Meet the Trainees

Our CaRE2 Post-bac Trainees

2022-2023

Walker, Jai

University of Florida

Jai Walker is a second-generation graduate from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL. Jai has a degree in Biology and a minor in Criminal Justice. Her passion is to study forensics with a focus in genetics and DNA. She plans to further her education by obtaining a Master in Molecular Science. Her aspirations include working as a DNA expert in criminal procedures and continuing research in molecular biology. In her leisure time she enjoys reading, traveling, cooking and spending time with family.

Velasquez, Johnny

University of Florida

Johnny Velasquez is a first-generation graduate of the University of Florida. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Biology, where he complemented his education with computer science and mathematic courses. Johnny plans to further his education by obtaining a graduate certificate in Public Health and aspires to become an oncologist. His research interest include mathematical modeling of tumors and the efficacy of different cancer treatments. On his free time, Johnny enjoys spending time with family, reading manga, and watching anime.
Isaacs, Tamia

University of Florida

Tamia Isaacs is a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University where she received her B.S. in Biology with Magna Cum Laude Honors on a pre-medicine track. Along with the aspiration of making a clinical difference in the mental health field. Tamia plans to become a neurologist or neurosurgeon, to one day aide in the discovery of curing Alzheimer’s Disease. She enjoys parked car sunsets with her Maltese (Aliyah) and dancing in her free time.
Romero, Diana

University of Flroida

Diana Romero is a recent first-generation graduate from Western Carolina University where she studied biology with a concentration in cell and molecular biology. Undergraduate work in protein biochemistry research and a family history in breast cancer has inspired her to pursue a career in cancer research. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and biking in her hometown in North Carolina.
Leon, Christopher

University of Southern California

Christopher Leon is a first-generation graduate from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. He recently graduated as a Pre-Med with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Chris wants to join medicine to serve underrepresented and immigrant communities by breaking language barriers and inspiring future minority groups to pursue higher education. He is also interested in research that involves learning about the pathologies of different diseases and how methods are incorporated to tackle these diseases. His hobbies include calisthenics, martial arts, watching anime, cooking, hanging out with friends, and trying out new places to eat.
Brown, Alanna

University of Southern California

Alanna Brown graduated from Spelman College in 2021 with a bachelors in Health Sciences. She is a CaRE2 Postbacc fellow working with Dr. Ite Offringa on the prevalence of lung cancer in minority communities. Her research interests include disease pathology and health disparities. In her spare time, she enjoys exercising, being outdoors and spending time with friends and family.

2021-2022

Telisnor, Guettchina

University of Florida

Guettchina Telisnor is a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she received her degree in Health Science (Pre-Clinical track). She will be working with Dr Sherise Rogers on the Impact of COVID-19 on Pancreatic Cancer Outcomes in Florida.  Her hobbies include watching debates online, studying theology, and playing instruments.

Belony, Nadine

University of Florida

Nadine Belony is a first-generation college graduate with magna cum laude honors from Fort Lauderdale, FL. She recently earned her Bachelors in Biology with a concentration in Pre-medicine from Florida A&M University. She will be carrying out postbaccalaureate research at UF the coming year. She will be researching 3D bio-printing with Dr. Yong Huang. Her research interests include health equity, pain assessment, neurological disorders, and oncology.  With the aspiration to pursue medicine, her goal is to serve in underrepresented communities by helping to break linguistic and cultural barriers within the health care system. During her free time, she enjoys painting and listening to music. A fun fact about Nadine, she loves water sports although she cannot swim.

Gregory, Matthew

Florida A&M University

Matthew Gregory is a recent college graduate of Concordia University Texas with cum laude honors. He received his bachelor’s in biology along with a minor in Chemistry. As a CaRE2 post-baccalaureate trainee, he will be working in Dr. Lamangos’ lab in the College of Pharmacy at Florida A&M University. With a desire to enter the medical field, Matthew hopes to positively impact the lives of his future patients and humbly serve his community. During his free time, he enjoys working out, playing basketball, fishing, hiking, and spending time with his family and friends.

