Rush University Holds First Symposium on Research and Diversity

March 3, 2017

This week the 34th annual Rush University Forum for Research and Clinical Investigation also played host to the first symposium on research and diversity at Rush. 

The symposium, sponsored by the Rush Initiative to Maximize Student Development, or IMSD, showcased presentations by students, residents and postdoctoral research fellows either from underrepresented minorities in science or working on topics relevant to diversity and inclusion in biomedical research.

“During the preparation for this symposium, we had a view into the rich research environment related to this topic, which has not received special attention until now,” says Gabriella Cs-Szabo, PhD, associate dean of the Graduate College and IMSD program coordinator. “We are delighted to continue with this symposium for years to come to bring together a diverse research community and initiate collaboration and idea-sharing in the field of diversity.”

From 27 submissions to the symposium, five were selected for their outstanding scientific merit. These presenters covered topics spanning community engagement, to challenges in recruiting African-Americans for clinical studies, to basic questions about the regulation of growth of cancer cells.

“Linking the Rush IMSD symposium on research and diversity with the annual Rush research forum highlights our greater mission of aligning this program to Rush’s overall vision and mission on inclusion and diversity,” says Lena Al-Harthi, PhD, IMSD program director and associate chairperson in the Department of Immunity and Emerging Pathogens.

Rush IMSD is a National Institutes of Health-funded program to promote diversity and inclusion in the training of students in the PhD in Integrated Biomedical Sciences program.

Learn more about the featured presenters and their research

Shannon Halloway, PhD, RN, is a postdoctoral research fellow in the College of Nursing. Under the primary mentorship of JoEllen Wilbur, PhD, APN, FAAN, Halloway’s research has focused on physical activity interventions and their impact on cognition and brain structure in older adults. She has also concentrated on improving health outcomes in at-risk groups, including ethnic minorities and women with chronic health problems. A recent graduate from the PhD in Nursing Science program, her doctoral research was supported by the NIH/National Institute of Nursing Research, Midwest Nursing Research Society, Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare and Rush University’s Golden Lamp Society, which has resulted in six journal articles and several national presentations. 

Ricardo Perez, BS, is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Anatomy and Cell Biology PhD program. His current research interests are understanding mechanisms of resistance in cancer and the development of new target therapies against these mechanisms. Perez has worked in laboratories at the University of Miami, Georgetown University and the NIH. He is active in student leadership and participates in several teaching endeavors in the Graduate College. His future goal is to find a position in academia, where he can pass on his knowledge to the next generation of researchers.

Joanne Michelle Gomez, MD, is a second-year internal medicine resident at Rush University Medical Center. Her specific interest and passion is treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases that remain the No. 1 cause of mortality in both developed and developing nations. Her current research, in collaboration with Rush, University of Florida Health at Jacksonville, University of North Florida, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Stanford University School of Medicine, focuses on using genetics to identify high-risk populations for cardiovascular diseases to pave the way for disease prevention and directed management.

Charlene J. Gamboa, MPH, is a third-year doctoral student in the PhD in Nursing Science program. She is an experienced public health practitioner, who has worked in minority underserved communities for more than 10 years. Her long-term research interest is motivated by understanding how best to facilitate the recruitment of African-Americans into scientific research. Her public health training, as well as her experience as study coordinator on several federally funded research grants and relevant qualitative data analysis experience, have helped aid her research work. She is currently the research study coordinator with the Minority Aging Research Study in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

Mallory Davis, BS, is a second-year Rush Medical College student. Her undergraduate research focused on depression and suicide in Latina adolescents, which she became interested in after observing differences in mental illness in her foster brothers and sisters. She chose RMC because of its clear mission for serving Chicago communities, which aligns with her desire to continue working toward reducing disparities in health care. The community project she works on, Salud comunitaria y la escuela, shares similar aims.