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NMSU alum, M.D. Anderson cancer researcher creates scholarship



New Mexico State University alumnus Dr. Felipe Samaniego, a cancer researcher at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for more than 20 years, has created an NMSU scholarship for first generation college students. (Courtesy Photo)

Raised in Las Cruces, the decision about where he could make the most impact with his giving was clear for Dr. Felipe Samaniego. He comes from a large family of many New Mexico State University graduates and his friends also attended NMSU.

“Despite its large size, NMSU still feels like my family away from home,” Samaniego said. “That familiar feeling cannot be reproduced by other settings.”

After decades as an M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researcher, Samaniego is providing that opportunity to others by funding a scholarship for first-generation college students at NMSU.

The first student to receive the Dr. Felipe Samaniego Scholarship is Genesis Luevanos Landeros, a senior graduating in December with her degree in psychology.

“I’m super thankful for the scholarship,” said Landeros. “Especially during a pandemic – and it’s great that there are people like Dr. Samaniego who are willing to help students during times like these.”

Landeros grew up in northern New Mexico in the small town of Chama as the oldest of five children and the first in her family to attend a university. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school at NMSU to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice and pursue a career in forensic psychology.

After earning his biology degree at NMSU, Samaniego attended Harvard Medical School where he received not only a medical degree but also a master’s degree in public health. He held a number of positions in medical centers and universities before joining M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where he has been a professor and cancer researcher for more than 20 years.

“The focus of our work is establishing mechanisms of cancer development and identifying novel ways to treat cancer by targeting these mechanisms,” Samaniego said. “Presently, I lead several clinical trials to treat patients with lymphoma cancers.”

While he and his wife, Anita Sabichi, who is also a cancer specialist, share the satisfaction of training young doctors and caring for cancer patients, the couple chose to set up a current use scholarship for NMSU students in the College of Arts and Sciences to support New Mexico residents who are the first in their family to attend college.

“I enjoy doing it,” Samaniego said. “There are rewards in helping others and seeing them realize their achievements. In my work, we train physicians to become highly accomplished experts in medical care. Doing this every day is a key source of satisfaction for me.”

Landeros originally had planned to attend the University of New Mexico, since it was closer to her home, but she had heard good things from her friends who were already enrolled at NMSU.

“I think it’s been one of the best decisions of my life to come here,” Landeros said. “It was challenging for me. I am from up north and being so far from my parents was tough, but it helped me grow a lot. Everyone here is so friendly and encouraging. My teachers challenged me and I’m grateful for them.”

Samaniego’s gratitude for those who helped him to achieve his goals is one of the reasons he decided to pay it forward to the next generation of NMSU students.

“I am grateful to have had mentors at NMSU who took on a personal responsibility to encourage me to perform at my best,” Samaniego said. “They are Marvin Bernstein, Vicente Villa as well as my student peers, Javier Corral and Miguel Escobedo, both of whom went on to have illustrious careers and are presently physicians in El Paso. My heartfelt thanks to you!”