Researcher of the Year Alana Biggers

Alana Biggers
Alana Biggers. Photo: Joshua Clark

Alana Biggers
Rising Star, Clinical Science
Assistant professor of medicine

Years at UIC: 6

What are your research interests?
As a researcher, I am interested in behavioral interventions aimed at reducing health disparities among African Americans. Currently, I just received an NIH grant to evaluate the use of a mindfulness meditation and mobile health technology in African Americans with Type 2 diabetes and increased cardiovascular health risk.

How did you become interested in these topics?
I obtained a Master of Public Health prior to attending medical school and worked at the CDC for almost 3 years in heart disease and stroke. During this time, my eyes were opened to the extremes of health inequities and the potential for public health and medicine to improve the health of the U.S. I knew I wanted to practice as a physician who utilized both medicine and public health to address health disparities in communities. When I came to UIC in 2104, I sought experiences to participate in research aimed at developing health interventions for underserved communities. I was afforded an opportunity to develop research skills with NIH administrative supplement for two years to evaluate the sleeping habits of African Americans and Latinos with Type 2 diabetes. This project led to my current funded proposal to develop a sleep intervention for African Americans with Type 2 diabetes aimed at improving their cardiovascular health risk.

What do you teach?
I am the Population Health lead for the Health, Illness, and Society Sub-Theme within the curriculum. In the curriculum, I teach the medical students an early introduction of the importance of population health and social determinants of health in caring for patients and our communities.

How do you balance teaching and research?
Luckily, I work in a very supportive department that encourages me and other faculty to be involved in medical student education. While most of my focus is on research and clinical care, I have time in my schedule to prioritize teaching to medical students.

What’s your advice to students who want to focus their future careers on research?
For students interested in a research career, please stay true to yourself. Do not “do research” because it checks off a box. Do research that you find meaningful and you enjoy daily.

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