Contributions to STEMM
Dr. Tiro is a public health scientist who specializes in behavioral sciences. “This means I study the factors that influence people's health-related decisions and behaviors. My research program seeks to develop and test interventions to promote behaviors that prevent cancer, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and cancer screening,” she said.
“I was a nerdy, quiet Filipino-American girl who loved science but never spoke up in class. I would go after class to my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Maquebela, and ask questions. He said that if I had these questions, then it is possible other students did, too. He encouraged me to speak up and then began calling on me consistently during class to share my perspectives,” Dr. Tiro recalled. “It was scary to be put on the spot, but I saw how other students appreciated my questions. The constant practice also helped me realize that there were no ‘wrong’ questions. It built my confidence and helped me find my voice and my desire to advocate on behalf of others.”
“It took a lot to convince my parents to support my chosen career. My father thought it was risky to tie my career to the federal government's funding priorities. His questioning helped me be a lot more strategic in identifying what skills and resources I needed to be successful in academia,” Dr. Tiro said.
“Originally, I planned to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in medicine and cell biology. Then I discovered the social sciences and public health late in my college career,” she said. “It was daunting to shift paths, but I knew I was on the right track because I woke up every day eager to learn more. I was so excited to test theories of human behavior and design and evaluate new interventions that would help people.”
Advice to the Next Generation
Having shifted her career path in college, Dr. Tiro encourages aspiring scientists to “pursue what makes you passionate. My journey helped me learn that there is a broad array of scientific careers that can help protect and promote people’s health and eliminate disparities,” she said.
“Pursuing a career in science requires fortitude and perseverance.”
She advises the next generation of women in STEMM to “reflect on the aspects of science that excite you and don't be afraid to follow that path. It’s important that young girls and women are exposed to the full breadth of science so that they can make an informed choice on which discipline to pursue. This is particularly important as we work to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and medicine.”
The UT Southwestern Difference
Dr. Tiro cherishes her role at UT Southwestern as “No day is the same. I love that I have the freedom to pursue any idea (as long the scientific premise is compelling!),” she said.
"I love that every day is a different mix of activities – discussing an idea with my research team, writing/editing a scientific paper, preparing a grant, mentoring a trainee, creating research infrastructure that helps other faculty respond to the needs of the community, and develop their own research programs.”
“Over the 14 years that I've been faculty here, I've seen the leaky pipeline in action. I've seen very talented women walk away from promising careers or get disillusioned,” Dr. Tiro said. She sees her inclusion in the Celebrating Breakthroughs Together Project as a unique opportunity to combat the challenges that women in science and medicine face.
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“Women scientists need more role models. They need more venues to share their experiences and strategies to secure critical resources. That's why I'm proud to help and support this project. It's important to pass along all the lessons learned.”