Do young people still believe they can change the world? You bet they do.
It was while I was in college that I discovered the potential of stem cells, and decided to dedicate my career to the patients who could be treated and cured through scientific research. Years later, I am on the front lines of the fight for cures — but I wouldn’t be here without the help of dedicated students, interns, and young people who support our fight along the way.
This month, we bring you the stories of those already raising their voices for stem cell research, as well as suggest ways to get involved. As always, we thank you for your continued support of Americans for Cures, stem cell research, and patients across California.
Executive Director, Americans for Cures
Patient Advocate of the Month: Salena Gallardo
Salena Gallardo knew at the age of 7 that she wanted to be a doctor when she was older. Now, as a current undergraduate student-athlete at California State University, San Marcos, Salena holds the same interest and drive to help others and discover cures to help others in their suffering.
“One of the challenges that we face is bridging the gap between scientists, clinicians, and most importantly the community.”
Salena has seized many opportunities that have come her way; she spreads awareness about stem cell research in any way she can think of—in conversations with people in coffee shops, or in talks given at events. In addition to being an Americans for Cures Patient Ambassador, she is a CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research intern in the Goldstein Lab at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.
“I’m supporting stem cell research because we’re morally obligated to stick up for individuals battling disease.”
The field of biomedicine is progressing and evolving quickly, and the change it can make for individual’s lives is imminent—that is what has drawn Salena into being involved. She encourages more people, especially students and young people like herself to get involved, and to proactively seek out these outlets and networks of others pursuing stem cell research, through connections to clinical trials, in volunteer work, through local chapters of advocacy organizations (such as The Student Society for Stem Cell Research), and through colleges and universities.
California’s Future Stem Cell Scientists
CIRM offers multiple opportunities for students to become engaged in and learn more about stem cell research alongside their education.
“I now walk these hallways, with a puffed chest, brightened smile, and eagerness to learn. My stem cells did not die, and having the amazing opportunity to master their treatment and procedures is something I can never forget.” – Amira Hirara, SPARK Student
CIRM’s Bridges program offers college students scholarships and paid internships for intensive educational training in top universities and industry labs and with stem cell trials. Bridges students are able to connect with and work alongside teams and scientists involved with the most current happenings in stem cell research and trials. Bridges internships are based at a home institution, and can last from six months to a year. Bridges holds an annual conference, where students are able to present the work they have been involved with as well as attend presentations by leading academic and industry scientists. Bridges offers students the training, knowledge, and experience that can land them jobs in the stem cell research field, and they are also able to be mentors for the CIRM SPARK program.
SPARK (Summer Program to Accelerate Regenerative Medicine Knowledge) is a high school summer internship program that provides students in California the educational opportunities to train with stem cell scientists. Internships occur at one of the seven SPARK programs at leading research institutes throughout the state, including the Children’s Hospital at Oakland, Stanford, UC Davis, UC San Francisco, Caltech, Cedars-Sinai, and City of Hope. SPARK students attend scientific lectures, receive lab training, and conduct an eight-week stem cell research project alongside a mentor, and the program culminates in the annual SPARK poster meeting, where all of the SPARK students present their projects.
“I would not have had the opportunity to grow as an intern and learn from experts in various disciplines if it were not for the CIRM Bridges Program.” – Jasmine Carter, Bridges Scholar
A Student’s Guide to Stem Cell Research
Reading articles about clinical trials can be challenging for individuals who are not well-versed in the scientific field. They are full of unfamiliar terminology and chemical names that seem out of place in the English language. While getting lost in these details can be frustrating, it is important to not give up in trying to understand them.
We surveyed students and interns working towards a career in stem cell research for their top tips to diving into scientific articles and research:
Don’t stress over the small details. Recognizing every chemical and understanding each statistic is not necessary to comprehend the main points of the article. Focusing on the discussion section can also help put these small details in perspective.
Make a list of all the acronyms and what they mean. This simple list will save you the hassle of going back and searching the article each time you forget what something like ALSFRS-R (ALS Functional Rating Scale) actually means.
Just keep going. Whether you read the entire article or just the abstract, you are more knowledgeable in the field because of it. There are countless number of articles waiting to be explored, analyzed, and understood.
Articles of the Month
- “Lab-made ‘mini organs’ helping doctors treat cystic fibrosis,” STAT
- “An eye towards islets,” EurekAlert
- “Fighting Sickle Cell Disease is a Family Affair,” Americans for Cures