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Mentor Spotlight: Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD

, by CRCHD Staff

Mentor Dr. Elisa V. Bandera (left) and mentee Dr. Brian D. Gonzalez (right)

Inspired by this year’s National Minority Health Month theme, Bridging Health Equity Across Communities, CRCHD is celebrating mentors by launching a new series of blog posts. We asked Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program scholars to tell us about a mentor who has made a difference in their career development and will periodically feature their stories.

Brian D. Gonzalez, PhD, is an Assistant Member in the Health Outcomes and Behavior Program at Moffitt Cancer Center who met his mentor, Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, when he was working at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Division of Population Sciences. Dr. Bandera is currently a Professor and Co-Leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute.

Mentors like Dr. Bandera are a critical component of the CURE program. Through their guidance and long-term support, CURE scholars build the skills needed to transition to the next career level and ultimately become competitive, independent investigators.   

Dr. Bandera provided Dr. Gonzalez with encouragement and advice that helped him attain an NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01) which supports his current research in developing a culturally targeted mHealth (the practice of using mobile technology for medical care) intervention for cancer-related sleep disturbance in African American breast cancer survivors. Here is what Dr. Gonzalez shared with us:

“My research supplement mentor, Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, was instrumental in helping me transition from a postdoctoral fellowship to my first tenure-track faculty position. She exhibits a passion for mentoring junior faculty, providing critical reviews of manuscripts and grant applications at every phase of development. While always encouraging independence, Dr. Bandera provided excellent career development advice that has helped me establish collaborations with colleagues around the country.

“Dr. Bandera helped me successfully attain NCI funding with a supplement to her ongoing R01 project. As a co-investigator on this project, I learned important skills in several new research areas. A major goal of this project was to apply for NCI funding as PI [principal investigator] by the end of the two-year period. Instead, we had to relinquish the supplement early because I was awarded a K01 career development award through the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. This project was awarded on the first submission, a testament to the grantsmanship advice that Dr. Bandera and my other K01 mentors provided along the way.

“I am eternally grateful for Dr. Bandera’s mentorship during supplement award period and currently as a mentor on my K01 project.”

My research supplement mentor, Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, was instrumental in helping me transition from a postdoctoral fellowship to my first tenure-track faculty position.”— Brian D. Gonzalez, PhD

We reached out to Dr. Bandera, also a former CURE diversity supplement awardee, who described being a mentor to Dr. Gonzalez.

“I met Dr. Gonzalez in the Fall of 2014 when he interviewed for a faculty position at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Division of Population Sciences. The search committee was very impressed with him and unanimously decided to offer him a tenure-track Assistant Professor position starting in June, 2015. I was particularly excited because of the significance of his clinical and research expertise, cancer-related sleep disturbance and quality of life in breast cancer survivors. As I am currently conducting a cohort study of African American breast cancer survivors, Dr. Gonzalez provided an opportunity to enhance the project, given his background and expertise in these areas. 

“We started to work together even before he officially moved to New Jersey. Several months before joining Rutgers Cancer Institute, Dr. Gonzalez wrote and received NCI funding for a research supplement to promote diversity and joined our cohort study as a co-investigator. Soon after relocating to New Jersey, he wrote and received a K01 Career Development Award to continue these studies. He interacted extremely well with our cancer epidemiology group, which demonstrated to all of us his breadth of knowledge and potential for being a great collaborator in transdisciplinary studies. 

“Although after receiving the K01 Award he moved back to Moffitt Cancer Center, I have continued to be his mentor, and we have remained in contact. I look forward to continue working with him in the future. Dr. Gonzalez has great potential to become a leader in the area of cancer survivorship disparities and quality of life with a focus on cancer-related sleep disturbance, and I am honored to help him reach his career goals.”

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