In Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

By Corrinne Fahl

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to highlight two of our stellar Hispanic faculty in the Perelman School of Medicine. Hispanic Heritage month was passed by Congress on September 17, 1968. Public Law 90-48 calls upon the “people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Currently, PSOM has 3.13% full time faculty who self-identify as Hispanic or Latinx, and the incoming 2020 medical school class was 10.9% Hispanic/Latinx.

Dr Diaz ArrastiaDr. Diaz-Arrastia is Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he leads the TBI Clinical Research Initiative.  His research interests are focused on understanding the molecular, cellular, and tissue level mechanisms of neuronal injury and neuroregeneration, with the goal of developing neuroprotective and neuroregenerative therapies. 

Dr. Diaz-Arrastia received his MD and PhD degrees from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed post-graduate training at Harvard and Columbia.  Prior to coming to Penn, he served on the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).     

Dr. Diaz-Arrastia has published over 200 primary research papers, as well as over 40 invited reviews and book chapters.  He has also served in several national committees related to traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, and dementia, convened by the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and the Veterans Administration.  He was a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Public Health Dimensions of the Epilepsies.

He is the Scientific PI for the Brain Oxygen Optimization in Severe TBI (BOOST) Phase 3 trial, recently funded by NINDS as one of the first clinical trials conducted by SIREN (Strategies to Innovate Emergency Clinical Trials Network).  He was the site PI for the BOOST Phase 2 trial, and thus he has experience in designing and implementing Phase 2 trials that lead to definitive Phase 3 studies. He is also currently co-PI of TRACK-TBI (Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury), a multi-institutional observational study designed to develop precision medicine tools, including neuroimaging and biomarkers, to improve the design of the next generation of clinical trials in brain injury. He additionally has extensive experience mentoring junior investigators, and over the past 10 years have been primary mentor for four K23 awardees, who have gone on to successful academic careers. In less than four years, Diaz-Arrastia’s team has received 11 federal grants

Christina Roberto

Christina Roberto, PhD, Mitchell J. Blutt and Margo Krody Blutt Presidential Associate Professor of Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine and Director of the Psychology of Eating and Consumer Health Lab. Her research aims to identify and understand factors that promote unhealthy eating behaviors linked to obesity and eating disorders, and design interventions to promote healthy eating. In her work, she draws upon the fields of psychology, marketing, behavioral economics, epidemiology, and public health to answer research questions that can provide policymakers and institutions with  evidence-based guidance. “We strive to create a more fair and just food system that will help people live long, healthy lives and will protect the health of the planet,” she said. “The Presidential Professorship has provided resources we would not otherwise have, and has enabled us to take on more time-sensitive projects that traditional funding mechanisms do not support.”

A core mission of Penn is to educate young minds. “I believe having a diverse range of teachers and mentors increases the chances that students from diverse backgrounds feel they belong and can succeed. I also think scientists with diverse backgrounds and life experiences will tackle problems from different perspectives, and that is important for scientific advancement. Encouraging a diverse group of scientists to work on a problem may also prompt scientific questions that would not otherwise be explored.”