FEATURED TRAINEES | THEN & NOW
APRIL HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
Senior Community Engagement Specialist, Community Engagement Team at Count Me In, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Tania and her team’s work at CMI ensures any future advancement or breakthrough in cancer research also benefits the Hispanic and Latino population.
"Mentorship is such an important and key part of anyone’s success [because] mentees learn from the life and professional experiences of their mentor. It is a huge part of my life- without the guidance of many of my mentors, I would not be where I am today.” Tania is a first-generation student and recalls her first mentor in high school having a profound impact on her. “Not only did I continue to seek out individuals who I could learn from, but I knew I wanted to give back and share the experiences and knowledge I have gained thanks to my mentors with younger students.” She shares how “CURE [has] given me academic and professional experiences but has graciously given me direction to my life.” Tania continues to shine as a mentor with current CURE Scholars.
Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Manager at HCP Cure Blindness. Works with hospitals and governments throughout sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to improve access to comprehensive eye care.
Nick is responsible for collecting and interpreting data to measure the impact of HCP Cure Blindness’ programs. When asked to reflect on how CURE impacted his trajectory he said: “The skills that make somebody a good researcher also lend themselves well to monitoring, evaluation, and learning [and] CURE is where I really fell in love with data and statistics and learned how to conduct health-related research.” Nick was an active Scholar and attended his first conference through the CURE Program. He presented his research at ABRCMS and was able to refine his presentation skills. “My time in the CURE program made me believe that graduate studies were possible for me.” Nick completed his MS degree in 2018 from NYU.
MARCH HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
PhD Candidate in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Teaching Fellow in Public Health for the MPH program at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.
"CURE impacted my trajectory in multiple ways. First, and foremost, it gave me exposure to the breadth and depth of research.” Bethlehem joined CURE in high school and mentions learning about “many different journeys to research - both ‘traditional’ and not-so-traditional.” She remembers how “CURE was the first place I heard about public health. I didn't know that I would end up in public health then, but CURE was where I initially gained a population perspective on health and health equity.” Spending two consecutive summers in a research lab, “CURE nurtured a sense of curiosity in me that I would continue to take with me throughout my academic and professional journey."
Manager for Medical Product & Sales Advancement in Employer Segment at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Andrew focuses on building out the medical product portfolio and supporting the sales team. He is also a part of ongoing initiatives with a focus on addressing health equity in RI.
Mentorship is the cornerstone to success,” states Andrew. “Every milestone in my academic and professional career is due in part to mentors who challenged me to reach further.” He joined CURE as an undergraduate student in Biochemistry and Public Health at Regis College and recalls completing his “own application to CURE due to a mentor supporting me in pursuing unique growth opportunities.” Mentorship is still an integral part of Andrew’s life: “I volunteer annually as a mentor within our formal mentorship program at BCBSRI, served on the career planning sub-committee of Regis College’s Alumni Council, and currently serve as a board member on our career development employee resource group at work.” His advice for students and young professionals is “to explore the opportunity of being a mentee or a mentor. It’s an enriching experience."
FEBRUARY HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
Incoming PhD Student in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Jiancheng joined YES for CURE as a PharmD student from MCPHS University in 2018 and will complete his degree in May. In the program, Jiancheng was one of our first college coaches, working closely with high school students in Cohorts 1 and 2. “I sincerely appreciate everything the program has done for us” is how he starts his reply to our ask. At Johns Hopkins, Jiancheng will most likely be working in cancer structural biology and drug discovery and is excited that he “will continue in cancer research, which rooted from YES for CURE!” As part of our first cohort, Jiancheng and his peers continued to grow with the program. “CURE is truly life-changing because it allows you to realize your passion and potential through all the fruitful experiences and opportunities,” he says. We are glad that our students find CURE so rewarding.
