Jennifer Tsui, PhD, MPH, associate professor of population and public health sciences, and Albert Farias, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of population and public health sciences, received 2023 USC Mentor Awards at a reception hosted by the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching.
Tsui received the ‘USC Mentoring Award for Faculty Mentoring Faculty, Postdoctoral Scholars, Medical Residents, and Fellows,’ while Farias was presented the ‘USC Mentoring Award for Faculty Mentoring Graduate Students.’
“This is an amazing honor,” shares Tsui, who has been at USC for three years. The newly appointed USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Director for Cancer Care Delivery Research and Implementation Science (CCD/IS), believes that “having a diverse set of mentors and good role modeling” is valuable in figuring out your research mission.
“Growing up in an immigrant family, I’ve had to be an ad-hoc ‘patient navigator’ for my grandparents and family—who needed to figure out the health care system,” she reveals. This lived experience motivated her to investigate disparities in cancer care delivery and cancer outcomes. “There is really a need to bring diversity to research,” she affirms. “While we have evidence-based strategies and effective interventions, we can see that they are not being equitably distributed or taken up at the required pace. We need lived experiences and diverse backgrounds to inform our work.”
The health equity researcher and cancer population scientist also shared that she has been fortunate to have strong and supportive mentors throughout her career that guided her at each stage. Her advice to her mentees has been to embrace their own experiences and to “stay true to why you are in this.”
Fittingly, her mentees praised her contributions in their nomination letter, stating, “Dr. Tsui exemplifies what it means to be a supportive, inclusive, and brilliant mentor.”
Similarly, Farias mentorship style has been to get to know his students on a personal level and identify their motivations and passions to conduct research. “Receiving this award has been rewarding, and mentorship has provided me with an opportunity to give back to my students at such a high level,” remarks the newly appointed Co-Director of the Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology program.
Farias’ research is also devoted to eliminating disparities in cancer outcomes, informed by his own experience navigating the health care system with his mother. He adds that “being on the reciprocal side now and trying to understand the intricacies of how minority patients receive care, and identifying points in the healthcare system that could lead to disparities, guides my mission,” he divulges.
Farias, who has post-doctoral training in cancer epidemiology, has been with the department since 2017. He was the first in his family to attend college and explains that “receiving my degrees and now serving in this role is really the result of the mentorship I received in high school, college, and even now as faculty.”
He advises his students to seek out mentors who possess the skillsets they wish to develop. He views his role as one that helps to refine research interests, and encourages his students to draw from their unique experiences and academic training to guide this discovery.
One of his mentees wrote that “beyond the truly superb academic mentoring that I have received from Dr. Farias, he has gone above and beyond my expectations of an advisor and a mentor by sharing wisdom learned from his personal life and journey.”