The HER (Health Equity Research) Lab, directed by Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña, is one of the SF BUILD Core Research Facilities. Lab memebers of HER were recently featured in SF State News for thier Community Outreach Efforts working with the Latina Center in Richmond, California to bring hands-on science to kids at the summer camp. Click here to read the story.
Message from Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD., Dean of the School of Medicine, UCSF
July 21, 2017
I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, as the new chair of the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, effective October 1, and the inaugural vice dean for Population Health and Health Equity, effective August 1.
Dr. Bibbins-Domingo is the Lee Goldman, MD, Endowed Chair in Medicine, a professor of medicine, and a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics. She is a general internist and attending physician at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where she directs the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. She is also the director of the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) training programs.
The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics plays a critical role in advancing our research mission in the basic, clinical and population sciences through high-quality original scholarship, outstanding training programs, and collaborative research. The department's activities in scholarship, teaching, and collaboration are essential to many cutting-edge initiatives at UCSF, including precision medicine, bioinformatics, and clinical data sciences, all areas that will continue and expand under Dr. Bibbins-Domingo's departmental leadership.
As vice dean, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo will develop an organizational strategy for integrating population health and health equity into all facets of our academic mission. She will be responsible for convening leaders and faculty from UCSF School of Medicine departments, centers, institutes and programs to create strategies to advance the science of population health and health equity; inform the conduct of clinical and translational research; disseminate this science in effective and innovative educational programs; and most importantly, accelerate the translation of this science into improvements in health and health equity within UCSF and other health care systems and more broadly into communities locally, nationally, and globally.
Dr. Bibbins-Domingo received her undergraduate degrees from Princeton University in molecular biology and in public policy from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs. After Princeton, she studied chemistry at the University of Ibadan in Ibadan, Nigeria before coming to UCSF to complete her PhD in biochemistry. Dr. Bibbins-Domingo earned her medical degree and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at UCSF, as well as her general medicine fellowship and her MAS in clinical research. She joined the UCSF faculty as an assistant professor in 2004.
Dr. Bibbins-Domingo's research focuses on cardiovascular disease prevention, where she uses observational epidemiology, simulation modeling, and pragmatic trials to generate novel insights into how to prevent cardiovascular disease most effectively, particularly in high-risk populations. She has helped elucidate the factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease in young adults, and in particular the earlier age at disease onset in many race/ethnic minority and low-income populations. She leads the team at UCSF using simulation modeling with the Cardiovascular Disease Policy Model to examine the health and cost impact of clinical and public health interventions among US adults and for specific US population sub-groups, including older adults. She has led collaborations of similar modeling work in Mexico.
Dr. Bibbins-Domingo's work has been published widely, including in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the American Journal of Public Health, and Circulation. Her scientific contributions have been recognized through her election to the National Academy of Medicine, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians.
With Dean Schillinger, MD, she co-founded the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations (CVP) at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center in 2006. A research center focused on communities at risk for poor health and inadequate healthcare due to social circumstances, CVP has experienced greater national visibility and expanded its reach under Dr. Bibbins-Domingo's leadership. The recent 10th-anniversary celebration of CVP highlighted the extraordinary scientific productivity of CVP faculty through high-impact scholarship and leadership of multiple NIH collaborative center and network grants. CVP is also recognized for its strong community, clinical, and policy partnerships and translating science into health impact.
Dr. Bibbins-Domingo is the immediate past chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a national independent panel of experts in prevention that develops evidence-based guidelines for the use of clinical preventive services. She served on the Task Force from 2010-2017 as a member, vice-chair, and chair. Dr. Bibbins-Domingo is a devoted teacher and mentor who has worked extensively with trainees and junior faculty at UCSF and nationally, one-on-one and through programs including the CTSI K Scholars Program, SF-BUILD and the NHLBI-funded RISE program in implementation sciences. She is also committed to advancing public education on science and evidence-based medicine. Earlier this year, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo received the UCSF Chancellor's Award for Public Service.
I want to thank Dr. Robert Hiatt for his ten years of expansive leadership and service as department chair. I'm also grateful to the search committee chaired by Dr. Claire Brindis for their dedicated work.
I am thrilled to have Kirsten as a dynamic leader to further collaborations within UCSF. She embodies UCSF's commitment the rigorous pursuit of science and to using discovery and innovation to advance the health of all, particularly the most vulnerable in our community. Please join me in congratulating her on her new role.
Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD
Dean, School of Medicine
by Camille Mojica Rey
SF BUILD Lead Principal Investigator, Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña, PhD, was among local science leaders invited to speak at a kick-off rally for the March for Science San Francisco on April 21st at Justin Herman Plaza. The peaceful rally and march that followed drew tens of thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts. The event was one of 500 planned around the world to celebrate Earth Day and motivated by a commonly held belief that governments in the U.S. and around the world are moving away from evidence-based policies, and increasingly de-valuing science.