Inpatient Registered Nurse at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and enrolled in a Family Nurse Practitioner Program (Masters of Science in Nursing) at Simmons University
Winta joined CURE as a senior in high school at Boston Latin School. She learned of the CURE program after meeting Ms. Burns-White while working in the Grants and Contracts department at DFCI, and she is so grateful for that chance meeting! "Because of CURE, I had many rich clinical and research experiences early on in my career: shadowing neurosurgical rounds and procedures in the OR, monitoring for microscopic morphological changes in the GI systems of rats after surgery, learning GI anatomy and physiology in detail, reading and critiquing research articles in journal clubs throughout the school year, and even publishing a case study in the Journal of Neurosurgery! Not only that, but I formed lifelong relationships through the program that have sustained me at very important moments during my career." Winta looks forward to graduating and working in a community health setting as a primary care provider, where she plans to use her clinical and research skills to address the issues facing the populations she cares most about.
JANUARY HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
Registered Nurse at Mass General Brigham Homecare and currently enrolled in Regis College, pursuing a master’s in nursing.
As a wife and a mother of three, Porscha hopes to be able to continue seeing patients in their homes. “Being a visiting nurse opened my eyes to how many patients have difficulty getting to their providers. Unfortunately, this causes a demise in their health and a lot of the time premature death.” Porscha has enjoyed working in homecare for over 8 years. “If you get ‘tired’ of one area of care, the sky is the limit. You can go from internal medicine to orthopedics or even Operating Room. If you're at the end of your career and looking for something more laid back, you can go into insurance. There is ALWAYS something to do in healthcare. And you will always feel rewarded. I definitely do.”
Meadeshia joined CURE as a college student and was always interested in STEM. “From a very young age I knew I wanted to become a doctor, and thus there are many things I had to do to stay motivated.” She continued to prepare to become a doctor and received her master’s in Health Promotion shortly after graduating from undergrad. “Something I wish I told my younger self to keep me motivated would be, ‘never give up, fight for your dreams, and be confident.’” She has done just that: Meadeshia is a medical student at St. George's University School of Medicine who is looking forward to working in the medical field.
DECEMBER HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
Quality Manager for Kite Pharma, based in Amsterdam. Stephen travels to hospitals around Europe to conduct audits and trainings to ensure hospitals and healthcare facilities can receive, store and infuse Kite Pharma’s two autologous Car-T drugs, Yescarta and Tecartus.
“Mentorship is so crucial because you if you have a good mentor, they will groom you, encourage you to pursue your passions, and you can learn so much from their experience.” Stephen mentions, “I would not be where I am today without the Mentorship that I received from my supervisors and especially the CURE program!”
Post-doctoral fellow in Health Equity in the National Center for Chronic Disease and Health Promotion, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Kya conducts research on the social determinants of health, the root causes of health disparities, and how we can achieve health equity.
When asked how CURE impacted her trajectory, Kya mentions how CURE “opened so many doors that I never thought were possible.” Kya got her first research assistant position as a freshman in college, because her PI (Dr. Martha Murray at Boston Children's Hospital) "took a chance on me" and gave her an opportunity after seeing Kya’s extensive experience with the CURE program on her resume. “All of my research positions and opportunities after, built on those experiences that I had over 15 years ago in CURE.” Like many of us, the CURE program fostered Kya’s passion for research, “a deep passion that I never knew I had before participated in the program.” Kya participated in CURE during Summer 2006, and gained “so many research and analytical skills, as well as oral and communication skills, many of which I still draw on to this day.” She emphasizes that, “I would not be in the position that I am in today – in my health equity fellowship at the CDC – if it were not for the opportunities that I was exposed to during the CURE program.”
Pharmacist/specialist in poison information at Boston Children's Hospital's Poison Control Center. Jeffrey also administers COVID-19 vaccinations to vulnerable populations throughout Massachusetts and is deeply involved in his church.
“Mentorship is essential to success,” says Jeffrey, whom received his PharmD from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He quicky shares an analogy: “Imagine wanting to drive a car but not knowing the process of getting a driver's license, what a stop sign means or where the brake pedal is in a car. A mentor would help share this vital information to an aspiring driver.” Jeffrey says, “I wholeheartedly credit the CURE program for training me, mentoring me and molding me into the clinical pharmacist and academic investigator I am today. The CURE program opened my eyes to the world of research and, almost a decade later, continues to inspire me to pursue more medical and academic positions.” Jeffrey also emphasizes the importance of always finding a program or person to mentor you throughout your life. Finding the right fit is critical and he says “research a potential mentor's background beforehand so you know exactly how they can assist you on your journey.”
