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How a grant for minority and women researchers brought Dr. Tayo Alese to Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute

Tayo Alese’s journey to Hennepin Healthcare took her from studying anatomy in Nigeria to researching preeclampsia in South Africa to a lab at Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute in Minnesota –where she’s researching how tobacco use affects the healing of wounds.

Earlier this year, Dr. Alese received Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute’s (HHRI) Biomedical Research and Career Development Award, which supports the training of minority and women postdoctoral and junior faculty researchers. Dr. Alese is working in the lab of Amy Anne Lassig, MD, FACS, a head and neck oncology surgeon.

Alese started her academic career with an interest in becoming a doctor before deciding to pursue medical research. After getting her M.Sc. and PhD in Anatomy from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, Dr. Alese worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa in the Placental Research Unit. Preeclampsia is one of the top causes of maternal mortality in South Africa and in most African countries. When it’s combined with HIV infection, it increases the risk of dangerous complications.

The research team looked at predictive markers for early onset preeclampsia and the work resulted in five publications – including in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine.

Dr. Alese continued her research on inflammatory diseases and worked as a senior lecturer at the College of Medicine, Ekiti State University in Nigeria. When she moved to Minnesota with her family, she was excited to apply for the HHRI award opportunity and the chance to work with Dr. Lassig on a question with significant impact on health disparities. The team is examining how the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes can affect the wound healing process, and how to mitigate the risks.

Dr. Tayo Alese The grant, funded by 3M, is designed to provide a clear pathway to career opportunities in STEM fields, including biomedical research. Alese says she finds inspiration in the origin story of 3M– a company that started from small beginnings as a mining company before becoming a household name.

Dr. Alese is most excited for the new resources she can access over the course of the two-year grant, including University of Minnesota research facilities. “I come from a background where we do not have enough facilities for research,” she says. “Things that you take for granted here—such as electricity—are what we struggle with. You can imagine how one can do research successfully when you don’t even have 12 hours of power supply in a day. It’s really challenging.”

She will be able to bring her past experience in inflammation research and also use some of the research techniques she’d used in her past work. As someone who loves to learn, she’s excited for the mentorship of Dr. Lassig and how the grant will help her future research career: “I felt it’s an opportunity for me to be able to use my skills, and I saw that I was also going to be learning much more.”


News and photos credit:

Scanner News 11/14/2022

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