Interview with Yaihara Fortis-Santiago, PhD

Yaihara Fortis-Santiago, PhD  - Manager, Postdoctoral Affairs Office at the Memorial Kettering Cancer Center in New York

Yaihara Fortis-Santiago, PhD - Manager, Postdoctoral Affairs Office at the Memorial Kettering Cancer Center in New York

A strong woman with immense courage and an eager spirit…

Dr. Yaihara Fortis-Santiago was raised in the town of Orocovis, “the heart of Puerto Rico”. Since she was little, her parents encouraged her desires to get to know the world. After multiple trips to Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, Dr. Fortis-Santiago developed a keen sense of curiosity. This insatiable curiosity drove Dr. Fortis-Santiago to follow the path of science. She pursued her undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. She was a participant of the Career Opportunity Program funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Under this program, she had the opportunity to do summer research internships at Columbia University and New York University. The strong base that she built along with her sister and her mentors, prepared her to successfully conduct her doctoral studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Her development as a scientist and as a leader did not end here but instead, she continued to search for opportunities to expand her horizons. For two years she was a fellow of the Science and Technology Policy program under the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Later on, she worked as Program Director for the Science Alliance at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Currently, she works as manager of the Postdoctoral Affairs Office at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Even though it seems that the professional development of Dr. Fortis-Santiago was a straight line of success, she describes how academic development is rather a “roller coaster of emotions”. As she describes, the journey through graduate school does not only involve intellectual aptitude but also a profound and never-ending process of self-transformation and self-discovery. Dr. Fortis-Santiago demonstrated to be a trailblazer and a role model for others. Neither the language barrier nor being in the diaspora stopped her from following her dreams. For me, this episode of Caminos en Ciencia based on Dr. Fortis-Santiago’s story is not just a mere recollection of someone’s academic and professional milestones but an inspirational story that echoes and represents the voices of us migrants. Being myself a graduate student in Germany, I agree and sympathize with Dr. Fortis-Santiago and I am pleased to have had the opportunity of meeting such an outstanding woman and energetic leader. And like she would say…“¡Sí, se puede!” With effort and dedication, anything is possible. Thank you Dr. Yaihara Fortis-Santiago!

Follow Dr. Yaihara Fortis-Santiago on Twitter: @yfortiss

Check out her interview in Spanish!

Special thanks to Dakeishla Díaz-Morales for summarizing our interview with Dr. Fortis-Santiago!

By Dakeishla Diaz-Morales , PhD Student in Environmental Parasitology at University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany  From Orocovis, Puerto Rico

By Dakeishla Diaz-Morales, PhD Student in Environmental Parasitology at University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

From Orocovis, Puerto Rico