Engaging diverse groups in biomedical research has been a passion for Gayle Valensky ever since she witnessed members of her own family struggle with poor health and illness. Today, she leads a team of community engagement specialists hoping to partner with historically underrepresented populations in biomedical research.

Gayle Valensky. Credit: Scripps Research
Gayle Valensky. Credit: Scripps Research

What does your job entail?

My team and I manage partners to promote the All of Us Research Program throughout the U.S. The All of Us Research Program is a pioneering national program that has built one of the largest and most diverse health databases of its kind. The data shared by participants allows researchers to study many different diseases and health conditions with the goal being to accelerate precision medicine and reduce health disparities. With our collaborators, we coordinate mobile tours to raise awareness of the program, collaborate with health centers, drive enrollment at blood centers, and facilitate biosample donation for research, including organizing saliva sample and blood collection events at community centers across the country.

Is there a project you are currently working on that you are particularly excited about?

I’m thrilled about leading our diverse and dynamic team of advisors, known as the Virtual Advisory Team, or VAT. They meet monthly over Zoom to provide vital input on All of Us, ensuring the community’s voice resonates throughout the program. Additionally, we oversee a VAT dedicated to offering feedback on studies at the Scripps Research Digital Trials Center, ensuring the community plays a pivotal role in shaping research on the most impactful health topics for their community.

What made you want to work for Scripps Research?

My childhood was shaped by the stark contrast between my maternal grandparents’ dedication to wellness and my paternal grandmother’s poor health, along with my father’s struggle with obesity. These experiences ignited my curiosity about human health. Coupled with my academic journey leading to a master’s degree in public health in 2000, they laid the foundation for my career path. When deciding where to apply my expertise, Scripps Research stood out as the perfect fit. My resolve was further strengthened when my mother fought breast cancer, experiencing firsthand the impact of precision medicine, particularly through BRCA mutation testing. This personal journey solidified my commitment to contribute meaningfully to healthcare advancements.

What does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean to you?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) signifies ensuring that every individual, irrespective of their social status, gender, race, or place of birth, enjoys equitable access to healthcare and a fulfilling quality of life. For me, DEI encapsulates the unwavering dedication to advancing health outcomes for all through pioneering research discoveries. It holds deep personal significance to me as a Jewish woman with a familial connection to the BRCA mutation. Also, growing up in a culturally diverse neighborhood of Los Angeles, I witnessed firsthand the importance of embracing differences and fostering a sense of belonging for all individuals.