What is your professional background?
I received my MD degree at the National University of Asuncion in my homeland country (Paraguay). After finishing Internal Medicine residency, I came to Mississippi as a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Jane Reckelhoff in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at UMMC. I worked in basic science biomedical research for 8 years and then decided to go back to “my first love,” patient care in internal medicine. I joined the Department of Medicine at UMMC, where I completed the residency in Internal Medicine (again) and then a fellowship in Endocrinology. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Cell and Molecular Biology and Medicine (Endocrinology). I love my job, because allows me to combine clinical practice and research.
Briefly describe your research. Why is it important?
As a physician-scientist, my philosophy is to improve patient care through research.My laboratory seeks to answer clinically relevant questions related to cardiometabolic complications in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). The main questions are:
- Are androgens the main factors that promote cardiometabolic derangements in PCOS?
- Why is it difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight and how does obesity impact the clinical manifestations of the syndrome?
- What is the role of GLP-1 in the cardio metabolic manifestations of the syndrome and how can we use GLP-1 agonists to treat the syndrome?
- What impact do 17β-HSD enzyme and adipose-derived androgens have in modulating the cardiometabolic abnormalities in PCOS?
My research program is currently funded by an NIH-COBRE.I am passionate about research. Through research, we are able to express our highest concerns for unmet patient needs. PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder that affects reproductive-age women, yet, we lack effective therapeutic tools to treat their associated cardiometabolic complications.
Who are your mentors and why?
The mentor that has shaped my career is Dr. Jane F. Reckelhoff. Her breakthrough research demonstrated several years ago that there is a sexual dimorphism in blood pressure regulation. Dr. Reckelhoff is a world-wide recognized researcher in sex steroids and cardiometabolic function. My passion for sex steroids research was born in her lab. Currently, she is my chair in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, where I continue to grow as a physician-scientist. She a true role model in science because she had made multiple seminal discoveries and her research program has been continuously funded by the NIH. She is the kind of person that cares and transform one’s life for better. I have many other mentors that have positively impacted my career. In the clinical practice, my mentors are Dr. Jose Subauste and Dr. Lilian Lien. In research, I have many mentors that have also inspired me like Drs. Barbara Alexander, Joey Granger and Babette Lamarca. I literally have an army of mentors at UMMC.
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing research?
My advice would be:
- Find a mentor that cares about you, your ideas, and your vision. Mentorship is critical for a successful career in science.
- Work hard.
- Find a great team to work with. Teamwork really works. I have an amazing team: Dr. Damian Romero (my husband) and Dr. Edgar Torres Fernandez (my postdoctoral fellow) in the department of Cell and Molecular Biology – their help is of paramount importance in my research. One of my favorite phrases is “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.
What do you like most about UMMC?
UMMC is a great place to grow and succeed as physician-scientist. I am able to see patients in the clinic and do basic research at the same time. It really fosters an environment of collegiality and friendship.
Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.
I love to sing, but I have a horrible voice. I have a karaoke machine that I use to torture my loved ones at home (my two daughters and husband).