Hightower, Alex

University of Southern California

Alex Hightower, San Diego native and Spring 2021 magna cum laude graduate of Florida A&M University, where she earned her BS in Biology Pre-Medicine. She will be working as a post baccalaureate trainee at the University of Southern California, focusing on the role of epigenetics in prostate cancer of African ancestry. Her overarching goal is to work towards improving racial disparities in health care and she strives to positively impact her spheres of influence. Her pastimes include hiking, trying new foods, fashion archiving, and taking naps at the beach.

Puente, Pablo Eduardo

University of Southern California

Pablo Eduardo Puente is a first-generation pre-medicine graduate with a BS in Biological Sciences and a BA in Natural & Applied Sciences from Miami, FL. He graduated through the FIU Honors College and QBIC Program with Magna Cum Laude honors and was selected to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He recently crafted an undergraduate thesis that explained behavior in Exaiptasia pallida anemones with the support of the IMaGeS Laboratory and ARCH program. As a CaRE2 post-baccalaureate trainee, he will be working on lung organoids in the Offringa lab at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. As a first-generation Latino immigrant pursuing medicine, he is determined to reduce cancer disparities among minorities within the health care system. Fun facts about Pablo are that he plays 5 instruments and loves Real Madrid C.F.

2020-2021

Okwo, Chukwuemelie

University of Southern California

Emelie was a Summer-CaRE2 student, and this year she is carrying out Posbac research with Dr. Setiawan at USC. Expanding her knowledge and understanding of cancer disparities through the postbaccalaureate program has been extremely fulfilling so far. This opportunity is valuable to her because she has been able to study, research, and analyze data concerning differences in incidence of pancreatic cancer (PanC) amongst racial groups. She is examining the associations between acinar and ductal genes with the risk of PanC in two groups, the Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC) and the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS). Acinar ductal metaplasia, which is the process where pancreatic acinar cells develop into duct-like cells, is considered to be the key phase in the origin of precursor lesions for PanC. In studying this pathway, she was able to compile a list of genes to further analyze and test our hypothesis: there is a link between the genes and higher incidence in minority groups. Working on a research topic that directly affects her community has also aided in the personal value of this opportunity. She has been able to combine her past knowledge of the associations between cancer and minority populations with new hands-on scientific evidence and research, which all contribute to her improved understanding.

Lattimore, Chayil

University of Florida

Chayil is working with Dr Fredenburg, a CaRE2 ESI, and CaRE2 project PI.

At present, the research interest of the lab is investigating the biological contributors to racial disparities in laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma (LSCC) outcomes. Prior research has shown that the deregulation and differential expression of microRNAs (miRNA) in tumors may lead to differences in cancer aggressiveness, and that blacks unfortunately tend to carry an unequal portion of the LSCC burden. Therefore, Chayil’s project involves a study of the differential expression of miR-9-5p in vitro LSCC cell lines derived from black patients and white patients. CaRE2 has shown Chayil that not only does she have a passion for research, but she is particularly interested in the manner in which this research is translated to minority communities. The postbac experience has also taught me many technical skills involved with conducting research on a graduate level, as well as how to take more of an independent approach to conducting research. and she has just been accepted to the Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of Florida

Reed, Tyra

University of Florida

Tyra worked with and was mentored by Dr. Diana Wilkie to gain clinical research experience. Under Dr. Wilkie, Tyra participated in dignity therapy and pain assessment research. She had some laboratory experience during her undergraduate years, but CaRE2 was her first involvement with patients. With contact occurring both in person and over the phone, Tyra learned proper protocols and how to effectively communicate to maintain the integrity of the study and appeal to potential participants. Tyra also gained experience in manuscript presentation with the dignity therapy study. Additionally, the CaRE2 program exposed her to a health equity curriculum that, with the combination of research, provided insight into health disparities faced in and outside her community. Her confidence to perform further research and begin her career in medicine has increased tremendously from her participation in the CaRe2 program. She is also completing the Interdisciplinary Health Equity Certificate, a new certificate at UF developed by Dr. Folake Odedina. Tyra’s goal is to be an MD/PhD in Hematology/Oncology.

