Mercedes Florez Memorial Research Fund

The Mercedes Florez Memorial Research Fund provides funding to post-doctoral fellows, research scientists, and faculty for research on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias, with a specific focus on serving the Latinx community.


Maria Mercedes Florez

Maria Mercedes Florez

Maria Mercedes Florez was living in Cuba when her husband was killed in a car accident, leaving her behind with two young children. The country had just witnessed the end of the Cuban Revolution, which placed Fidel Castro at the helm, and Mercedes Florez knew she had to get out. With one small suitcase and $50, she embarked on a journey that, thanks to two generations of powerful women, will now be immortalized in the field of Alzheimer’s Disease research.

Maria Mercedes Florez and Cecilia Votta in 1995

Maria Mercedes Florez and Cecilia Votta in 1995

In the Summer of 2019, Cecilia Votta, a PhD student in the University of Michigan’s clinical psychology program, and her mother, Maria Martinez, came together to celebrate the woman who made their successes possible. After a life of hard work, bravery, and kindness, Mercedes Florez, beloved grandmother to Votta and mother to Martinez, passed away this year after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. In her honor, Votta and Martinez decided to make a gift to the Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease (MCCFAD) at the U-M Institute for Social Research to establish the Mercedes Florez Memorial Research Fund.

This gift to MCCFAD provides funding for research on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias, with a specific focus on serving the Latinx community. Votta was inspired to initiate this gift as a result of her work with members of the MCCFAD team. She says that when her family first began to struggle with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she reached out to Dr. Laura Zahodne, one of the center’s co-directors, to obtain resources. With help from MCCFAD, Votta was able to normalize the experiences of aging and dementia, and to lead her family through necessary, albeit difficult, end-of-life conversations. She recognizes that access to this kind of aging support is not a privilege shared by all, and hopes that her gift will ultimately help others to navigate these situations, as MCCFAD helped her.

MCCFAD is a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University, located on the campuses of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. MCCFAD is an Alzheimer;s disease Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (AD-RCMAR) funded by the National Institute on Aging. MCCFAD aims to foster and enhance innovative research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias with long term goals to advance relevant social and behavioral science research in underserved and underrepresented communities. MCCFAD also aims to diversify the research workforce dedicated to healthy aging.

The MCCFAD Mercedes Florez Memorial Research Fund provides grant funds of up to $10,000 to support research activities on ADRD in Latinx populations. Funds may be used to:

  1. support/carry out novel pilot studies
  2. facilitate Latinx community relationship building for research activities,
  3. or supplement ongoing research projects to better address Latinx community needs around ADRD, including preparation and/or production.

A higher funding priority is given to projects that have a measurable impact on the Latinx community and/or lead to external funding that addresses the needs of the Latinx community.

Proposals are due March 18, 2022.

Who is eligible

Those who show a demonstrated commitment/interest in Latinx ADRD health and/or Latinx investigators
Post-doctoral fellows, Research scientists and Faculty are encouraged to apply.

Application Process

The application for the Mercedes Florez Memorial Research Fund Award can be accessed here:
The proposal must contain the following elements:

  • Name, email address, telephone number, project title
  • A prospectus/proposal, project summary or similar document that explains the proposed work (up to 3 pages, single spaced), including specific aims and research strategy, how the project meets the goals of the Fund, and a description of the proposed uses for the Award support. Be sure to include how the project is inspired by the life and family of Maria Mercedes Florez.
  • A brief timeline that lists the major milestones of the project and the expected completion dates.
  • An itemized budget with a short explanation for how the items will be directly used in the research activity.
  • If Human Subjects approval is needed and has been granted, please submit a copy of acceptance.

If you have any questions about the award process, please send an email to

Additional Expectations

  • At the one year mark, you will be asked to share an update about the status of your research to inform the family of their progress.
  • Acknowledge MCCFAD and this award’s support in publications and presentations.