Research in Implementation Science for Equity (RISE)

RISE logoRISE is an all-expenses paid training opportunity for junior faculty who are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. RISE is designed to train competitive scientists and enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. The program involves a two-week RISE Summer Institute, focused on implementation science and career mentoring, which is hosted by UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations in July in San Francisco. RISE Scholars also complete a second summer institute the following summer. RISE is a part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Program to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (NHLBI-PRIDE).

Click here for more details about the program and how to apply. If you have additional questions about RISE, please contact [email protected].

RISE is funded through an NHLBI grant R25HL126146.

2017-2018 RISE Scholars

Ifeyinwa Asiodu, RN, PhD, MS
University of California, San Francisco

Ifeyinwa AsioduMy interest in the infant feeding and perinatal health disparities developed out my clinical, graduate, and personal experiences. I strongly believe, life and health outcomes should not be determined or defined by one’s race, geographical location, income level, or environment. Hence, achieving racial and health equity has been an integral part to my clinical practice and program of research. My clinical career and research agenda have been greatly influenced by the perinatal health disparities experienced by African American women and their infants. I first learned of the severe maternal and infant health disparities impacting the African American community as a research assistant on a CenteringPregnancy Study at UCSF. I was both shocked and saddened to read about the limited access to healthcare services and resources in African American communities, and high rates of infant and maternal mortality, preterm birth, poverty, and violence. These disparities and inequities motivated me to seek out a Public Health Nurse position with the Black Infant Health Project in San Mateo, California. As a public health nurse within this program, I witnessed firsthand the impact of these devastating disparities and inequities and the resiliency of the African American community. UCSF ProfilE

Melinda Sarmiento Bender, PhD, APRN
University of California, San Francisco

Melinda BenderI am the first-generation college graduate in my family to receive a terminal degree. When my family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, my mother had graduated with a high school diploma. My father received his GED years later. I grew up in a bilingual family where Tagalog was the primary language and learned English when I started kindergarten. I credit most of my success to the many excellent and supportive role models who taught me that I too could achieve my dreams through a combination of passion, encouragement, and perseverance. Through them, I also learned gratitude for my blessing, grace in success and failures, and the importance of “paying it forward” and giving back.

My research focus stems from a family, community and culture where Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and related comorbidites are rampant. Many Filipinos have at least one family member with T2D and have witnessed loved ones suffer and die from a debilitating preventable disease. I watched my uncles, aunts, and cousins with T2D develop kidney failure and long-term dependency on dialysis, while they suffered a slow demise. Currently, my mother, sister, and brother have T2D including cardiovascular disease.

Filipinos have the highest prevalence of sedentary behavior, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes among Asian Americans subgroups. Beside a genetic disposition, our health disparities are in part due to our cultural beliefs, dietary practices, and aversion to outdoor activities. Therefore, we are prone to developing lifestyle related chronic diseases that can be prevented or delayed through healthy lifestyle behaviors promoting weight reduction, physical activity and healthy eating. Yet, there is limited preventive health research focused on Filipinos to reduce these health disparities, and what is currently available is incipient.

Therefore, as one of the few Filipino(a) researchers in the United States, I am committed to promoting Filipino community awareness about our obesity, T2D and related chronic disease risks. My mission is to empower the Filipino community with the understanding and confidence to combat these preventable diseases and help improve health outcomes in our community. I am passionate about promoting healthy behaviors through culturally appropriate weight loss lifestyle interventions. Despite environmental barriers and limited research funds, I will strive to be a role model and mobilize this hard to reach Filipino community (if needed, one-person at a time) to proactively adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors and encourage their families and neighbors to follow suit. UCSF Profile

Dana Carthron, PhD, RN
Michigan State University

Dana CarthronDr. Carthron is a native of Flint, MI and is a former Army nurse. She has moved through the ranks of care provider starting as a nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse and eventually becoming a registered nurse. After completing her bachelor’s degree, she entered the BSN to PhD track and she would become one of the first to graduates and the first African-American from this program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Her dissertation focused on the diabetic health of African-American caregiving grandmothers.Her first postdoc was completed at Duke University as a Claire M. Fagan fellow where she gained expertise in mixed methods and longitudinal analysis of trajectories of chronic illness. Her second post-doctoral fellowship was through the Center for Health Equity Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which focused on community-based participatory research models and the development of multiphase clinical trials. Her current research focuses on the self-management (specifically physical activity) of multiple morbidities among African American grandmother raising their grandchildren. In addition, she is also interested in how environmental crisis such as the Flint Water Crisis impacts their self-management.

