NIAMS Scientists Diverse Backgrounds, Shared Goals

October 12, 2016

Hispanic Scientists Enrich NIAMS Research

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the NIAMS is celebrating Hispanic and Latino contributions to science, and highlighting the importance of having people from diverse backgrounds participate in research, both as investigators and as patients. We asked a few NIAMS researchers of Hispanic/Latino descent to share their perspectives about diversity in clinical research.

Photo of Dr. Betancourt.
Blas Betancourt, M.D.

"Medical research involving human subjects should reflect the diverse backgrounds of the population and take into account all possible variables such as ethnicity, age, and gender. Adequate representation of such diversity in the study participants helps generalize the results to the population and extend the research benefits in a fair manner. Moreover, collecting and analyzing data from subjects with different characteristics allows for better understanding of the causes, development, and effects of diseases and ultimately improves preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions."

Blas Betancourt, M.D.
Clinical Fellow
Rheumatology Fellowship and Training Program

 

 

Photo of Dr. Blanco.
Luz P. Blanco, Ph.D.

"Diversity not only comes from race, gender, or ethnic background, but also because each of us has unique life experiences. Diversity, in a biological and molecular context, is an essential facet for our world to exist. Hence, I think that applies as well to all the activities in our life. As a researcher, I value diversity because it allows us to get diverse ideas in our daily investigation activities. I believe that the only way to solve problems is by having diverse strategies. That will affect patients because each person will have their own profile that will not necessarily respond to specific therapies. In order to be efficient in treatments and in understanding the development of diseases, we are obligated to add diversity into the equation. In fact, I can guess that diversity is what is driving the current tendency for enhanced personalized medicine."

Luz P. Blanco, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist
Systemic Autoimmunity Branch

Photo of Dr. Carmona-Rivera.
Carmelo Carmona-Rivera, Ph.D.

"Research provides me a path to contribute to society and to exchange ideas and thoughts with other scientists with diverse backgrounds. Diversity is important in science because our background impacts the way we think, analyze, and execute. A compilation of different ideas and thoughts from different backgrounds brings diverse experiences, knowledge, and helps us to have a broader view to solve problems that affect the community as a whole. As an investigator of a Latin background, Im proud to contribute to tell the scientific story with the help of other investigators and convey it in a clear and understandable way to patients from different backgrounds."

Carmelo Carmona-Rivera, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow
Systemic Autoimmunity Branch

 

 

Photo of Dr. Casellas.
Rafael Casellas, Ph.D.

"The great thing about the United States is that you can come here as a foreigner, and not be judged by your culture or background, but by your efforts. If you are willing to put in the effort to learn and excel at something, you will be recognized. This speaks a lot about why I came to this country. I knew I wanted to pursue science, and that the doors would be more open to me in the United States than in Europe or South America. At the NIAMS, an effort is made for people with different backgrounds to have access to the same training and opportunities, such as the summer program for high school and college students. This is important because most kids are not born in a house with people who have advanced degrees or who have gone to a university, so there is no one for them to model themselves after. By coming to the NIH, they can aspire to follow the examples of the scientists here."

Rafael Casellas, Ph.D.
Chief
Laboratory of Molecular Immunogenetics

Photo of Dr. Kaplan.
Mariana Kaplan, M.D.

"One very important reason for diversity in science is a true concern for equity and social justice. Because all people are impacted by research in some way, there should be equal opportunities to both participate in it and determine how it is conducted. We need to understand how genetic and biological factors (including ethnicity and sex/gender) and environmental aspects (including socioeconomic factors) promote health and disease and lead to variability in how diseases manifest and progress in different people. Diversity among scientists certainly encourages a diversity of ideas. It is imperative that we increase the pool of scientists who are qualified to address current needs in science and technology."

Mariana Kaplan, M.D.
Chief
Systemic Autoimmunity Branch

 

Photo of Dr. Morasso.
Maria I. Morasso, Ph.D.

"It is important to have minorities represented in the workforce and to have input from minority populations in research. Otherwise, research would be very restrictive. It is key to understanding why certain minority populations have a greater propensity or tendency to have certain diseases. If the research is thoroughly explained to minority communities, chances are they will be very happy to participate and help researchers in accomplishing their scientific goals."

Maria I. Morasso, Ph.D.
Chief
Laboratory of Skin Biology

 

Photo of Yani Ruiz-Perdomo.
Yani Ruiz-Perdomo, C.R.N.P.

"I believe that it is very important for people of diverse backgrounds to become involved in the study of minority populations and to participate in research. It is the only way that we will learn how different diseases and treatments affect different populations. We are a very mixed society, and one size does not fit all. We need to reach out and educate our communities about this important task, and engage them in supporting and participating in clinical research. The results can improve the lives of patients today and in the future. NIAMS has a strong commitment to this aspect of health care, and I am proud to take part in this endeavor."

Yani Ruiz-Perdomo, C.R.N.P.
Nurse Practitioner
Office of the Clinical Director