How would you describe your role at ICH?
I describe it as a rather very flexible role that often feels like a mix of different roles. It’s hard to get bored as a researcher. Furthermore, I know we are evaluators and that would be our main role in many of the projects we work in. So, what is an evaluator then? I think that an evaluator is a team player that is a bit of a scientist mixed with a private investigator, and a bit of a public speaker and an artist. I think that the Research Associate role, as well as other roles at ICH, play different characters and use different skills depending on the nature of the projects. For example, with some projects it is more likely that our role requires a more quantitative approach and reasoning, while there are others projects for which being more on the qualitative side is a better idea.
What is your educational background?
I have a background in Public Health and Sociology. I received a degree in sociology in undergraduate, and then I completed a master’s degree in Public Health. And, although I did not finish, I also studied medicine and fine arts. I went to medical school for one semester after finishing high school (things are a bit different in Latin America) because I thought I wanted to be a physician, but then I discovered I really did not. Later on, when I was already studying sociology, I studied fine arts for a couple of years, although that was more of a personal goal than anything I was intending to do professionally.
What was your career path before coming to ICH?
Before I joined ICH, I worked as a research assistant in different research groups and labs in universities. The common themes during these experiences were working around health research (children health and care, teen violence, physical activity and obesity, and body modifications) as well as learning how to be part of collaborative teams.
What made you decide to come to ICH?
Probably the fact that I knew I would be doing research that had a direct application in the health of the community. I think that a lot of the work I did before, in more academic environments, felt a bit disconnected from what I would see in the community. In a way, I really liked that ICH seemed like a place where the effort we put in our work will be translated into actionable change. I also liked the fact that the people working here seemed to also share that mindset.
What are some projects that you are working on right now?
There are plenty, so this will likely be a very, very short summary. Right now I’m on the BOLTS project, funded by RIZE Massachusetts – in this one, I am part of a large team of scientists and professionals that are trying to improve access to treatment for people who use opioids, with a racial equity lens. In the evaluation of the MBCTTI project from JRI, I work together with my ICH team to improve access to trauma-informed care for children and their families. In the evaluation of the PRODUCE study, from the Greater Boston Food Bank and Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), I work to support data collection, as well as providing analytical input for a project that seeks to increase access to healthy food for people with high needs. And finally, I am also working with the Multicultural Affairs and Patient Services department at CHA to support efforts to improve access to medical services for CHA patients that don’t speak English as their first language.
What are your favorite project topics and why?
There are many areas I like. I don’t think I am particularly picky when it comes to topics, so I enjoy having an opportunity to explore different topics. I think that projects working on improving access to healthcare and health services, as well as substance use, and trauma-informed care are some of the topics I have been having lots of fun working on lately.
What are you most excited about for the future of ICH?
It is very exciting to see that ICH is growing, and the new projects and partners that are coming. With all the things that will come with new clients and partners, and their diverse evaluation and research needs and topics, it’s difficult to pick what makes me most excited. I’m always excited to learn new things, and to share this with our partners and clients.
What are hobbies or things you like to do for fun?
Currently I’m very into gardening, I’m tending different gardens in my house now. My orchids are probably some of my favorites, because they are very challenging but very rewarding at the same time. I’m playing a lot of video games lately, mostly simulation games where you need to build cities, or empires and account for a bunch of variables and things to do. When the weather is nice, I love biking around the city while I listen to music (I try to be careful while I’m doing this). I also love exploring natural landscapes and taking pictures, or just going for a run in the woods. I really enjoy making drawings/illustrations, and I paint every now and then. Most of the time I’m watching educational and not-so-educational videos on YouTube, or just listening to music.
Do you have any plans for the summer? Anything that you are looking forward to?
Probably not for this summer, but for a future holiday. I would like to rent an RV with my husband and live in a national park for a couple of weeks. And one day, I would like to rent a motorcycle in Alaska during a summer, and drive all the way from north to south.