As a faculty member at Michigan State University in the College of Nursing and formerly Winston-Salem State University she has taught courses in Community/Public Health, Gerontology and Research Methodology to undergraduate nursing students. Michigan State University Profile

Melissa Fuster, PhD, MS
CUNY Brooklyn College

Fuster, MelissaMelissa Fuster is an Assistant Professor in Public Health Nutrition at City University of New York (CUNY) Brooklyn College and a Faculty Fellow at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. Dr. Fuster has over ten years of experience in community-based research, focused on minority and immigrant populations in the United States and, internationally, in Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean. Her research interest include food security and the sociopolitical and cultural factors affecting food practices, nutritional outcomes, and the policies implemented to affect them. She holds a PhD in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition from Tufts University and a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Florida International University.

Public health and nutrition research has focused on documenting associations between health outcomes and the social and environmental determinants of health. My work has contributed to this scholarship, through interdisciplinary research that address the cultural and social factors affecting food practices in context of migration and food insecurity. This research has included juxtapositions of community and expert perspectives, seeking to improve the bridge between policies and interventions and the population we intend to help. While community based interventions, such as nutrition education initiatives, have sought to improve the lifestyle factors of individuals to prevent and treat cardiovascular and other diet related conditions, these often fail to address the social and environmental determinants of health in this population. My interest in implementation science stems from a desire to move beyond documenting disparities to understand how to best apply what we already know. I am particularly interested in community-based interventions and national policies designed to target obesogenic environments, as well as underlying causes of health disparities, such as income inequalities. I trust that the training and mentoring received through the RISE Program will provide a needed theoretical and methodological toolset to reach this next step in my research agenda. CUNY Brooklyn College ProfilE

Maria Garcia, MD, MPH, MAS
University of California, San Francisco

Maria GarciaMaria E. Garcia, MD, MPH, MAS joined the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as junior faculty in July 2017. She was previously a Primary Care Research Fellow in the Department of General Internal Medicine at UCSF. She completed Internal Medicine Residency in the Primary Care Track at UCSF. She received her MPH in Family and Community Health from the Harvard School of Public Health and her medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Her research interests include improving mental health integration and mental health service delivery, particularly for vulnerable populations such as individuals with limited English proficiency.

As a clinician investigator, I hope to focus on comorbid mental health and chronic diseases and their disproportionate impact on vulnerable and marginalized populations. I will begin a junior faculty position at UCSF in July 2017 and plan to conduct research on mental health integration in primary care, with a focus on diverse, low-income populations. I have long planned to pursue a career at the intersection of clinical medicine and public health, both directly with my patients and through clinical research and health care policy. As an immigrant from Mexico, I have witnessed the difficulties faced by individuals accessing care in a foreign country and in a different language. My residency training in Internal Medicine at UCSF, in the San Francisco General Hospital Primary Care Program, and subsequently the Primary Care Research Fellowship reinforced this awareness of the unique challenges faced by immigrants and minority populations. I developed an interest in improving mental health service delivery for individuals with limited English proficiency. During my fellowship, I have researched the unique challenges that patients with comorbid mental health and chronic diseases face, evaluated the models that have been developed to serve this population, and acquired implementation skills to develop, evaluate, and improve new models of care. I will continue to do implementation work on mental health integration and improvement of service delivery for vulnerable populations. I believe that attendance at UCSF RISE Program would give me important methodological expertise to pursue this research and broaden my exposure to current research areas that disproportionately impact the health of minorities and underserved communities. I believe that my diverse experiences studying and applying medicine, public health and policy have equipped me with a unique range of tools to pursue my goal of working with underserved populations directly and shaping health care policy in the U.S. and abroad. Participation in the RISE Program will help bring me closer to that goal. UCSF Profile

