December 22, 2010
Roger Sanchez (B.A. ’76) chases illnesses. Not literally, of course, because most illnesses are too small to see with the naked eye. But you can detect the symptoms and Sanchez, by spotting clusters of disease moving through groups of people, helps to stop their spread.
As Senior Epidemiologist at the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, Roger works to understand the spread of illnesses like meningitis, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and, most recently, H1N1 Flu, otherwise known as Swine Flu. As part of his job, Roger works with area school systems and universities to educate them on prevention and assist them when they need treatments. Sandra M. Vasquez, M.D., Director of the St. Mary’s University Student Health Center, has long collaborated with Roger for information on common illnesses among college students.
Sanchez has always been interested in biology and chemistry, but he didn’t always know that he would end up in epidemiology, by definition the study of factors affecting the health and illness of populations. After graduation, he worked at the Texas Department of Health before coming to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District in 1985. Besides assisting area schools, Roger also deals with health inspections for all types of food facilities. “The booths that you see during Fiesta, whether food booths at the Oyster Bake or at events downtown, have to be inspected twice,” he says. With every illness and outbreak, Roger tries to identify the ebb and flow of the illness, its peak, and the age groups affected by it. “We do what we do as a service to the community,” he says. “If people need treatments but can’t afford them, we provide those treatments. We want to help people however we can.”
Though his college days are long behind him, Roger says he would have done things a little differently. “I would take more classes outside of the sciences, ones that just sounded interesting,” he says. “St. Mary’s is about branching out and expanding your boundaries.” A native of San Antonio and current resident, he can’t remember a time when St. Mary’s hasn’t been in his life. “I loved that I could see professors walking around on campus when I went to St. Mary’s,” he says. “It’s such a beautiful campus with a very warm atmosphere and local flavor.”