NOVEMBER HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
3rd year Pathology resident at University of Vermont Medical Center. Once Kayla completes residency in 2023, she will head to Brigham and Women’s Hospital for a one-year clinical fellowship in Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Pathology.
Kayla graduated from UMass Medical School in 2019 and though she is just starting her career in research, she has “learned that curiosity and mentorship go a long way in academic medicine.” She advises all of us to “stay curious, ask questions, and surround yourself with supportive people who are invested in your success.”
Senior at UMass Boston majoring in Biology and minoring in Philosophy. Stevenson is also an EMT and undergraduate research assistant with The Pathania Lab at UMass Boston. He will pursue an MD/PhD degree after graduation.
Stevenson has accomplished a lot since SPARC in 2018 and continues to give back to CURE as a journal club facilitator during the summer. I asked: “What piece of advice would give younger Stevenson?” He shared an extensive list, but the two main points are: “It is okay to be unsure about your purpose in life and forgive yourself” and “Invest in friendships and with friendships – know when to leave and when to stand up for yourself.”
PhD candidate in the Virology Program at Harvard University. Hembly is interested in cancer biology and the development of clinical therapeutics against therapy-resistant cancers. Her thesis project focuses on understanding how key cell cycle regulators affect sensitivity to DNA damaging reagents.
A research career can be challenging and potentially require a lot of schooling. Still, the opportunity to use your creativity, expand your knowledge, work on current real-world problems, and capacity to help others makes it a very rewarding calling” Hembly says. “Cancer research, specifically, requires tenacity as it is a longstanding complex disease that affects many people's lives. The key to sustaining a career in cancer research is to develop an appreciation for the short-term and long-term incentives.” Head over to our Instagram (@dfhcccure) to read more about the short-term and long-term incentives Hembly mentions.
Associate Director for AI Solutions at UCB Biopharma SPRL. Sammy is also the statutory Managing Director of Bartanel Discovery focusing on the intersection of AI, signals, and clinical trial innovation.
His work entails the transversal deployment of artificial intelligence. When asked about a hidden gem of working in STEM, Sammy states, “There is always something new and exciting to do, to try or to design! The full spectrum from identifying a suitable problem, hypothesizing a testable insight, designing the experiment, drawing down the data, analyzing said data before finally arriving at a plausible thesis is both thrilling and useful in solving life's many challenges.” Sammy holds a Sc.B. in Biomedical Science & Engineering from Harvard University and a DPhil in the same field from Magdalen College Oxford in Oxford, UK. He has over a decade of experience in leading development teams for AI agents in both upstream and downstream research and development.
OCTOBER HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
Laboratory Technician at Manus Bio, a metabolic engineering/synthetic biology company in Cambridge, MA. As a senior at UMass Boston, Samprity will complete her Bachelor’s degree and one day work towards a Master’s or PhD.
“As a Laboratory Technician at a biotechnology company I am continually learning how to run experiments and develop my interest in research study,” Samprity says when asked about the key to sustaining a career in research. “Participating in SPARC gave me opportunities to learn about cancer in depth by doing cancer research, which helped me gain knowledge about cancer disparities and develop my lab skills. Also, my experiences from attending weekly seminars and lectures in SPARC helped me learn about how to make connections and seek opportunities."
Health Research Monitoring Evaluation Associate at Abt Associates. Nicole works with public and private sector agencies to develop solutions that address issues related to global poverty, health security, and infectious diseases worldwide.
Asked to speak about the impact of CURE, Nicole says, “I like to think of my CURE experience as the canon to my career in public health and research. Before CURE, my experience in research had all been within a laboratory. The CURE program introduced me to community-based research and its significance for understanding and addressing social determinants to advance health equity. I also realized that laboratory research depends on the community or people it is designed to help. I enjoyed being in the community conducting surveys about health behaviors and documenting healthcare experiences from a personal perspective, specifically examining the impact of health disparities in underserved areas in Boston. Since participating in CURE, nearly 16 years ago, I have continued my journey in research. I have supported research initiatives in the United States and internationally in Italy, Kenya, Zambia, and Ivory Coast through my work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Population Council, and Ministries of Health.”
