SJBSM-RC Grantsmanship Independent Research Development (GIRD) Program

A significant component of the SJBSM- Research Center’s activities to increase faculty scholarly productivity is offering a Grantsmanship for Independent Research Development (GIRD) Program to talented SJBSM faculty, early-stage investigators, and new investigators. The GIRD program includes individual coaching in scientific writing, a series of conferences entitled Integration to Advance Translation”; and individual advising in research career and grantsmanship development.

Each participating faculty has at least an external mentor or collaborator in their area of expertise to facilitate the development and submission of manuscripts and mentored competitive grants. The program also has the participation of outstanding senior mentors and advisors who will support our efforts in coaching these talented faculty to become independent researchers.

For 2022-2023, a total of eight investigators are participating in the SJBSM-RC GIRD Program to increase peer-review publications and collaborations and develop biomedical and clinical competitive research. The investigators are listed below in the order they joined the GIRD program:

Researcher Research Interests Collaborating Institutions
Yaritza Inostroza, Ph.D. Signaling in inflammation pathways; cardiovascular diseases - UPR-Medical Sciences Campus (MSC)
- Brigham and Women's Hospital
- Harvard Medical School
- Loma Linda University
Maricarmen Colón, Ph.D. Epigenetic mechanisms in reproductive systems - Ponce Health Sciences University
- University of Arizona
Yamixa Delgado, Ph.D. Development of small molecule drugs and protein nanoparticles for drug delivery - UPR-Rio Piedras, MSC, Humacao
- Universidad Central del Caribe
- Ana G. Méndez University
Linda Laras, MD, MPH, MSc, FACOG, PAG Sexual violence screening, forensic medical exams, and health interventions, trauma indicators, best practices. -UPR-MSC
-Ponce Health Sciences University
Ramón Scharbaai, Ph.D. Molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial multi-drug resistance - UPR-MSC
Sandra Chinapen,
Cytotoxicity and transfection in vitro studies of drug-delivering vehicles - UPR-Humacao
Linda Perez, DrPH, MSc, MS, MPA Child Sexual Abuse, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Sexual Violence, Stress related health outcome, Trauma indicators and Cardiovascular Risk Factors -UPR-MSC
-Ponce Health Sciences University
Martha Garcia, M.D., MS Lifestyle and Culinary Medicine, Arts and Humanities -Universidad Central del Caribe,
-Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia

Dr. Yaritza Inostroza-Nieves

Received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao, PR, in 2007 and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Science Campus in 2013. Dr. Inostroza-Nieves is currently Dean of Biomedical Sciences in a research track tenured position. In 2016, she completed a postdoc at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard School of Medicine as a Research Fellow in Medicine. She worked in molecular immunology, looking at the immune system's biochemical processes and signaling mechanisms. She has recently become interested in the deleterious effects of inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases and potential therapeutics for these diseases.

Dr. Maricarmen Colón-Díaz

Received a B.S. in General Sciences from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in 2006 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2012 from the Ponce School of Medicine, followed by postdoctoral studies in microbiology at the Universidad Central del Caribe. Dr. Colon-Diaz is currently the Physiology/Pathology Department Chair in a research track tenure position. She is working in collaborative research with Ponce Health Sciences University and the University of Arizona on the link between environmental factors and epigenetic reprogramming in endometriosis.

Dr. Yamixa Delgado

Obtained a BSc in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR)-Humacao in 2008 and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Biotechnology from the UPR-Rio Piedras Campus and Medical Sciences Campus in 2015, followed by a two years postdoctoral experience at the UPR system. Dr. Delgado is Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology and has vast research experience in projects focused on molecular modeling and protein dynamics, nanoparticle design, glycosylation of proteins, lipid-protein formulations, and drug delivery systems for cancer therapy. She is also actively involved in collaborative research with different investigators in P.R. (UCC, UPR System, and University Ana G Méndez) and USA (Stanford University) to advance research and reduce health disparities.