Despite the political catalyst, however, the speakers adhered to a celebratory, non-partisan, and inclusive tone. “As I look onto this amazing crowd of individuals I can’t help but think of the motto of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) that embraces science, culture, and community,” said Márquez-Magaña, SFSU Professor of Biology, as she opened her remarks. “It’s clear to me that we are all here because we value the practice of science and an inclusive culture that best benefits all of our communities.”
March for Science - San Francisco, a non-partisan group, sponsored the Earth Day event to support communication, funding, policy, literacy, and diversity in the sciences. The group’s aim was to celebrate public discovery, understanding, and distribution of scientific knowledge as crucial to the freedom, success, health, and safety of life on this planet. Other kick-off rally speakers included Adam Savage, inventor and host of TV’s MythBusters, Dr. D.J. Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist; Eric Valor, founder of SciOpen Research Group; Kathy Setian, retired project manager at EPA; and plant geneticist, Dr. Pamela Ronald, PhD. The emcee for the event was Kishore Hari, director of the Bay Area Science Festival.
During her speech, Márquez-Magaña shared an anecdote with the crowd that taught her, even as a young child, that inclusivity was key to the interpretation of data. She painted a picture of herself as a kindergartener wearing a homemade dress on the first day of school and proud of the fact that she was already serving as an interpreter to her immigrant parents. “It was these thoughts of pride, and feelings of becoming a stronger part of my parent’s new country, that occupied my thoughts that day on the playground when a classmate interrupted them to say, ‘It’s too bad you speak two languages, it makes you so dumb.’” Márquez-Magaña elicited cheers when she told the audience her internal reaction to this comment. “For a millisecond I felt the same shame that my yellow plaid dress with faux fur collar caused me, but in the next millisecond I thought, ‘Two is bigger than one. Maybe I’m not the dumb one.’” She pointed out that, years later, science would show the advantages of bilingualism.
Márquez-Magaña also went on to list the benefits of inclusive science as shown by modern research. “I think these are some of the reasons many of us are marching today. I also think that we all know, at some level, that the practice of inclusive science and critical thinking can build bridges between communities for mutual benefit. For example, if I had known enough to practice inclusion at the time, I might have asked my classmate on the playground to help me improve my English and offered to help her learn Spanish so that we could mutually benefit from greater ways of knowing about our shared world.”
Márquez-Magaña concluded her remarks by telling the crowd that she hoped the days’ events in San Francisco and around the world would lead to “greater recognition of the need to work not only across scientific silos, but also for those of us who are practicing scientists to work with our communities and political leaders to inform the decisions that affect us all.” Inclusive science is necessary if we are to solve the world’s complex problems, she reminded those gathered for the Earth Day Celebration. “After all we are all in this together because we share the same Earth.”
After the rally, protestors clogged San Francisco’s streets, marching and waving witty signs, like “Fight Truth Decay,” and “Geology Rocks.” At one point, the line of marchers stretched two miles down Market Street, from the Ferry Building to City Hall. Once arriving at Civic Center Plaza, marchers were treated to a science fair that stretched into the evening.
Márquez-Magaña said later that participating in the event “reconfirmed my feeling that the general public does want inclusive science, and it increased my understanding of the many barriers we still have to overcome to get there.”
Read the transcript to Dr. Marquez-Magana's speach HERE.
by Garric Smith, J.D.
Along with supporting research and career development activities, SF BUILD offers education and training to assist students and their faculty mentors, in creating a productive research environment, and maintaining a healthy mentor/mentee relationship. For many under-represented minority (URM) students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), it is often challenging to find examples of successful URM researchers to serve as mentors. SF BUILD’s matching program serves to bridge student research interests and faculty dedication to mentorship by facilitating research experiences for students with mentors working within their field of interest. In the case of SF BUILD scholar, Maria Guadalupe Contreras Oseguera, SF BUILD was able to match her with research mentors dedicated to scholastic excellence, and who share her passion for community-based health initiatives in traditionally under-served populations.
At a very young age Maria cultivated a myriad of experiences that have shaped her understanding of health equity problems. One of her most poignant experiences was immigrating to the United States from Mexico with her family. No one in her family spoke English, and it was Maria who was the first to become fluent. Oseguera recalls, “by the time I was thirteen, I had learned enough English to become my parents’ voice”; Maria admits that though she was proud of her grasp of the English language it also placed a lot of responsibility on her shoulders at a very young age. Her personal experience with language and cultural barriers to resources such as healthcare and education helped to cement her interest in health care and health equity in minority communities.
Maria also became concerned by what she felt was lacking in her science education. “(In) my high school the teachers would “lecture” by playing movies while they slept. Fights were common, and detention and expulsion were the norm,” says Oseguera. Even while an undergrad Maria expressed a desire to go beneath the surface of her science education to find a balance between her concern for her community and health sciences. “One of my first impressions of my science classes was that they lacked any sense of social justice,” says Oseguera, who decided to counteract this deficit by volunteering with non-profit clinics in San Francisco’s Mission District and teaching patients about science and health related issues in a culturally sensitive manner.
