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Featured Research Trainee: Q&A With Sarai Sales

Published on March 14, 2024 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 2 months ago


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Sarai Sales, student intern
Sarai Sales, student intern

Editor's Note: Our Featured Research Trainee for March, Women’s History Month, is Sarai Sales, a student intern who will graduate in May 2024 from Howard University with a bachelor of science degree in Biology and a dual minor in Mathematics and Chemistry. Following graduation, she plans to attend Brown University School of Public Health to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health with a focus on Epidemiology and Maternal & Child Health.

Tell us about your current role at CHOP.

I am a student intern for the Office of Academic Training and Outreach Programs (ATOP), particularly within the Specialty Programs and Diversity Tier. In this role, I am involved in a plethora of programming initiatives aimed at fostering inclusion, celebrating diversity, and developing training experiences where CHOP trainees can learn and thrive.

My position within ATOP has introduced me to various processes that involve research administration. I am grateful to have engaged in experiences that have sharpened my administrative skillset, including coordinating partnerships with schools in Philadelphia and creating STEM educational programming for youth with the overarching goal of developing a diverse STEM workforce. From a research perspective, this position has fostered a greater appreciation for all the work that goes into coordinating research and training experiences for students and trainees at CHOP.

What message do you hope people take away from celebrating Women’s History Month?

Women’s History Month is a poignant reminder of the remarkable accomplishments of women in various fields. Luminaries such as Dr. Hattie Alexander and Dr. Helene Gayle have influenced my educational and professional goals. With the increasing participation of women in STEM, I hope we acknowledge the collective dedication necessary to continue cultivating an inclusive workplace environment.

I thank all the women in my life who have supported my growth, specifically my grandmother. With over 45 years of experience as a mathematics professor, my grandmother has instilled in me the importance of discipline and resilience while also serving as an example of a trailblazing woman in STEM.

I am also incredibly fortunate to have mentors who have supported me professionally and personally. My mentors at CHOP — Dr. Wendy Reed Williams and Dr. Angela Ellison, among many others — have served as unparalleled role models throughout my journey.

I am not only celebrating the past and the present, but I am thinking about how to inspire the future. Paying it forward is everything. The women in my life have empowered me to further my career, fueled by a strong desire to mentor the future generations of women who will follow.

What is a research project you have working on, and why is it important?

During my time in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Summer Scholars Program

(CRISSP), I worked under the guidance of Dr. William Peranteau to research the effects of injury on the cellular integrity of CRISPR-Cas9 edited fetal murine cells. This project allowed me to study the safety and efficacy of gene editing as it pertains to current preclinical developments and future translational applications. In the Peranteau Lab, I immersed myself in pioneering research, as in-utero gene editing presents a promising solution for addressing genetic diseases that affect pediatric populations.

This past summer, I had the privilege of working at the Center for Health Equity under Dr. Tyra Bryant-Stephens. My project consisted of evaluating data on family responsivenessrates following the implementation of a primary care-based socialneeds screening model, drafting health equity literature, and coordinating large-scale community health programming within Philadelphia.

My work at the Center for Health Equity exposed me to the various workflows needed to promote health equity, while emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the voices of community members and families. As an aspiring physician-scientist eager to mitigate health disparities, specifically within perinatal health, I recognize the importance of working toward achieving health equity to ensure better health outcomes for infants, children, and families.

Sales, pictured at the 2022 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students, presents her research for which she received a presentation award.

What are some of the most salient training experiences you’ve had at CHOP thus far?

The CRISSP Program was an integral training experience that has reshaped the way I navigate professional spaces as a scientist and lifelong learner. Within this program, I conducted independent research, attended professional development seminars, participated in clinical shadowing, and engaged in social activities with my cohort mates. The CRISSP Program is dedicated to developing each scholar holistically, and I felt that from my very first day at CHOP.

Following my completion of the program, I felt well-equipped to develop professional relationships, understand the fundamentals of research, and effectively disseminate the findings of my work. I had the privilege of participating in national conferences to present my research project.