Research Conference Committee

Melissa Palma, MD, MPH
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Committee Mentor

Melissa Palma, MD, MPH (she/her/hers) is an Iowa-raised daughter of Filipino immigrants. She graduated with degrees in biochemistry and medicine from the University of Iowa and began her career dedicated to the health of underserved populations. Her medical school capstone project for the Service and Global Health Distinction Tracks focused on health education programs for rural migrant farmworkers and a needs assessment of refugee social services in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.

 

Dr. Palma is a Preventive Medicine and Family Medicine Resident at Cook County Health in Chicago, IL, one of the oldest and largest safety-net health systems in the US. She graduated with a Masters of Public Health from Northwestern University and serves on the Organization of Resident Representatives for the American Association of Medical Colleges. Dr. Palma also serves as a medical advisor for TayoHelp.com, a culturally tailored resource providing trustworthy COVID-19 information for Filipino Americans, sponsored by the FYLPRO COVID-19 Task Force. Her academic interests include immigrant and refugee health, advocacy for health equity and addressing health disparities, and mentorship of underrepresented students in medicine.

 

Dr. Palma also advocates for the Filipino community as an inaugural member of the Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship anthology, We the Interwoven, for emerging Iowan writers from immigrant backgrounds. Exploring themes of migration, belonging, and home in the Filipino diaspora, her writing has been featured in the Des Moines Art Festival, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Book Festival, and the non-circulating Pilipinx American Library exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Asian Art.

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Maria-Kassandra Coronel (Kas), MD
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Committee Mentor

Dr. Maria-Kassandra Endaya Coronel is from California. She completed her pre-medical undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she was awarded with multiple scholarships and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychobiology. During her time at UCLA, she was a research assistant to the Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, Internal Medicine, and Emergency Medicine, and recognized as a UCLA Vice Provost Research Ambassador. She also worked with UCLA’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Rapid Response Team and Grants Submission Unit on research grants approved for up to $25 million. She later completed her medical studies as an International Medical Graduate at the University of Santo Tomas, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, where she graduated with Benemeritus and Best Thesis of her batch.

 

Her clinical experience spans both public and private institutions, including UCLA in Los Angeles, California, Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, and Makati Medical Center in the Makati, Philippines. In medical school, Dr. Coronel’s research has been presented in the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Nepal, Canada and the United States. Upon graduating, her research was presented at International Digestive Endoscopy Network in Seoul, Korea, the European Academy of Neurology in Vienna, Austria, the American Academy of Neurology and the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine in the United States – amongst other high impact international conferences. Most recently, she has been invited as an Alumni Panelist for the Department of Clinical Epidemiology in the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery Sesquicentennial Celebration, a Panelist and Judge for the Asian Medical Students Association (AMSA) – Philippines National Research Week, and a Panelist for the HungryIMG Virtual Summit.

 

Dr. Coronel is currently one of the few Filipinas accepted to the Harvard Medical School’s Global Clinical Scholars Research Training program, for which she has been awarded a merit scholarship to pursue her transcontinental research-intensive training. Outside of research, Dr. Coronel serves as a mentor to UCLA’s Alumni Mentorship Program and the Council of Young Filipinx Americans in Medicine (CYFAM)’s Research Committee. She is also a scholarship reviewer for the UCLA Pilipino Association, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, a US Boxing Physician, and the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the Coronel-Endaya Foundation – for which she has been featured on news outlets and bestowed the prestigious President's Volunteer Service Award by United States President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for her commitment to strengthen communities.

Mericien Venzon, MD/PhD Trainee 
(She/Her/Hers)
Head of Research Committee 

Mericien is currently a 6th year MD-PhD/Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) student at New York University School of Medicine. She is wrapping up her PhD in immunology under the NIH Pre-doctoral Training Fellowship studying the interrelationships between the gut microbiome, host immune system, and intestinal parasites to identify new targets for treatment of human parasitic worm infections. A Bay Area native and UCLA alum, she loves animal fries, the beach, and looks forward to returning to California to pursue residency and fellowship training in infectious disease. Mericien was excited to be part of the founding student committee for CYFAM and is passionate about increasing awareness and participation of Filipinx in biomedical research through the annual conference symposium, seminars, and mentorship of undergrads to help them get started in research.

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Angela C. Arata
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Committee Member

Angela Arata is a Napa/Sonoma County native and second year medical student at the University of Florida College of Medicine. She serves as co-chair of CYFAM’s Research Committee and Southern Region. Angela is a former volunteer of the Mabuhay Health Center, a student-run free clinic in San Francisco, which is where she first got involved with CYFAM. As a non-traditional and first-generation college student, Angela is interested in mentorship and increasing diversity in medicine, which she hopes to bolster through work with CYFAM. Outside of school, Angela loves reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Sheena Faye Garcia
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Committee Member

Sheena Faye Garcia is a proud Filipino-Canadian biochemist and a fourth year PhD candidate in Biophysics and Molecular Oncology at NYU. Sheena graduated from the University of Toronto in 2018, double majoring in Biochemistry and Human Biology. In the Pagano lab at NYU, her PhD thesis utilizes structural biology, biochemical, and biophysical techniques to elucidate the mechanism of a protein complex implicated in non-small cell lung cancer with the hopes of helping develop a novel chemotherapeutic to ameliorate metastasis formation. Within CYFAM, Sheena aims to use her position in the Research Committee to help connect fellow pre-meds and medical students to seasoned researchers to help them gain both hands-on experience and hopefully a valuable mentor for life!

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Stephanie Mae Mauricio
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Committee Member

Jacob Less
(He/Him/His)
Research Committee Member

Jacob Less is a Bay Area-raised pre-health student currently in the process of applying to medical schools. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2018, where he also worked in higher education for a Filipino-focused retention project and volunteered at a free mobile clinic for medically underserved groups. After graduating, he returned to the Bay Area and received a Pre-Health Professions Certificate from the San Francisco State University (SFSU) Post-Baccalaureate Program in June 2021. Jacob currently works at Stanford University School of Medicine as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Division of Primary Care and Population Health and Quality Improvement Coordinator in the Adult Endocrine Clinic in the Division of Endocrinology, Gerontology, and Metabolism (as affiliated with the Type 1 Diabetes Exchange). In his time affiliated with Stanford, he was a medical scribe, later a chief medical scribe of specialty clinics, and now a chief emeritus with Stanford’s Medical Scribe Fellowship (COMET). Jacob has high hopes to continue supporting marginalized communities along his educational and professional journey. With CYFAM, he hopes to uplift the Filipino community through improving population health outcomes and advancing academic achievement in research with the Filipino American medical community. For fun, he enjoys playing mahjong with family, kicking the soccer ball with friends, and drinking lots of coffee.

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Hilary Tang
(She/Her/Hers)
Research Committee Member