Her participation in the BUILD fellowship led Maria to Dr. Esteban Burchard’s Asthma Co-laboratory at University of California San Francisco where she spent a year-long research rotation. “My first project centered on identifying genetic factors associated with asthma susceptibility in African-American children”; important work considering the majority of genetic studies in the U.S. are focused on white populations. “Dr. Burchard introduced me to the idea that ancestry matters when understanding genetic responses to health disparities, and that these disparities may also be connected to socio-economic factors,” says Oseguera.
Maria credits her success at UCSF to the diverse and inclusive research environment fostered by her Mentor’s. “I was taken under the wing of Dr. Marquitta White, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Burchard’s lab. Dr. White proved to be an ideal mentor, given our shared interest in inclusive research.” Since joining Dr. Burchard’s Collaboratory Maria has learned basic statistical analysis techniques, as well as computer programing and bioinformatics skills needed to analyze the massive cohort. Presenting her work at national conferences winning travel awards, and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
“By being involved in BUILD I was more able to see myself in the role of scientist,” says Oseguera.
“I definitely keep in mind that I am Latina, and that I am an immigrant, but BUILD and my mentors have shown me that these labels make me a great scientist, because they give me perspective that others do not have.
[SGF1]This spring, the first cohort of SF BUILD Scholars received letters of acceptance to top graduate programs across the country. Being accepted into graduate school is a milestone in the lives of these SFSU students and great news for SF BUILD faculty and staff at SFSU and UCSF who have been working to prepare these students for the next step in their biomedical science careers.
by Camille Mojica Rey
This spring, the first cohort of SF BUILD Scholars received letters of acceptance to top graduate programs across the country. Being accepted into graduate school is a milestone in the lives of these SFSU students and great news for SF BUILD faculty and staff at SFSU and UCSF who have been working to prepare these students for the next step in their biomedical science careers.
“We are really excited,” says Carmen Domingo, SFSU professor of biology and core co-leader of student training for SF BUILD. “It’s validating that the program that we set up is supporting their career goals. They are getting to the level where they are competitive and being admitted to the best programs.”
Juan Castillo, one of the recent graduates of the SF BUILD Scholars program, earned a degree in chemistry from SFSU in August 2016. Castillo spent the fall continuing the research he began during the program and applying to a number of graduate programs nationwide. He received multiple offers, including one from his first choice, UC Davis. Castillo credits SF BUILD with giving him the research opportunities and mentorship he needed to be a competitive candidate. “I want to go into academic research someday, improve health in communities and do that using analytical chemistry,” he says. “The program showed me how I can do that.”
SF BUILD not only prepares students like Castillo to conduct professional level research in the biomedical sciences, but it takes a unique approach to ensuring success in a field that lacks diversity. Students receive education about stereotype threat, a phenomenon that occurs when a person from an underrepresented group experiences concern over confirming a negative stereotype of that group. This can impact their performance in high-stake situations, such as in science and math courses, and possibly lead to an early exit from the career pipeline. Castillo and his fellow scholars will be heading to graduate school armed with knowledge of stereotype threat, as well as tools to combat it.
“We hope that what we have taught our scholars about stereotype threat will allow them to navigate their graduate programs where they are likely to feel very isolated,” Domingo says. SF BUILD Scholars will be able to understand those circumstances in a different way than those who haven’t had this training, she explains.
In addition to teaching about stereotype threat, SF BUILD also works to affirm the scholars’ desire to give back to their communities. Losing the feeling that what they do matters has been shown to be another reason students from underrepresented groups leave the path leading towards careers in science.
For his part, Castillo says he was inspired by the work he did under Leticia Márquez-Magaña, SF BUILD’s director, SFSU professor of biology, and the head of the Health Equity Research (HER) Lab. “I was introduced to this project measuring the stress hormone, cortisol, in human hair to document the effects of chronic stress on marginalized communities like my own,” Castillo says. He was born in San Francisco and raised in nearby San Rafael by a single mother. Although his older siblings had chosen to go to college, he had not done so at the time of his mother’s death, instead working in bicycle shops and in construction. It was his mother’s passing that inspired Castillo to attend SFSU.
Castillo had already been working in the lab of Peter Palmer, SFSU professor of chemistry, when he was accepted into the SF BUILD Scholars program. In the HER Lab, Castillo worked on optimizing methods for sample preparation and the measurement of cortisol using mass spectrometry. He continued working with Palmer as a co-mentor. “The time I spent with both of my research mentors was invaluable to me.”
Castillo is currently writing up his findings, which he presented at the national meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native American Scientists (SACNAS). Now, as an incoming graduate student studying analytical chemistry at UC Davis, he hopes to continue measuring and studying biological molecules and addressing research questions that will improve health in communities. “I want to be a super mentor and a role model to kids in minority communities and that was one thing that was missing when I was a child. I think I can make a difference in helping people to do that.”
It’s that kind of commitment that gives SF BUILD faculty the assurance that what they are doing will have a ripple effect throughout the biological sciences. “These students are like our ambassadors,” Domingo explains. Not only will their experiences influence the kinds of research projects they will do, but they will educate and inspire their peers, as well as their own future students to also apply basic science to the well-being of minority communities. “By increasing the diversity of the people that ask questions, we impact the scientific community.”