Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders

‘Ever so present’ — Doris Rubio, PhD, hopes institutional support continues for underrepresented groups in STEMM

By Melissa Simon

December 4, 2023

Having a more diverse biomedical research field leading to a wider array of discoveries is why Doris Rubio loves being a scientist. 

Rubio, PhD, is a principal investigator for a NIH-funded U01 research grant affiliated with the Diversity Program Consortium’s National Research Mentoring Network that explores the effectiveness of interventions focused on post-doctoral and junior faculty at various institutions to further diversity in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM).

In the next interview featured in the DPC series, “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders,” Rubio discusses how her work at the University of Pittsburgh has helped early-career researchers in their journeys.

She is the assistant vice chancellor for clinical research education and training, the director of the Institute for Clinical Research Education and a professor of medicine, biomedical informatics, biostatistics, nursing, and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Read the Q&A below to see what Rubio said about her work with the DPC. Watch her full interview, “Ever so present.” 

Q: What is the project you work on for the DPC?

A: The project that I am working on is called [“Building Up a Diverse Workforce for Biomedical Research” which tests] the effectiveness of an intervention that is focused on post-docs and junior faculty. To help launch their research careers, we have partnered with 25 institutions across the country and have randomized 12 of them to get the intervention and the other 13 [won’t]. . . . After we finish the study . . . we are interviewing 100 people from both [groups] to see what they felt impacted their careers over the last year. And then . . . we will be providing the intervention to the control arm so that they can implement the intervention at their institution.

Q: What is something positive that has come out of the project?

A: The impact the Building Up study has had on the participants has been tremendous and they have told me that it has kept them in the STEMM fields [and] engaged in research. They [said] the fact that the institution was offering the Building Up intervention to them showed them the commitment that their institution had to . . . help [them in] establishing their careers. It’s absolutely incredible [and] it's truly been a privilege to be part of this study.

Q: What is the most meaningful lesson learned from your project?

A: [One of the difficult lessons is] hearing from the participants about the challenges that they've had [as] underrepresented minorities and having to establish their careers, the impact that structural racism has had on them as they've tried to launch their careers, [and] the discrimination and the microaggressions that they face literally on a constant basis. . . . The Building Up study helps bring the participants together so they are with people who look like them, who have shared experiences that can help them look beyond [and] rise above.

Q: What do you hope will be the legacy of your work?

A: I really do hope that as many institutions as possible can adopt the Building Up intervention because we have seen . . . the impact that it has on their participants and [keeping] them engaged in STEMM. It’s going to contribute to the diversity of the biomedical workforce. . . . Legacy to me means something that is kind of legendary and historical. I don't want this to be historical; I want it to be ever so present at every university.

Q: What do you love about being a scientist?

A: Early on in my career . . . there was one year when flu shots were scarce [and it] made me appreciate . . . the impact that research can directly have on patient care. I really wanted to have that impact [and] I realized that we need to do something . . . to have a more diverse representation across the research field. . . . That's really where my passion stems, that's what gets me up every day.

Q: What advice would you give to a future researcher?

A: We need research so that we can better treat the [diseases] that are out there, so we can improve the health of the country and certainly improve the health equity.

Rubio’s interview is part of the “Sharing our legacy: Reflections from consortium leaders” series that will be released through the spring of 2024.

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The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

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