ASH congratulates five MRHAP winners for 2020. This year’s spotlight is on Dr. Rigoberto De Jesus Pizarro, who shared what led him to hematology and to his research focus on socioeconomic and biological disparities in the Hispanic community and spoke about the influence of his research and career.
Rigoberto De Jesus Pizarro, MD — University of Texas Health & Science Center at San Antonio; Roots of Socioeconomic and Biological Disparities Among Hispanics with Multiple Myeloma; Research Mentor: Dr. Matthew Butler; Career Development Mentor: Dr. Ruben Mesa
What first led you toward your specific research topic?
Training in a county hospital, I work with under-represented populations that face a variety of obstacles and challenges when seeking medical care. To eliminate those barriers, San Antonio has an array of safety nets that allow patients to have access to medical services, by addressing some of the challenges that underrepresented communities face. In the case of patients with multiple myeloma, our safety nets allow patients to receive autologous transplantation and get access to first-line therapies that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. In this setting, I decided to study if these safety nets and unique characteristics of our system could explain the disparities seen in the United States among under-represented populations.
What about the field of hematology do you find most exciting right now?
The field of hematology is ever-changing, and we’re able to develop and implement new therapies that improve the outcomes of our patients. Back in 2009 when I got involved in the field, genome sequencing was still an expensive endeavor, and in a short period of time sequencing went from costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to less than $10,000, making this tool more accessible to researchers.
How have your research/career mentors influenced your work?
Since 2009 my mentors have supported my interest in the field and have guided me since the beginning, providing me with opportunities I might not have had. From shadowing them in the bone marrow transplantation unit, to tumor board discussions and gaining exposure to my areas of interest even before getting into medical school. This allowed me to develop a career plan early on.
Beatrice Razzo, MD — NYU Langone Medical Center; Clinical and Biological Factors That Affect Presentation and Outcomes in Multiple Myeloma Patients With Excess Body Weight; Research Mentor: Dr. Faith Davies; Career Development Mentor: Dr. Jacqueline Barrientos
Miriam Kwarteng-Siaw, MD — Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Hemodialysis and Peritoneal Dialysis in Patients With Sickle Cell Disease and End Stage Renal Disease; Research Mentor: Dr. Maureen Achebe; Career Development Mentor: Dr. Natasha Archer
Mwanasha Merrill, MD — Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Assessing the effect of Isoquercetin for 28 Days on Levels of Biomarkers of Thrombosis, i.e. D-dimer and Platelet-Dependent Thrombin Generation; Research Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey Zwicker; Career Development Mentor: Dr. Alejandro Gutierrez
Orly Leiva, MD — Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients With Myeloproliferative Neoplasms; Research and Career Development Mentor: Dr. Gabriela Hobbs