Former Trainee and Researcher Nancy Cardona Begins Job at Puerto Rico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center

Sep 5, 2023 | Community Engagement Core, PROTECT Team, PROTECT Trainees, Training Core

In August, Dr. Nancy Cardona accepted a position at Puerto Rico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center as an Assistant Investigator. She will lead Environmental Health Research in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.

Nancy started her work with PROTECT in August 2015 as a trainee with the Community Engagement Core at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus. As a trainee, Nancy participated in report back meetings, conducted post-hurricane surveys and data analysis, presented research findings at major scientific meetings and conferences, and was awarded the KC Donnelly Externship and the ECHO Diversity Supplement. After she completed her DrPH at UPR, Nancy continued her work with PROTECT as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a Training Core (RETCC) collaborator, getting the chance to mentor her own students at UPR Aguadilla. In addition to mentoring her own students and continuing her research, Nancy played an instrumental role in organizing major trainee events, like this year’s inaugural trainee trip to Puerto Rico, and in connecting with students across PROTECT’s multiple institutions.

Nancy presenting her postdoc research at the 2022 SRP meeting.

Puerto Rico’s Comprehensive Cancer Center was established in August 2004 with the goal of addressing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in Puerto Ricans. The center aims to provide the best care possible to patients through a model that integrates research with treatment. The organization conducts cancer research, provides advanced clinical programs for patients, offers training for scientists and health professionals, and performs community outreach and education.

The Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences that Nancy joined is integrating an emphasis on the role of environmental health topics in current and future cancer research studies as part of their commitment to the reduction of cancer in Puerto Rico. As an Environmental Health Research Lead, Nancy will design cancer studies that bring in topics like climate change, air quality, and water pollution. “I’m aiming to integrate my expertise in environmental health research and exposure science to develop mixed methods approaches to cancer research that consider the health disparities among our Puerto Rican population,” she said. Using this kind of research approach is a skill Nancy developed and practiced during her time as a trainee. “As I develop new projects, I’ll be using a transdisciplinary approach to prompt environmental-cancer research, which is an approach used in PROTECT to advance environmental maternal health research,” she said. Nancy is also taking skills she developed as a PROTECT mentor and RETCC collaborator to mentor new students at the center who are interested in environmental research topics.

This new role is exciting for Nancy on both a personal and professional level. “Since growing up, cancer research has been a topic that is close to my family, so being able to bring my environmental health training and public health leadership into cancer research allows me to be part of the discussion towards reducing potential environmental risk factors,” Nancy said. She also looks forward to being on a team led by Latina and Puerto Rican researcher Dr. Ana Patricia Ortiz, who is a renowned cancer epidemiologist and research mentor.

Congratulations, Nancy! We can’t wait to see what great work you do with this new role.