Biomedical Faces of Science

NIH's Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) program is designed to improve life science literacy throughout the nation through innovative educational programs. The Jackson State University (JSU) SEPA Program’s Biomedical Faces of Science videos provide a unique introduction to scientists from underrepresented backgrounds. Acknowledgement: Jackson State University NIH SEPA Program R25RR020405 and Faces of Science, Inc. Biomedical Faces of Science, 3,899,144, Jan. 4, 2011.

Carmen Zorrilla, M.D.

Dr. Zorrilla is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. Dr. Zorrilla studied medicine in Puerto Rico at a time when few women were in the field. She is currently Co-Principal Investigator for the Puerto Rican site of the Women and Infants Transmission Study (WITS) and Principal Investigator for the Longitudinal Women's HIV Clinic, the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group Protocol 386, and the Empowerment Intervention Study for women with HIV and women with breast cancer. She takes inspiration from the female patients at her clinic to pursue her research on HIV/AIDs.

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Ted Mala, M.D.

Dr. Mala is the former Southcentral Foundation (SCF) Director of Traditional Healing and Tribal Relations at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Originally from Buckland in northwest Alaska, Dr. Mala was the first Alaska Native doctor to return to the state to serve Alaska Native people. He was also the first Alaska Native to serve as the state's commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services. Drawing on his Inupiat Eskimo background, Dr. Mala served as a bridge between Western medicine physicians and tribal practitioners. Dr. Mala recently retired from medicine after practicing for more than 40 years.

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Sandra Murray, Ph.D.

Dr. Murray is a professor of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is the first African American woman to be named a full professor at the school. Dr. Murray earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago, master’s from Texas Southern University, doctorate from the University of Iowa, and completed her postdoctoral study at the University of California, Riverside before establishing her career in Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on cellular organization and cell to cell communication. Dr. Murray’s current work seeks to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that regulate gap junction plaque assembly, disassembly, and degradation. Dr. Murray’s passion for knowledge and her interest in biomedical research was motivated by the impact that research can have on the lives of millions of people.

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Herman Taylor, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Taylor is currently the Director and endowed professor of the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) at Morehouse School of Medicine. When Biomedical Faces of Science was filmed, he was a Professor for the study of Health Disparities and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. Dr. Taylor grew up in Birmingham, AL and attended Princeton as an undergraduate followed by Harvard Medical School. His parents were strong role models who influenced his career decisions and commitment to African Americans with cardiovascular disease.

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Marjorie Mau, M.D., M.S.

Dr. Mau is a Professor of Native Hawaiian Health and the Director of the Center for Native and Pacific Health Disparities Research at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Dr. Mau specializes in endocrinology and her research is focused on diabetes and health disparities. She is also an advocate for conducting health research that is relevant to Native and Pacific Peoples as well as for training the next generation of diverse investigators to be health disparity researchers. She attended college and medical school at Creighton University in Nebraska. Dr. Mau participates in community health outreach targeting underserved populations in her area.

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Alissa Arp, Ph.D.

Dr. Arp is Chair of the Environmental Science and Policy Program and Professor of Biology at Southern Oregon University. She is trained as a traditional biologist with a specialization in ecological physiology and has studied and published on adaptations of marine organisms to habitats ranging from mudflats to hydrothermal vents. Dr. Arp was an undergraduate at Sonoma State University and earned her Ph.D. from the University of California Santa Barbara. Dr. Arp is interested in how animals adapt to their environments as well as how human beings can improve life on Earth.

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Spero M. Manson, Ph.D.

Dr. Manson (Pembina Chippewa) is Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry, directs the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, and serves as Associate Dean of Research at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Center. His programs include nine national centers, totaling $63 million in sponsored research, program development, training and collaboration with 250 native communities. These communities span rural, reservation, urban, and village settings across the country. Dr. Manson’s family originates from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Dr. Manson tells of his passion for discovery and the scientific process and describes how he strives to improve the health and lives of American Indian communities through his work.

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Georgia M. Dunston, Ph.D.

Dr. Dunston is the founding director of the National Human Genome Center (NHGC) at Howard University and is currently the Director of Molecular Genetics in the NHGC. Her research and area of expertise is human genetics, with an interest in the genetic heritage of the African American population. Dr. Dunston grew up in Virginia, graduated from Norfolk State University, earned a master’s from Tuskegee University, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She focuses on understanding the genetic causes of certain diseases with the goal of eventually being able to prevent these disorders.

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Keith Norris, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Norris is a Professor of Medicine at the UCLA Division of General Medicine and Health Services Research. He is one of the most highly funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigators in the nation and one of the most highly cited scientists in the world in the area of chronic kidney disease and health disparities. At the time that Biomedical Faces of Science was filmed, Dr. Norris was the Program Director of the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Clinical Research Center at Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Norris attended Cornell University and earned an M.D. from Howard University. In 2014, he received his doctorate in metaphysical studies, studying disparities in healthcare for minority populations. He is passionate about improving the health of minority communities.

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James Hildreth, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Hildreth is currently the 12th President and Chief Executive Officer of Meharry Medical College. When Biomedical Faces of Science was filmed, Dr. Hildreth was Director of the Center for Health Disparities Research at Meharry. In 1978, Dr. Hildreth became the first African American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas. He earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Harvard, Ph.D. in immunology from Oxford University in England, and M.D. from Johns Hopkins University. His personal experience with healthcare disparities motivated him to become a doctor and a scientist. He believes that being a researcher allows him to contribute to solving global problems like HIV/AIDS.

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Renato Aguilera, Ph.D.

Dr. Aguilera is a Professor of Biology at the University of Texas at El Paso and director of the Screening and Imaging Core of the Border Biomedical Research Center (BBRC). His BBRC research group has recently developed assays for screening chemical libraries on a variety of human cancer cells. The ultimate goal of these assays is to discover compounds that kill specific cancer cells but not others. His group is currently establishing human cancer cell lines and characterizing their phenotype and genotype. The cell lines will be used to determine the anti-cancer efficacy of known and novel drugs. Dr. Aguilera grew up in El Paso near the Mexican border, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas, El Paso, and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley.

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Angel Yanagihara, Ph.D. and Dr. Richard Yanagihara, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Angel Yanagihara is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Hawaii. She has a deep-seated passion to understand how things work. Her research is in toxicology and cellular and molecular neuroscience. Her specialty is biochemistry and her research focuses on how box jellyfish venom works. Through her research, she discovered and patented Physalia Fluorescent Proteins, which have the potential to create powerful new tools for biomedical research and diagnosis. Dr. Yanagihara earned her Ph.D. from University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Dr. Richard Yanagihara is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. His area of research focuses on vector-borne and zoonotic diseases (i.e. viruses that jump from animals to humans). For him, science is a passion to find new things and put them together in a way that has never been thought of before. He says using the capacity to discover new knowledge and apply it to improve people’s lives is a grand opportunity and responsibility. Dr. Yanagihara earned his M.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins University.

The Drs. Yanagihara both believe in the power of research and are passionate about discovering new cures in their respective fields of study.

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