2019-2020

Butler, Chante

University of Southern California

Chante’ worked with Dr. Emamaullee during her postbac, which revealed her passion for health disparities research. In Dr. Emamaullee’s lab she worked on several projects dealing with post-liver transplant rejection and disparities in access to transplantation. Exposure to these projects has motivated her to advocate for patients through research as well as in a hospital setting. As someone who had limited research experience prior to CaRE2, she greatly benefited from being a part of this program. Initially, she was drawn to CaRE2 because it would mold her into an independent researcher and expand upon her research experience in a unique way. As she journeyed through the program, she discovered that it would do so much more. Conducting health disparity research opened her eyes to inequalities in the healthcare system. Additionally, focusing on this area of research gave her a sense of purpose because she believed that her findings could be readily utilized to improve the lives of others. Moreover, CaRE 2 also sharpened skills that were critical for her to become a physician. For instance, she improved in problem solving, critical thinking, and trusting her abilities. All in all, the CaRE2 program was a rewarding experience that gave her the knowledge and confidence to move forward in her career goals. Chante had 3 abstracts accepted and 1 manuscript published with another submitted. She is awaiting medical school application results and currently works as a research lab technician at USC.

Joseph, Samantha

University of Southern California

Samantha is a FAMU graduate who did her postbac research at USC in the laboratory of Dr. Crystal Marconett on the role of long non-coding RNAs in lung cancer.  Besides learning a lot about lung cancer research, she also enjoyed getting to know USC and Los Angeles. About the postbac period, Samantha says “The CARE2 program was an experience of a lifetime. I gained useful laboratory skills, research presentation skills, MCAT training opportunity, shadowing experience, improved my critical thinking ability, and had wonderful mentors and helpful peers.” 

Samantha is currently awaiting the results of medical school applications and is working in a technical role in a biomedical testing lab in Florida.

Gosling, Alyssa

University of Florida

To Alyssa, acquiring scientific knowledge, exploring the different avenues of scientific research, and becoming aware of health disparities has solidified her purpose and calling in this world. It is her scope to develop novel cancer treatment options for osteosarcoma and provide clinical care to help protect the lives of loved ones and legacies of families who may be affected by chronic illness and disease.  It is also her prospect to address cancer disparities in minority and underserved communities to improve healthcare outcomes. Her research Interests are Cancer-Biology, Cancer Health Disparities, Cancer immunology. She is currently preparing medical school applications.

Maduka, Michael

University of Florida

Michael received his BS in Biology at FAMU, graduated Dec 2018. He began the post-bac program at UF in February, 2019. He is working with Dr. Jose Trevino as research mentor and Drs. Trevino and Debra Lyon for career mentorship

He had 2 abstracts accepted and 1 manuscript published and is enrolled in a Masters of Biomedical Science program at the University of South Florida.

Gordon, Destiny

University of Florida

Destiny worked with Dr. Diana Wilkie on attrition rates in palliative care, and co-authored one manuscript. She is currently preparing medical school applications.

Jacobs, Kayanna

University of Florida

Kayanna is a native from the island of Jamaica, and has witnessed the significant importance of proper healthcare and how a lack of it can lead to poor health outcomes. This has impacted her personally because her relatives are affected by prostate cancer. Her research experience has also enabled her to recognize the correlation in the African-American community. African-Americans do not approach medical research with a warm welcome compared to their white counterparts. Prostate cancer has a major impact not just on black men in the Caribbean but is inclusive of those around the globe in staggering numbers. This has been a motivating factor in developing her passion to do medical research in this area to discover advanced treatment in these populations. Her research interests are in investigating vulnerable populations that are significantly underrepresented and have tremendous health disparities in their communities. Kayanna joined a Masters of Business Administration program at Florida State University

Menefee, James

University of Florida

James worked as a postbac with Dr. Fredenburg. He is currently preparing his medical school applications.