Five rising stars in academic medicine and research were recently named the winners of the 2022 Minority Faculty Career Development Awards (MFCDAs), which seek to support and retain underrepresented in medicine (UIM) trainees and junior faculty at the Brigham.
This year marks the program’s largest-ever number of awardees — a milestone made possible through the support of the Office of the President.
“It is not enough to simply say that we are committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. We must take action to demonstrate that commitment, especially when it comes to creating a culture and environment where the next generation of UIM physicians and scientists can thrive,” said Robert S.D. Higgins, MD, MHSA, president of the Brigham and executive vice president at Mass General Brigham. “It’s our honor to support these emerging leaders in science and medicine through this year’s expansion of our Minority Faculty Career Development Awards program.”
This year’s winners are Ayobami Akenroye, MBChB, MPH, of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology; Idalid (Ivy) Franco, MD, MPH, of the Department of Radiation Oncology; L. Nicolas Gonzalez Castro, MD, PhD, of the Brigham’s Department of Neurology and the Center for Neuro-oncology at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer
Center; Shaina A. Lipa, MD, MPH, of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery; and Gezzer Ortega, MD, MPH, of the Center for Surgery and Public Health in the Department of Surgery.
Established in 1996 thanks to the efforts of Marshall Wolf, MD, Howard Hiatt, MD, and Robert Handin, MD, the MFCDA program was created to increase the representation of UIM physicians and scientists in fellowship programs and faculty positions at the Brigham. It provides $100,000 awards to recipients over five years — with a quarter of the funds reserved for clinical/research-related and career development purposes — and is administered by the Brigham’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, “underrepresented in medicine means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.” At Brigham, those identities include African American/Black, Alaskan/Hawaiian Native, Hispanic/Latinx and Native American.
“On behalf of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, we are thrilled to offer five Minority Faculty Career Development Awards to these outstanding faculty members,” said Galen Henderson, MD, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Faculty, Trainees and Students. “This type of award is crucial for faculty early in their careers so they can dedicate time to the advancement of scientific research, clinical care and their own professional development. These awardees are the future leaders of our organization and in academic medicine.”
Learn more about this year’s winners and what the award means to them:
Ayobami Akenroye, MBChB, MPH
Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
“My long-term goal is to be an outstanding physician-scientist, conducting translational epidemiologic research in the area of heterogeneity of treatment effect of monoclonal antibodies in the treatment of asthma. Ultimately, I want to improve the care of everyone with asthma — regardless of age, gender, body mass index, or race or ethnicity. I intend to use the period of this award to develop preliminary data, which will inform my first and potentially subsequent R01 applications. My prior training, additional training during the period of this award and excellent mentorship will position me to be one of the rising leaders in my chosen area of research.”
Idalid (Ivy) Franco, MD, MPH
Department of Radiation Oncology
“Through the support of the MFCDA, I will be able to effectively acquire the tools needed to address cancer health disparities, focusing on efforts in health equity, access and inclusion — leading to improved workforce diversity and patient outcomes within Radiation Oncology. I aspire to have my work improve patient outcomes for our most vulnerable communities and inspire younger generations to continue to apply a health equity lens to their work.”
Nicolas Gonzalez Castro, MD, PhD
Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Center for Neuro-oncology, Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center
“The support of the MFCDA will help advance my current research in glioblastoma genomics and epigenomics, increasing our biological understanding of this aggressive and invariably fatal brain tumor and uncovering new therapeutic targets. Support at this stage of my career will also help me generate preliminary data to apply for additional funding mechanisms as I continue developing as a physician-scientist in neuro-oncology.”
Shaina A. Lipa, MD, MPH
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
“My main goal over these early years is to build my clinical practice in order to deliver quality and equitable spine care to my patients, which is and has always been my primary motivator. One of the byproducts of this goal is that this will allow me to become a respected faculty member of the spine surgery community and greater orthopaedic community at large. Secondly, this will inform my research, which is focused on the delivery and quality of orthopaedic care in the ever-changing climate of health policy. Receiving the MFCDA would provide the financial support to pursue coursework to gain new skills in the area of quality and safety, which is an area of interest for me, given its relation to primary goal of delivering quality and equitable care to patients.”
Gezzer Ortega, MD, MPH
Center for Surgery and Public Health, Department of Surgery
Patient Reported Outcomes, Value & Experience (PROVE) Center
“The MFCDA will accelerate my overall career goal of becoming an independently funded physician-scientist focused on identifying and addressing inequities in surgical care. I have been highly productive in the early stages of my career, but there are critical knowledge and skills gaps that this MFCDA will resolve so that I can become a nationally regarded expert in improving outcomes for surgical patients with limited English proficiency and advancing language-concordant care.”