DPC Newsletter

A decade of success for the Diversity Program Consortium

Volume 9, Issue 2

June 2024

PSU BUILD EXITO students and alumni Q&A on the program’s impact

By Arjun Viray

Throughout the years, BUILD EXITO at Portland State University (PSU) has provided support to students embarking on their journey towards becoming scientific researchers. This support has manifested through impactful mentorship, meaningful research experiences, and nurturing environments. 

In this final post to the Diversity Program Consortium (DPC) community, BUILD EXITO asked students from current and past cohorts to share their reflections on the positive effects of the program, including the role of mentorship in their academic journey, and their present and future research interests.

Connie Tran, BUILD EXITO Scholar Cohort 7

Connie Tran

Connie Tran

Q: What is something positive that's happened as a result of being in BUILD?

A: Through the EXITO program, I was able to meet people who were on the same, yet different pathway as me. We were all new to research, but we all have different experiences and come from different backgrounds. I would not be where I am today without the support I was able to have from the BUILD program and the community that we have built.

Q: How did your mentors help you? What is the importance of having a good mentor?

A: My mentors were able to help me when I was stuck and confused. Whether that's in regards to research, education, or personal life, they were always open to hearing my concerns and gave excellent feedback and advice.

Q: What is the research you worked on while in BUILD?

A: I was able to work with many different trauma projects while in BUILD. One of my most significant projects is on sleep-wake disturbances. It was on whether or not sleep questionnaires can be used as a substitution to diagnosing sleep-wake disturbances as compared to using an actigraphy watch.

Q: What are your future research interests?

A: My future research interests lie in neuroscience, especially within mental health. I hope to tackle mental health disparities within marginalized communities who do not have adequate resources and care. 

Q: What are your future goals?

A: My future goal is to go into a MD-PhD program in Neuroscience!

Bahar Madani, BUILD EXITO Scholar Cohort 7

Bahar Madani

Bahar Madani

Q: What is something positive that's happened as a result of being in BUILD?

A: BUILD has provided me with a strong support system. During my challenging first term in college as a pre-med student, BUILD EXITO helped me believe in myself and taught me how to navigate academic challenges effectively.

Q: How did your mentors help you? What is the importance of having a good mentor?

A: Having a mentor was truly eye-opening for me. As the oldest sibling, I'm accustomed to experiencing things firsthand. However, having a mentor felt like having an older sibling who has endured what you're going through. A good mentor is like a flashlight in a dark tunnel. My mentors have had a significant impact on my life, and I aspire to one day do the same for future scholars.

Q: What is the research you worked on while in BUILD? 

A: In my first year with BUILD, the enrichment sessions not only boosted my self-esteem but also enhanced my academic confidence. Motivated by this, I applied to work as a student researcher at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) ORPRN's health policy team.

This marked my initial exposure to research in a professional setting. In my second year, I applied for EXITO DREAM, joining OHSU neurology. Enjoying my time there, I extended my involvement by applying for URISE.

Q: What are your future research interests?

A: I'm passionate about both the health policy and medical aspects of healthcare. The human body, particularly the brain, fascinates me. Additionally, I aspire to address the shortage of mental health workers in my community, particularly among refugee and immigrant populations. My goal is to continue my neurological research and find ways to make healthcare accessible to all.

Q: What are your future goals?

A: I plan to pursue an MD/MPH (in health policy) degree and contribute to the ongoing efforts of EXITO to the best of my abilities.

Danielle ZuZero, BUILD EXITO Scholar Cohort 3 

Danielle ZuZero

Danielle ZuZero

Q: What is something positive that's happened as a result of being in BUILD?

A: Being a part of BUILD EXITO transformed my life and academic career path in countless ways by showing me that students have a place in the world of professional research. With this newfound understanding I gained confidence in presenting myself as a researcher among my academic role models and professionals I hoped to become further acquainted with. This program granted me the tools and training to pursue anything that my curious mind wanted to investigate!

During the program I had the honor of meeting students from all backgrounds, we built deep friendships and supported each other throughout our educational journey. Being a BUILD scholar is a part of my identity that I hold dearly and share proudly. This program truly changed my life. 

Q: How did your mentors help you? What is the importance of having a good mentor?

A: Mentorship is like having someone in your corner through all of the waves of success and self doubt. Mentorship has been helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and ask questions about the specifics of what you want to pursue.

It is also important to establish meaningful professional connections that can be carried on throughout your career. 

Q: What is the research you worked on while in BUILD? 

A: I had the privilege to work with Dr. Jennifer Barton, a Rheumatologist at OHSU and VA Hospital. Our team worked to investigate the importance of patient and provider having shared goals throughout the treatment process, and how that improves treatment outcomes among patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The final product was a goal concordance pamphlet for rheumatologists and patients to fill out prior to the visit to ensure all treatment goals are being met. With this patient population I was also able to investigate the impact of illness (diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis) on psychological health through the PROMIS-PII survey (patient reported outcomes measurement information system - positive illness impact).

Learn more about Danielle’s research as a BUILD EXITO scholar: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34210836/ 

Q: What are your future research interests?

A: Since graduating PSU in 2019, I’ve worked on a research team at the National University of Natural Medicine where we conducted a RCT on the implementation of Mindfulness Oriented Recovery Enhancement sessions among patients with Lumbosacral Radiculopathy (sciatica). I’ll continue work on this study by investigating the outcomes of pain, disability, and depression as a result of chronic conditions. 

For my Master of Clinical Research thesis I’ll be investigating the efficacy of Craniosacral Therapy in the management of chronic pathology. My ultimate goal as a clinical researcher and Naturopathic Doctor is to investigate and shine light upon the impact of psychological trauma on our body, and the ways it manifests as pathology. Especially chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis.  

See Zuzero’s publications: 

Q: What are your future goals?

A: In June of 2025 I will complete my degree in Naturopathic Medicine and Masters of Clinical Research! The plan is to complete clinical residency in primary care, then continue on with research through a post-doctoral program. The lifetime goal is to open my own medical practice and continue publishing work that strives to support the healing power of naturopathic medicine and trauma informed care. With this, I will treat underserved populations and publish work that prevents the progression of chronic disease. In my career I hope to be the type of mentor that I’ve been blessed without throughout my educational journey, starting with BUILD EXITO.

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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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