Carolina Galeano-Naranjo, MS, is a PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in the lab of Tianyan Gao, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry.

In recognition of September as Women in Medicine Month, and with Hispanic Heritage Month beginning Sept. 15, Galeano-Naranjo shares more about her leadership in biomedical education and her unique perspective as a graduate student from Colombia.

Q: What are some of your leadership roles training at the UK College of Medicine?

A: I am currently the co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) committee for the biochemistry department. I guide a committee of 12 members to facilitate inclusiveness workshops bimonthly and address department concerns.

I am also the secretary for the Biomedical Graduate Student Organization (BGSO). I am involved in the student and trainee subcommittee for Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS), specifically helping with the WIMS mentoring program. I've also had the chance to mentor high school and undergraduate students, including serving as a near-peer mentor for the STRONG Scholars program at the Markey Cancer Center. 

Q: Why are you pursuing medicine and research as a career?

A: Originally, I wanted to conduct research to honor the memory of my aunt who died from cancer. However, at some point during the journey, my own health issues also started to become my motivation. I have experienced the pain and uncertainty that comes with having a chronic condition leading to my desire to work towards the development of new therapies to improve the quality of life for patients.

Q: What advice do you have for future research students?

A: My advice for future research students is to follow your passion but also keep an open mind to different fields and opportunities. Also, to start exploring career choices early on and to give special attention to networking. Those connections you make along the way can help you later on.

Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you, and what are some traditions you enjoy?

A: For me, the Hispanic Heritage Month is the opportunity to honor the culture and history of people with Hispanic heritage or people like me that were born in Latin America but have made life in United States. It is an important time to highlight also the struggles that minorities still go through and a time to embrace the differences.