active figure on campus. She is a member of MD Anderson’s Department of Genetics Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, treasurer of the Association of Minority Biomedical Researchers, co-organizer of the Genetics and Epigenetics Monthly Student Seminar, and is a member of The Academy at the graduate school.

Although Turner is early in her academic journey, she has already presented her research at local conferences in Houston and will be attending the American Association for Cancer Research Early Career Hill Day in Washington, D.C. to learn about health care advocacy at the federal level.

A graduate of Hampton University, the Houston native credits her mother, Cynthia Turner, PhD, for inspiration both in life and the medical field.

“My mother has made her mark on the city of Houston,” Turner said. “Being able to see how she navigated adversity as she gave back to other underrepresented minority students and community members has contributed immensely to my career goals.”

Cynthia Turner has overseen and developed several public health programs during her 32 years of service to Houston. In 2006, she facilitated the development of a fully functioning mobile unit lab, sponsored by the Houston Health Department Hip Hop for HIV campaign. In 2009 during the H1N1 flu outbreak, Cynthia Turner coordinated the triaging and accessioning of more than 7,000 specimens. She also created a novel program called the Clinical Laboratory Sciences Mentorship Program in 2012 and partnered with the biology department of Texas Southern University, mentoring more than 30 students.

“As amazing as it is to see the women throughout history who have paved the way for other Black female scientists, it is even more impactful to witness that history firsthand,” Llaran Turner said. “My mother may not be in a textbook, but every day I was able to see her show up for her family and community. My mom has always been an example of what someone is capable of when they truly believe in themselves. I remind myself every day that I am capable and will accomplish all my personal and professional goals as long as I keep that in mind.

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