RISE Scholars

Iris Navarro-Millán, MD, MSPH
Weill Cornell College of Medicine
RISE Cohort 6

During the time that I was an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, I developed a keen interest in scientific research. It is not until my first year of my rheumatology fellowship that I decided to pursue an academic career with a focus on clinical research. This is after I realized that I could be an integral part of filling the need for better evidence to guide current clinical practice. I was encouraged to develop my interests using the ample resources at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) –my former institution- to conduct research in rheumatoid arthritis (RA; my area of interest), and decided that a clinical research career was most consistent with my passion. Therefore, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Outcomes and Comparative Effectiveness from 2010-2012 as part of the Division of Rheumatology T32 Fellowship program. During this time, I acquired clinical research skills in the areas of secondary data analysis of large databases, outcome measures, and statistical methods for longitudinal data and acquired a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree in outcomes research from the UAB School of Public Health. In addition to this formal training, I analyzed data from the Treatment of Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (TEAR) randomized controlled trial, the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA), and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

During these studies, I became increasingly concerned that, whereas remission has become feasible for patients with RA, cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality remains elevated in this group despite the availability of effective treatments. I therefore decided to focus my career on finding ways to decrease this mortality gap. My previous experiences with outcomes research have taught me that my passion lies more with patient-centered research, through which I can make the most change in patient care to improve outcomes. Indeed, large database research is a useful starting point for clinical research, but lacks the key element of evidence implementation that is required to improve patient care, patient-physician communication, and outcomes. I am very enthusiastic about adding implementation and patient-centered research methods to my skills as an outcomes researcher, with the goal of improving CVD outcomes in patients. Over the last several years, I have become captivated by patient-centered research and community-based participatory research. Mainly because once data is available (CVD mortality in RA patients), combined with community engagement (the main reason that I am passionate about community-based participatory research) equals change. Changes that comes from the patients and communities. Still making change may not be enough without influencing policies that can allow for these changes to last and disseminate in our communities. I believe that through this line of research, I can help people improve their own lives. Everything in my research work has to do with that and the reasons for which I believe in the importance of patient-centered research.