Auburn University School of Kinesiology doctoral student Dulce Gomez has been named a trainee for the 2020-2021 Center for Clinical and Translational Science Predoctoral Clinical/Translational Research Program, or CCTS TL1, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The immersive program provides 12 months of protected time for fellows to develop projects focused on reducing health disparities and/or diseases that disproportionately affect the Deep South. In addition, fellows will complete the core curriculum, get experience writing a manuscript, and present their research at a national conference.
“African Americans have a greater risk of developing impaired blood vessel function which increases the risk of developing heart disease,” Gomez said. “Yet, it is still unclear what causes these differences in blood vessel impairment in African Americans at the cellular level.”
Gomez works with Professor Michael Brown in the Hypertension and Vascular Health Lab. Their work focuses on understanding the racial disparities in cardiovascular health by using cell and human models.
“Dulce is a wonderfully positive and focused scientist,” Brown said. “She is an exceptional student with tremendous passion and commitment. Previous to this award, Dulce wrote an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship Award grant that was based on her proposed dissertation research. The objective of her research is trying to unravel the underlying causes for the greater prevalence of vascular dysfunction and hypertension observed in African Americans.”
Her research project as a CCTS TL1 trainee will focus on understanding the specific mechanisms that cause blood vessel cells in African Americans to respond more negatively to inflammation compared to blood vessel cells in Caucasians.
“We are also going to simulate the effects of chronic aerobic exercise to determine if exercise improves how blood vessels in African Americans respond to inflammation,” she said.
Her mentor for the fellowship is Dr. Suzanne Oparil, a professor in UAB’s Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Disease. Oparil is also director of the Vascular Biology and Hypertension Program.