Marquita Genies, MD, MPH
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Marquita GeniesI am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Qualiy and Safety, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. I am dedicated to a research career focused on improving patient quality of care which encompasses safety, timeliness, efficiency, effectiveness, equity and patient centeredness. My experiences to date illustrate my commitment to an academic career in translational research. More specifically, I have an interest in improving the value of healthcare. Value encompasses and integrates many goals embraced in health care, such as quality, safety, patient centeredness, and cost containment. Increasing the value of medical care has paramount importance in the context of rising health care costs and variable quality of health care. My research in obesity and bronchiolitis have aimed to improve clinician adherence to evidenced based clinical practice guidelines to reduce variability in clinical practice and improve health outcomes. My short-term research goal is to focus my research efforts on quality and safety concerns surrounding the care of children in hospital settings. I will work towards this goal by designing, implementing and evaluating research initiatives focused on sustainable spread of evidence based medicine aimed at improving the care we provide to children with a diagnosis of bronchiolitis and community acquired pneumonia. JHU School of Medicine Profile

Saria Hassan, MD, CPH
Yale School of Medicine

Saria HassanAs a primary care physician at a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, I witnessed first-hand the burden of non-communicable diseases on minority populations. Furthermore, I was astounded by the reported, and experienced, health disparities -- with increased morbidity and mortality, across several diseases, in pediatric and adult racial/ethnic minorities. The rates of poorly controlled asthma and obesity among black and Hispanic children were astounding; and, my daily patient panel in the clinic reflected those reported statistics. When I subsequently moved to, and worked in, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania I was still confronted with health disparities, most evident across the socioeconomic divide. However, the most impactful of my experiences in Dar Es Salaam, was my exposure to the effectiveness of implementation science. In collaboration with RTI International, I worked on an implementation science project that integrated HIV care into a methadone maintenance program at the national hospital. HIV, today is a chronic disease, and I witnessed first-hand how the implementation of evidence-based interventions could impact HIV-related morbidity. For this reason, upon my return to New Haven, I made a career shift into research and now have the opportunity to study health disparities at the Yale Equity Research Innovation Center. It is my work at the Yale Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for Health Disparities focused on Precision Medicine (Yale-TCC), where the demonstration project program seeks to implement evidence-based interventions in region, that re-ignited my excitement about implementation science. Furthermore, my research interest is in pediatric obesity and asthma disparities, with a focus on the obese-asthma phenotype, a field that lends itself well to implementation science methods. The PRIDE RISE program is a wonderful opportunity for me to merge these interests; additionally, it provides me with concrete skills, networking and mentorship to achieve my goals. Yale School of Medicine Profile

Fabian Johnston, MD, MHS
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Fabian JohnstonAs a surgical oncologist who focuses on gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary malignancies I am allowed a look behind the veil of oncology care. I get to see the very highest highs and the lowest pits of despair patients and their families face as they travel the road that is paved with a cancer diagnosis. While traveling this path with patients I encountered the positive effect palliative and end of life care can have on these patients if utilized in a timely and manner. Unfortunately, I also saw the barriers to use put forth by patients and families, physicians and society to the use of adequate end of life care. For minority populations this use is even worse creating a disparity within a disparity.

As I grew in my career I felt a heavy burden to create change for these patients and their families. I felt that it was just the right thing to do yet not enough people were doing it. This could be looked at through the guise of quality and safety, disparities, implementation or policy work, but at the base I felt humanisticially patients with cancer shouldn’t die in pain, with their symptoms unmanaged and without adequate mental and familial support. In my opinion cancer is the most cognitively difficult diagnosis to have. As such a holistic approach is needed and I felt that better means to overcome barriers to use were needed. Similar to disparities work much of our current research in the field is focused on the baseline in disparities it is showing the existence of the phenomenon and in palliative care research it is proving its effective. My work aims to focus on the baps in research namely best tools for implementation (tools no good if you don’t use it), measurement of patients, providers, and health system variables and development and testing of interventions in prospective and longitudinal fashion. In brief, there is a desperate need for higher quality, more affordable, patient-centered care for severely ill and dying patients. Palliative care (PC) is known to reduce physical and psychological symptoms, improve quality of life and overall survival in patients with advance malignancies. Ultimately, I hope to expand this work to larger population and integrate my findings into the larger healthcare landscape. JHU School of Medicine Profile

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

Iris Navarro-MillanDuring 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. Weill Cornell College of Medicine Profile

Safiya Richardson, MD, MPH
Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine

Safiya RichardsonWhen I was a first year medical student my mother was told that she had a brain aneurysm. It was found incidentally, on a CT head done as a precaution for a minor eye infection. She made an appointment with the chair of neurosurgery at my institution and discussed her options. A few weeks later he removed a portion of her skull and clipped the offending defect. She spent months recovering. She still has the scars. As it turns out the risk of spontaneous rupture for an aneurysm the size of hers is essentially zero. The likelihood of death during the procedure is 3%. The risk of stroke during the procedure 10%. I did not know that then. The physician patient relationship is sacred. We have to truly understand the tools we have and more importantly be honest with ourselves and our patients about their gross limitations. First, do no harm. The appropriate use of medical interventions honors our calling, our patients and the respected place we hold in society.