Postdoctoral scholar at UCLA. Doug’s research examines structural rearrangements that occur in the genome during heart failure, to better understand basic mechanisms that drive disease.
Doug says “the key to sustaining a career in research is three-fold: First, developing a curiosity about how things work brings new fundamental questions to light. Second, a creative problem-solving approach fosters innovation in the research world. Third, relentless pursuit of fundamental knowledge allows scientists to paint a more comprehensive picture of what is going on in their line of research. Altogether, these qualities help researchers to make better sense of the puzzle that is biology.”
Research Assistant in Clifford J. Woolf Laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital. Laura studies the intersection of stem cell biology and pain neuropathy and uses this experience as preparation for applying to graduate school.
Laura was a part of the inaugural YFC cohort and gained “lifelong friendships and connections through the CURE program that have truly changed my life,” she says. "Throughout the job application process, I have gotten much praise about not only the depth of my research experience, but also the strong professional development that I’ve had while in the program. I owe my smooth job search and so much more to the CURE program and I am so grateful for all that they have done to get me to the next step, even now as an alumnus!"
SEPTEMBER HIGHLIGHTED TRAINEES
Adult Cardiothoracic Anesthesia Fellow, PGY-5 at Tufts Medical Center. Jeans is learning the anesthetic management of patients with cardiovascular disease and learning intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography in this one-year program.
When asked about hidden gems in STEM, Jeans shares, “Early in one's training, opportunities in STEM builds the CV and later opens doors to greater opportunities. It is fun to do and gives one tremendous insight on the type of career one ought to pursue. CURE introduced me to the world of research, it led me to compete and earn grants and fellowships before and during medical school. As I look for my first job after fellowship, I am confident I can land most academic titles and climb the ladder. The world becomes your oyster.”
Pharmacology PhD student at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Jose works in the Grueter lab studying experience-dependent synaptic plasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself.
When asked about the importance of mentorship, Jose shares, “Being a first-generation American and the first in my extended family to pursue a college degree came with many trials and tribulations. I would not be where I am today if it weren't for the generous and exceptional mentorship I have received from so many people, including my experience in the SPARC program. Therefore, one of my greatest joys thus far in science has been paying it forward by mentoring students, especially those of disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Nurse Practitioner in Women's Health at the Dimock Center. Ketura’h cares for women across the lifespan, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.
When asked what role the CURE experience plays in her leadership development, Ketura’h states, “During my time in the CURE program, I learned how to develop and implement my own research project as well as create a presentation showcasing the work. There was a lot of independent work and personal responsibility and as a sophomore in college that was both scary and exciting. The challenges faced with running my own research and the skills I learned because of my time in the CURE program influenced the leader I am today. Just recently I advocated for my current department to create its own maternal child health education program with the hope of making a local impact on the maternal morbidity rate of BIPOC birthing people, especially Black women who we serve primarily at our clinic. I am currently doing the training and simultaneously creating a childbirth education program for our patients at the Dimock Center.”
An oncology staff nurse in an inpatient bone marrow transplant unit. This fall Lisa will return to the University of Massachusetts, Boston to obtain her Master of Science in Nursing. During her summer with CURE, Lisa learnt first-hand being a nurse goes beyond caring for a patient at the bedside as she worked alongside a nurse scientist, seeing firsthand what nursing research entailed.
Lisa mentions, “The key to sustaining a nursing career in cancer has been caring for my patients beyond their cancer diagnosis. Each patient has a unique story and life outside of their diagnosis. Providing care and education that looks at the person and not just the cancer, allows the care and education I provide to transcend through the hospital walls.”
A medical assistant at a medical dermatology office and a critical care technician at MGH. I am currently applying to PA programs in the New England area to achieve my goals of becoming a Physician Assistant.
While I don’t work in research now, my experiences as a part of SPARC still impacts my understanding of medicine and the creation of innovative therapies. My research helped me to understand sophisticated dermatology procedures, such as MOHS surgery, since my own experiments used a similar method of fixing cells. I also use my experiences from attending seminars and lectures to connect with any of my patients who are seen at Dana-Farber. Most importantly, my research as a part of SPARC was used to complete my senior thesis and as a result, I earned honors in biology and graduated as a part of the honors college at UMB.”