Our Stories in Biosketches: Research Opportunities and Agendas
in preparation for
Office of Minority Health Resource Center,
Higher Education Technical Assistance Program.
San Francisco State University.
September 24, 2015
Thank you for the invitation to share with you today and for the opportunity to think through my research journey. As noted in my introduction I’ve worked on a number of projects and have all sorts of stories about the trials and joys of working with community, so if you have questions about those projects please ask.
But for this presentation, my research journey presentation, I kind of have a bone to pick about grant applications and the biosketch section we have to fill out. As I was preparing this presentation I got an email from our grants assistant telling me I needed to update my bio-sketch – so let’s have a talk about these documents that are supposed to track our research journeys.
So you all know about the NIH biosketch??
When you apply for funding the Biographical Sketch or “biosketch,” as it is more commonly referred to, is a document that you are asked to supply with your application. The first time, in the early 2000s I had to fill one out it requested my employment record, publications, and previous and current funding within the past 3 years. The format of that first biosketch was an evaluation of my productivity, what had I done in my career that was relevant to the funding I was asking for. But it was just a sketch, the barest of outlines.
The funny thing is that it also makes it appear as if you always knew that this is what you wanted, this was the path I was on and I always knew where I wanted to go.
I didn’t know I was going to be a medical anthropologist. I thought I was going to graduate school to study sociology of art, I was intrigued by the representation of bodies and their meanings in comics. Before arriving at graduate school, I had taken a lot of methods and data analysis classes as an undergraduate. I don’t know why, maybe because I had my preschool aged daughter at the time, and I was trying to figure out how we come to know the world. Whatever the reason I took a lot of methods courses as an undergraduate.
When I arrived at graduate school, Leo Chavez, who would eventually become my dissertation chair had just received an R01 with his colleague in the medical school to study Latina’s knowledge and preventive practices related to breast and cervical cancer. It was the early 1990s before the effort to really engage community in the research process. Interestingly this was among the first study to actually ask Latina women what they thought caused breast and cervical cancer. Up until that time the standard was to ask people if they knew what science said were the causes, a knowledge deficit approach. Continue reading