Dr. Linda Laras

Stands as a recognized leader in addressing violence against women, boasting an extensive background spanning over 30 years, marked by a multitude of accolades and recognitions. Her dedication to supporting victims of sexual assault has garnered acclaim from various esteemed entities such as the FBI, the US Department of Justice, the Municipality of Caguas, the Governor of Puerto Rico, the PR House of Representatives and Senate, and the PR Women Advocate Office. Notably, Dr. Laras has been instrumental in her outreach and advocacy efforts, being honored for her exceptional contributions to the community. Her commitment is further underscored by securing grants exceeding 1 million from diverse foundations, the US Department of Justice, and the Puerto Rico government, aimed at assisting and servicing victims of sexual assault, solidifying her reputation as a pivotal figure in this critical area.

Dr. Laras, an accomplished board-certified OB-GYN with an emphasis on Maternal Child Health through a Master's in Public Health and a postdoctoral Master of Science in Clinical Research from the UPR Medical Sciences Campus, has also completed a fellowship in Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology at Boston Children's Hospital. Since joining SJBSM in 2016 as an Assistant Professor, she has taken on the role of Director at the SJBSM Puerto Rico Health Justice Center (PRHJC). Her role encompasses many responsibilities, including direct patient care, educational initiatives, research contributions, and impact on public policies. At the helm of a diverse and interdisciplinary team, she guides a collaborative effort comprising professionals from various fields, all focused on addressing and mitigating the impact of violence against women. Her leadership and expertise play a crucial role in translational research conducted at the PRHJC, aimed at identifying critical gaps, creating impactful interventions, and facilitating the progression from initial disclosure to the pursuit of justice. Dr. Laras not only serves as an active research mentor but also ensures that the PRHJC continues to be a beacon of hope and support for victims of sexual assault, providing essential services through grant funding and comprehensive care.

Dr. Ramon Sharbaai

Obtained a MS and Ph.D. in Microbiology with 2 years of Post Doc work at the University of Puerto Rico– Medical Sciences Campus (UPR-MSC). Dr. Scharbaai worked as Adjunct Professor, PhD thesis co-advisor and Research Associate in bacterial genetics and mechanisms of mobilization of antimicrobial resistance genes at the Department of Microbiology, Medical Sciences Campus, UPR. In 2006, Dr. Scharbaai joined SJBSM as an Associate Professor of the Department of Microbiology. He is working in the field of epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and other clinically relevant bacteria. At present, he has a laboratory in SJBSM studying the potential of mobile phones as vectors of pathogenic bacteria and its role as reservoir of resistant bacteria. More recently, he become interested on how the gut microbiome influences the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, in particular sarcoidosis.

Dr. Sandra Chinapen

Is an Assistant Professor in the Microbiology Dept and has a Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience. She is a mentor for medical students engaged in research projects addressing the community's needs. In 2018, she joined a research project involving toxicology tests on nanoparticles designed to improve the delivery of drugs to ovarian cancer cells in vivo (NIH-funded SC3 grant: Novel Gold nanocarriers conjugates for microRNA delivery in ovarian cancer).

Dr. Linda Pérez-Laras

Research faculty member at the School of Medicine, has acquired multiple degrees, including a BSc in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez in 2008, an MPA in Forensic Science from Ana G Mendez- Turabo in 2010, an MS in Epidemiology from the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Science Campus in 2015, a DrPH in Epidemiology from Ponce Health Science University in 2020, and a post-doctorate MSc in Clinical and Translational Research from the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Science Campus in 2022. Since 2017, she has held crucial roles at SJBSM, progressing from Activities Coordinator to Activities Director and Graduate Resource Center Director in 2019. Presently, alongside her faculty position in the Physician Assistant Program, Dr. Pérez-Laras serves as a Research Coordinator and Co-Principal Investigator at the PR Health Justice Research Division. Her leadership extends to the All of Us Research Program - COSSMA as the Principal Investigator, reflecting her commitment to impactful research in critical domains like women’s health, gender violence, and child sexual abuse.

Dr. Martha Garcia

Completed a medical degree from Universidad Pontificia Bolivarian and a master's degree in biomedical sciences. She is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Biomedical Sciences, Specialist in Virtual Education, Instructional Design, and Technology. Dr. Garcia is an active mentor of medical students and has several areas of research interests in the health humanities, personalized medicine, and lifestyle medicine. She is currently studying the use of a novel interprofessional integrated Health Humanities curricular design and learning analytics to measure the acquisition of competencies in diversity and inclusion.