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Nurse Bertha Flores: My Summer At The NIH

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Of Interest | Career Development | October 30, 2015

Bertha Flores became a nurse to educate women. For years, she worked in the a variety of OB/Gyn clinical settings where she noticed that Hispanic women were not coming in for their routine exam.

“We know that HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer, so when I noticed that Hispanic women weren’t getting screened because lack of insurance or not feeling comfortable,” she said, “I knew a different approach was needed.”

Flores started studying what motivated people to get screenings through informational interviews but when she read an article about how different types of people may be more susceptible to HPV, she decided that she needed further education.

Her passion for health literacy led her to apply to the NIH Summer Genetics Institute where she would receive hands-on training in research.

The Summer Genetics Institute is a month long intensive program sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda.

The program provides a foundation in molecular genetics. Flores was one of 25 selected to attend.

“This was my first experience in a lab focused on genetics and I found it fascinating. It was so beneficial to have the opportunity for a hands-on experience,” Flores said. “Learning about the techniques of micropipettes, serological pipettes and the preparation of culture media has really enhanced my perspective for research in genetics.”

Flores explained that as a nurse, it was important for her to understand the laboratory techniques behind her work.

“I needed to understand the basics. Many times it is the nurse who helps to answer questions for patients,” she said. “We see a lab report and you think now I know the procedures behind it.”

Flores recommends that more nurses take part in the NIH Summer Genetics Research Program.

“Nurses today need to learn about genetics because it’s a large component of health. It is one thing to understand the theory but it is another to have the experience in the lab. Now the theories made sense as the lab and really brought it to life,” she said.

While at the NIH Summer Genetics Institute, Flores was able to gain more knowledge about how genetic conditions impact personalized medicine.

“The institute helped me understand that the end result of health care will be personalized medicine,” she said.

Last summer, she was awarded a fellowship from the Texas Center For Health Disparities to further her research.

“I’m now expanding on cultural barriers that are factors in cancer screenings. I’m looking at male views of female screenings; I found some females felt that males weren’t as supportive from lack of understanding,” she said. “We still have more work to do.” 



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