When did you first become interested in science?
I remember being a kid counting cars driving through my neighborhood and grouping them based on colors and makes…those were my first statistical, observational attempts! The turning point happened at the age of 15 when, helping a friend that had started pre-med to prepare for a test, I loved the subjects and decided that I wanted to be a clinician scientist.
Why did you pick The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and your program?
San Antonio had (and still has) a great mix of best brains in the field of diabetes research and sadly, one of highest incidence of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, because of the Mexican American heritage. I thought I could have the best completion of my education and biggest impact there.
Tell me more about your career path.
I am a native of Sardinia, Italy, where I graduated from medical school and did most of my residency. I soon realized that it was very difficult to do clinical research there, decided to take advantage of a residency exchange program with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. After completing my training in San Antonio, I joined the faculty at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the Ob-Gyn/Reproductive Biology Department, where I could combine my passion for women’s health and studying metabolism, a virtually untapped area in research. After a couple of years, I was offered to join the pharmaceutical Industry- I accepted because it gives me the opportunity to work in science and bring new therapies to patients in need around the world.
Tell me about your current career, what do you do?
I am the Global Vice President and Head of Medical Diabetes at Sanofi, a global healthcare company. I live in the greater New York area, but travel a lot to Paris, where Sanofi has its headquarters.
What is a day like in your job?
No day is quite the same, and that’s why I love my job. I get to design clinical trials, to generate data out of large databases using artificial intelligence, meet with experts in the field, as well as medical societies, patients’ advocacy groups, health authorities and journalists. Every day, I feel I contribute to a positive change in the future of healthcare.
How did the education you get at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio prepare you?
The Masters in Science of Clinical Investigation gave me a great foundational knowledge in biostatistics, trial design, bioethics and grantsmanship. The Fellowship with Dr. Ralph DeFronzo allowed me to put all these notions into practice with the best guidance. Dr. Defronzo’s mentorship provided me with a pedigree that has been recognized worldwide- I remember fondly journal clubs with him, Dr. Steve Haffner, Dr. Michael Stern, where other fellows and I would soak in all the critical appraisal of data and the amazing debates around science.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
The travel schedule gets intense at times, and days simply do not have enough hours. It takes extreme discipline to not get distracted by the hundreds of emails, committees and paperwork and tostay focused on what I want to achieve. My husband is also a physician with a challenging schedule, so we literally have mini-planning meetings where we look at the respective calendars and make it work!
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
I am excited to see how evidence-based medicine and the data revolution can impact patient care. I am also very fortunate to lead a very diverse group of very motivated clinicians and scientists: I love to see them thriving in their accomplishments.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Standing in front of a panel of experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and getting a positive vote for a novel therapy to help patients manage their diabetes.
What would you tell a current student interested in your career? Any advice?
In general, it is never too early to think about your ultimate purpose in this world and the legacy you want to leave. Once that part is clear, pick something that makes you passionate, be bold in observing the field and the gaps that exist, and venture into an uncharted territory.
A strong academic foundation and network, as well as generosity with your ideas, is what will make you stand out from the crowd and help you achieve the career that you want.
What do you like to do outside of work?
My husband and I are proud parents of four boys. Our most cherished hobby is to follow them in their academic achievements, their sports, and to watch them learning and making their ways in life.
Growing up, what did you want to be?
An archeologist and world explorer.
Who has influenced you the most in life?
My Mom- she was a teacher when I was born and kept studying to finish her Ph.D. to become a psychotherapist. She taught me work ethics, perseverance and appreciation for diversity of backgrounds and opinions as the key to make an impact in society.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what one band or musician would help keep your sanity?
The Rolling Stones would keep me good company.
What do you consider your favorite hobby?
My husband and I are proud parents of four boys. Following them in their academic achievements, sports, re-learning the world through their lenses and watching them making their ways in life is our most cherished hobby.
What is your favorite quote?
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” by Abraham Lincoln
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
The Dalai Lama
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
I would join forces with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and foster education for girls worldwide, particularly in STEM.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
The ruins of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands are in my bucket list. It fascinates me to learn the secrets of a lost civilization and what inspired Charles Darwin and his theory of the evolution of the species.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Thin and crispy Margherita pizza
Which authors or books have influenced you the most?
The Art of War by Sun Tzu and the South-American authors: Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende and Paolo Cohelo are my favorites
Tell us something about yourself that otherwise we wouldn’t know or guess.
I feel strongly about gender equality, with respect to education, reproductive choices and role of women in society and take that as my social mission.