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Keynote & Workshops

You can find the latest updated workshop information here: Workshop Menu (DRAFT 3/10/2020)

Keynote Address: Becoming an Open Channel to God through Embracing the Diversity in Ourselves, Our Congregations, and our Communities

It’s easy to see Christ in our brothers and sisters, to minister to them and worship with them and love them, when they are just like us. When our brothers and sisters look and speak like us, believe and practice what we believe and practice, and worship like us, we easily see God in them and jump to do God’s work. It’s a lot harder to “love my brother/sister” when I don’t see myself, or God, reflected in their eyes, their skin color, their language, their accent, or their beliefs. The greater the difference between me and my brother or sister, the harder it can be to do God’s work with and through them. In truth, we are all “different” from each other in meaningful ways that may not always be readily apparent. Each one of us belongs to many different “cultures”, we all have many different group affiliations. These affiliations shape us and may make it easier or more difficult to connect with people who have different group affiliations. Recognizing how culture shapes us is an important first step in breaking down stereotypes, judgments, and assumptions that create barriers between us.  Only then can we become “open channels” through which God can move and transform individuals and communities.

Keynote Speaker: Luis R. Torres, Ph.D.

Luis R. Torres, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Director of the Center for Drug and Social Policy Research, and Humana Endowed Chair for the Social Determinants of Health in the Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) at the University of Houston. His research focuses on co-occurring mental health, substance use and medical disorders, and building community resilience, with a particular focus on Hispanics, African Americans, and other minority communities. His work has been funded by SAMHSA, NIDA, and ACF. He also has several ongoing research collaborations in Mexico, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. A member of the UH Health Initiative and the College of Medicine Planning Committee since their inception, he has a joint appointment in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the UH College of Medicine. Dr. Torres is the primary liaison between the GCSW and other UH health professions programs, actively involved in developing interprofessional education and research initiatives at the university. He serves on several local and national boards, among them the Board of Directors of Avenue 360 Health and Wellness Inc. in Houston, where he currently serves as Board President, the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA) in Houston, and the National Alliance for Hispanic Families in Washington DC. In 2020, Dr. Torres was appointed to a 3-year term on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Interdepartmental Substance Use Disorders Coordinating Committee, which is charged with identifying areas for improved coordination related to substance abuse, including research, services, supports and prevention activities across all relevant Federal agencies. Dr. Torres is also on the Advisory Board of the SAMHSA-funded National Hispanic/Latino Mental Health Technology Transfer Center. A native of Puerto Rico, Dr. Torres has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Fordham University in New York City and almost 30 years of clinical, teaching, administrative, and research experience.