Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP)
Entry Year

Doctoral Degree

Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, The University of Texas MD Anderson (2017)

Master's Degree

M.P.H., Johns Hopkins University (2019)

Research Interests

Breast Cancer; Population Science; Clinical Trials; Chemoprevention; Recurrence

Primary Preceptor/Branch

Brandy Heckman-Stoddard, Ph.D., M.P.H., Breast and Gynecologic Cancer Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP)

Secondary Preceptor/Branch

Serban Negoita, M.D., Dr.P.H., Data Quality, Analysis, and Interpretation Branch (DQAIB), Surveillance Research Program (SRP), Division of Cancer Control &  Population Sciences (DCCPS)

Program Spotlight

Fellows Advisory Board Leaders Receive NCI Director’s Award

February 14, 2022

The annual NCI Director’s Awards recognize exceptional individual and group performance or special efforts in support of NCI’s biomedical research mission. This year at the NCI Director’s Awards ceremony hosted on February 14, 2022, Cancer Prevention Fellows, Drs. Derek Brown, Alexandra Budenz, Ian Buller, Michelle Doose, Sydney O’Connor, Heather Platter, Esmeralda Ramírez-Peña, Naoise Synnott, and Jacqueline B. Vo were honored with NCI Director’s Emerging Leader Awards. This achievement was well-earned through their leadership of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program’s (CPFP) Fellows Advisory Board (FAB) during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This FAB leadership group was nominated by CPFP’s Learning & Development Specialist, Ms. Ann Maxson, and CPFP’s Director, Dr. Lisa Signorello, for spearheading innovative opportunities for fellows to develop skills and community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, as the NIH community transitioned to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this group of emerging leaders swiftly and selflessly volunteered to serve in leadership roles on the FAB. They were quick to recognize the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their fellow colleagues and to ramp up activities to serve them. They developed strategic programming for building virtual community and advocating for the needs of the fellows, for advancing the fellows’ scientific and professional development, and for promoting their professional networking. In these efforts, they cumulatively hosted dozens of innovative events that aimed to offset and ease the pandemic’s effects on fellows. They served as exemplary role models as they motivated and empowered NCI trainees to achieve and connect during a time of great uncertainty. Their empathy, vision, and commitment to their colleagues was a true demonstration of their outstanding leadership abilities.

Esmeralda Ramírez-Peña, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Drs. Samira Brooks and Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña Selected as Scholars for the 2020 Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program for Biotechnology (SMDP Biotech)

November 30, 2020

Current Cancer Prevention Fellows Dr. Samira Brooks and Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña have been selected by the SMDP Biotech Selection Committee as Scholars for the “2020 Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program for Biotechnology (SMDP Biotech)”.  Promoted by the International Center for Professional Development (ICPD), this 1-year career mentoring program pairs ethnically diverse students and early career researchers with industry mentors who work at biotechnology, consumer healthcare, and medical technology companies. 

Dr. Brooks’ and Dr. Ramirez-Peña’s mentors will be chosen by the ICPD from a pool of leaders in the biotech field.  Each Fellow and her mentor will attend a week-long training session and develop a Personalized Mentoring Plan designed to help her transition to a career in the biotech field.  They will receive monthly mentoring support, as well as complimentary registration to attend a major industry-specific conference. 

Dr. Brooks’ goal is “to emerge from this training fully versed in the intersections of translational research and industry to continue to make scientific advances to improve our understanding of disease for advancing prevention, detection, and treatment.”  In NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, Dr. Brooks receives mentorship from Dr. W. Marston Linehan, Chief of the Urologic Oncology Branch.  There, she leads an interdisciplinary study that is investigating mechanisms in cancer-associated reprogramming of iron metabolism in individuals that express a distinct mutation in Ferroportin. 

Dr. Ramirez-Peña is working with population and clinical trial level data from breast cancer patients and conducting research in both the Breast and Gynecologic Cancer Research Group in the Division of Cancer Prevention and the Surveillance Research Program in the Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences.  During her SMDP mentoring year, Dr. Ramirez-Peña hopes “to learn from professionals in different sectors of the pharmaceutical industry and create a network where I can bridge my research with clinical impact.”

Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Current Fellow, 2018 CPFP Cohort

Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña Gives Keynote Address at GSLSAMP/NNJ-B2B STEM Research Conference

December 11, 2019

In October 2019, Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, a current CPFP Fellow, was invited to present the keynote address at the 11th Annual GSLSAMP/NNJ-B2B STEM Research Conference at Rutgers University. This yearly event is sponsored by the Garden State-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the Northern New Jersey Bridges to Baccalaureate Alliance and seeks to support traditionally underrepresented minority (URM) students by expanding opportunities in STEM-related disciplines.

Dr. Ramirez-Peña’s address focused on her scientific journey from childhood, a stage of her life impacted by a move from Mexico to the US, to the present. She told the story of her passion for laboratory research and her struggle with impostor syndrome (IS), a struggle which was amplified by statistics surrounding attrition rates and lack of leadership positions for URMs and women in STEM. She stressed that participation in community outreach initiatives helped her to realize that as a female, Latina scientist, she had the power to inspire future generations of URM researchers. From these experiences, she became more comfortable in her space as a scientist.

Esmeralda also credits the CPFP for supporting this scientific journey. She expressed that with “the NCI CPFP I have received training that has enhanced my scientific career through the M.P.H. and the Leadership Series. These training opportunities have broadened my horizons and have enabled me to make valuable connections with other URMs in public health and cancer research. The Leadership Training Series has equipped me with strategies on dealing with IS and strengthening emotional intelligence to maximize my productivity. I was able to share what I learned from this series during my talk and pass on valuable information to students struggling with IS.”

Following her talk, Dr. Ramirez-Peña interacted with conference attendees, students presenting research projects on topics spanning engineering, the microbiome, genetics, single cell algorithms, and immunology. She enjoyed learning about their own scientific experiences and the strong academic community and dedicated mentors they receive from the Garden State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and The Northern New Jersey Bridges to Baccalaureate Alliance.

Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Current Fellow, 2018 CPFP Cohort