Charles Rogers, PhD, MPH, CHES
University of Minnesota

Charles RogersWhile growing up in a single parent household in rural North Carolina, I noticed that African-American men experienced pervasive disparities in disease, health outcomes, and access to health care compared to whites. As imperative, I noticed a number of my family members were developing and dying from chronic diseases. For instance, in the fall of 2009, my aunt was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer (CRC). Prior, I never even heard of CRC. For African Americans, I only heard prostate cancer was a concern for men and breast cancer a concern for women. Two years later--during the first summer of my PhD pursuit at Texas A&M University, I was selected as 1 of 8 scholars nationally to participate in the University of Michigan’s Summer Immersion Program in Health Disparities Research. Under the supervision of Chief Colorectal Surgeon Dr. Arden Morris, I assisted with survey research aiming to understand how nonclinical factors impact postsurgical outcomes and surgical care quality among African-American patients with CRC. After completion this intensive summer experience, I not only learned how vast the field of health disparities was; I also learned that African-American men were last among all racial/ethnic groups of both genders for age-adjusted CRC mortality rates and 5-year survival rates.

Even though CRC is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers, the aforementioned disparities among African-American men have not improved. Today, incidence and mortality rates among brothers are 27% and 52% higher, respectively, than among white men. This is unacceptable. Until this particular playing field of health becomes more even, I will continue to advance my knowledge and skills via elite programs like UCSF-RISE to be a leader in men’s health inequities who addresses the complex underpinnings of CRC disparities.  University of Minnesota Profile

Vanessa Salcedo, MD, MPH
CUNY School of Medicine

Vanessa SalcedoThe inspiration of the Health Beverage Zone project came from my patients. One of my most challenging experiences was telling a mother how her ten-year-old daughter’s weight caused her diabetes. Although many factors influence the rapidly increasing rates of obesity, research indicates that sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption plays a significant role in driving current obesity and related chronic diseases. The Bronx has the highest consumption of SSB in NYC. Several of my patients drink 4 or more SSB per day, but what even more shocking was to hear parents mention how they would give SSBs to infants as young as 6 months old. This motivated me to focus on this small change that could lead to a big impact. Therefore, my research interest is to explore implementation strategies to decrease sugar-sweetened-beverage consumption in underserved communities.

Kaku So-Armah, PhD
Boston University School of Medicine

Kaku So_ArmahThe most exciting thing in my life right now is our growing family – my wife, Cynthia, and I, have a 15 month old called Miinshe – pronounced like “mean chef” without the “f”.

When I’m not thinking about them, I’m often thinking about the intersection of infectious disease and chronic disease, which is where my research interests live. I grew up in Accra, Ghana and lived/worked for the past decade in the US. We have a lot of acute infectious disease in Ghana and a growing epidemic of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors. I have always wanted my work to be relevant and useful to my native and adoptive countries. The intersection of HIV and cardiovascular disease provides a great opportunity to do so.

My background in epidemiology has enabled me to investigate mechanisms driving the increased risk of cardiovascular disease among HIV infected people. This work excites me because of the potential public health implications, which differ by context. In Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a looming problem of double-burden of acute/infectious disease and chronic disease that may overwhelm healthcare systems that are not set up to deal effectively with chronic disease. A mechanistic understanding of how one infectious disease (HIV) contributes to risk of a chronic disease (cardiovascular disease) can inform research into other infectious/chronic disease pairs. In the U.S., HIV infected people with access to antiretroviral therapy are now living long enough to be at risk for diseases of aging like cardiovascular disease. Again, a mechanistic understanding of how HIV drives cardiovascular disease risk can improve cardiovascular disease risk prediction, reveal disparities in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, and possibly even teach us something new about cardiovascular disease mechanisms among HIV uninfected people. Boston University School of Medicine

2016-2017 RISE Scholars
2015-2016 RISE Scholars