Juan Ibarra, MPH., MSW, Dr.PH, Board Member, is a skilled, thoughtful health professional who has been involved in public health research and mentoring youth for years. He met Dr. Winkleby in 1990 when he participated in SMYSP and has been involved with outreach and mentoring youth since then. He brings an extensive knowledge of the educational needs of Latinos and other underserved youth, and strong evaluation skills to the Board.
Dr. Ibarra was born in a small agrarian community in Michoacan, Mexico. He was the youngest of ten children for whom schooling ended in the sixth grade. Before Dr. Ibarra was born, his father began traveling
to the U.S. to work seasonally under the auspices of a 1940 American program. His father slowly brought his family to the U.S. where they followed the crops, moving from Chino to Fresno to Five Points and beyond. When he was five, the family settled in Stockton. By the 4th grade he began to excel in school under the influence of his brother Raul. When he was in the 8th grade, Dr. Ibarra’s family suffered a terrible tragedy. In the early morning before his parents left for the fields, an intruder killed both of his parents. He left Stockton to live with his sister in Menlo Park and attended Sequoia High School, excelling in math and science. In 1990, Dr. Ibarra’s math teacher encouraged him to apply to SMYSP where his love for science was furthered during anatomy and hospital internships.
Dr. Ibarra graduated from high school and was accepted to Stanford University, a significant feat given that Latinos make up only eight percent of the University’s undergraduate population and many of those are from more advantaged backgrounds. As an undergraduate, he made history in SMYSP when he became the first past participant to become the program director. He majored in Human Biology and went on to became a community health educator in Mountain View where he worked at a clinic for low-income families. Soon after, he accepted a job as a communicable disease investigator with Santa Clara County where he was known for his cultural sensitivity and was named the Santa Clara Public Health Department employee of the year in 1999.Following a joint Masters degree in Social Work and Public Health at San Diego State University, he completed a doctorate in Public Health at U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health. In his current work as an epidemiologist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, he evaluates community behavioral health programs funded by San Francisco’s Mental Health Services Act. He develops evaluations plans and implements them in culturally and linguistically appropriate manners.
Dr. Ibarra lives in Oakland with his long-term partner, Ramon Mendez. Dr. Ibarra enjoys reading, spending time with family, and maintaining an active lifestyle.
Irina Linetskaya, MD, MPH, Board Member, is a physician committed to a life of healing, with a deep understanding of low-income and minority youth. She met Dr. Winkleby in 1995 when she was selected to participate in SMYSP and has assumed leadership roles in youth mentoring programs since then. She brings expertise in youth empowerment and academic mentoring to the Board.
Dr. Linetskaya was born in Kiev, Ukraine to a Jewish family in an anti-Semitic Soviet Union. In 1977, the year she was born, her family was slated to immigrate to the U.S. to join her grandmother’s
sister in California. However, just before their departure, the USSR closed its borders and her family became trapped in the Soviet Union for eleven years. By the time Gorbachev and glasnost arrived and Soviet borders reopened for Jewish emigration, the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl had melted down 60 miles away from her home in Kiev and both of her parents had passed away. Undeterred, Irina’s grandmother decided to leave the country for the promise of freedom and opportunity in the U.S. At age 11, after a strenuous year-long journey, Irina and her elderly grandparents arrived in Oakland, CA to seek asylum as refugees of ethnic persecution. Her grandfather passed away in their first year in the U.S. Although safe from persecution, they struggled financially and Irina supplemented their public assistance checks with three after-school jobs She remained focused on education and on her long-shot dream of becoming a doctor.
In the 11th grade, at the Hebrew Academy in San Francisco, her biology teacher said, “There’s a program at Stanford for low-income high school students who want to be doctors.” She applied and was accepted. At SMYSP, she strengthened two important concepts that would shape her future: diversity and community. Although her 23 SMYSP peers did not share the same life story, they all shared an indelible bond of struggle – be it poverty, immigration, domestic violence, loss – and perseverance. They were a group of unlikely dreamers whose dreams would not be stifled by a society who would ordinarily overlook them. While a participant, Irina became very close to her counselor, Juan Ibarra, whose story of loss and survival resonated with hers. He remained her mentor for many years to come.Following high school, Dr. Linetskaya was accepted to Stanford where she majored in Human Biology with a focus on Community Health. In addition to multiple work-study jobs, Irina became very involved in community service ranging from children’s issues in East Palo Alto, child-abuse prevention work, and HIV/AIDS outreach. During an on- site visit to Mission Neighborhood Health Center’s HIV clinic, an evening clinic for HIV- positive Latino immigrants, Irina became deeply inspired by the center, its focused mission, and its impact on the Latino community. It made an indelible impression on her mind – she, too, wanted to become a community HIV doctor. Consequently, she spent her senior year in Ecuador learning Spanish and rejoined the HIV clinic as a summer intern promoting patient education.
In 2001, Irina started her training at Harvard Medical School where she continued to pursue her interest in HIV and global health. She gained experience in these areas through prolonged clinical internships in Senegal, Brazil, and Portugal. Fueled by her commitment to social justice through health, she received her primary care residency training at Montefiore’s Program in Social Internal Medicine in the Bronx, New York, a program focused on delivering culturally tailored and justice-oriented medical care to impoverished communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Throughout her medical training, Dr. Linetskaya has maintained close ties to SMYSP, the program she proudly credits with changing her life. She continues to mentor teenagers, particularly immigrant youth, who do not have family role models or resources along their trajectory toward higher education. She has remained involved in the summer program as a speaker and as a mentor for SMYSP graduates as they launch their academic careers.
Still committed to diversity and social justice, Dr. Linetskaya now practices primary care at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, an LGBT clinic offering HIV care, transgender therapy, and comprehensive primary care to marginalized and impoverished people. Fluent in Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese, Irina’s patient panel is composed primarily of immigrants. She continues to travel the globe but calls Brooklyn, NY her home.