UConn graduate student Darani Thammavongsa, who goes by Ashley, has been chosen to be a mentor for the National Institute of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Scholar Program. She was chosen due to her encouragement of students from underrepresented communities to conduct research and for increasing diversity in the biomedical field.
“I hope to encourage students to get involved in conducting research they are passionate about regardless of their education level or background,” Thammavongsa said.
Thammavongsa, who identifies as Thai and Laotian, was part of the UConn Health Care Genetics Program in January 2022 as a part-time student, in addition to working full-time. She is now working on her capstone project that focuses on advocating equitable research opportunities using the All of Us Research Data Browser and Workbench databases.
Thammavongsa has been selected as an NIH mentor for the program and has prepared her students to present their work during the All of Us Researchers Convention in March 2023. She plans to apply to a physician assistant program while continuing to conduct research with the All of Us Research databases in order to advocate for research topics that will impact future patients.
Monica Rodriguez who works for Pyxis Partners as a Director of Stakeholder Engagement, focuses her work on policy, advocacy and community engagement. She also works for the All of Us Research Program in Washington, D.C., helping with their research and community engagement efforts.
“The All of Us Research program which is funded by the National Institute of Health, part of its mission is to grow a diverse set of researchers to be able to then access this data that we are collecting through the All of Us research program.”Monica Rodriguez, Director of Stakeholder Engagement for Pyxis Partners
“The All of Us Research program which is funded by the National Institute of Health, part of its mission is to grow a diverse set of researchers to be able to then access this data that we are collecting through the All of Us research program,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, the Research Scholar Program is part of the All of Us Research Program which is funded by the National Institute of Health. She says a focus of the program is to help develop minority students’ research and change the face of the health industry. Currently, 50 students out of more than 100 that applied were able to be in this year’s program cohort which provided professional development and research study courses to prepare students to present their findings so a winner can be picked to speak at the All of Us research convention in 2023.
“This program was a call to action to address the lack of diversity in the biomedical workforce,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, Pyxis Partners manages relationships with community partners to help broaden their research programs such as the Black Letter Greek Organization for Black colleges and universities and the Southern Network which is a branch of the All of Us research center.
“When we talk about minorities in the biomedical workforce we are talking about not just race and identity but sexual identity and persons with disability,” Rodriguez said.
All of Us Research programs want researchers to change the face of health, and Rodriguez explained that part of the program is asking students during the application process why they want to be involved, what they plan on studying and what they are hoping to impact through their research and studies.
“I appreciated the connections I have made through WIB and its mission of promoting leadership for all women in life sciences. I encourage all students to join a professional organization that aligns with their values and that has opportunities to advance their careers,” Ashley said.
Thammavongsa is a part of the Women in Bio (WIB) Connecticut chapter and attended this year’s WIB one-year anniversary meeting to thank the board members that awarded her the scholarship. The members of the program are made up of entrepreneurs, researchers, professors and executive managers in STEM fields.