Alumni Profile

Portrait of Paula S. Espinal

Paula S. Espinal

Program: MPH
Graduation Year: 2014
Employer: Nicklaus Children’s Biobank and Precision Medicine Research Program
Job Title: Manager, and Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Espinal is a translational medical researcher with nine-plus years of experience in various research programs. She specializes in clinical trials, genomic medicine, and translational sciences across different disease groups.

Dr. Espinal is a medical doctor and epidemiologist accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks and the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repository (ISBER). She is also certified in Fundamentals of Clinical and Translational Research by The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center.

As a multilingual professional in the medical field, she has worked on public health issues in Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil with esteemed organizations like PADF and PAHO and held positions as a medical officer at CDC.

Dr. Espinal has had diverse clinical research experience in managing trials and serving on scientific committees at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (SCCC, FRC), University of Miami (UM-PRMC, CRAC), and Nicklaus Children's Hospital (SAC).

In her current role, Dr. Espinal is responsible of the day-to-day operations of Nicklaus Children’s Precision Medicine and Biobank Research program. Her team has recruited more than 2,000 participants and 3,500 biospecimens processed. Dr. Espinal has also supported the implantation of clinical diagnostic genomic (WGS/ rWGS) at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and the implementation of Personalized Ex-vivo research drug screening research protocol.

Dr. Espinal also developed and implemented an outreach after- school educational genomics program (Project GENES) focused on increasing genomics literacy in underserved communities of color in South Florida.

Her research is focused on health disparities and disease characteristics associated with Population Genomics and Public Health Economics and Sustainability models. Dr. Espinal is concentrated on translating genome-based knowledge and technologies into public health economics, health policies, and healthcare as a whole.


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  • What motivated you to study public health?

    Ever since my time in medical school, I've been fascinated by clinical research and public health practices. However, it wasn't until the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 that I truly grasped the profound impact these fields have on our daily healthcare operations. The experience of working on the border during such a devastating event altered my career path in a significant way. I realized that there was a much broader picture beyond the individual level that needed to be comprehended, studied, and tackled. This realization motivated me to pursue a Master of Public Health Sciences (MPH).

  • Why did you choose the University of Miami for your public health degree?

    The University of Miami (UM) was my number one pick. As a graduate applicant, I applied to other universities, like the University of Florida where some of my family members attended (House divided!). However, I was overjoyed when UM accepted me. I was eager to join their program focusing on Global Health initiatives, interact with a diverse student body, and live in a bustling city like Miami. I am a proud Cane for life!

  • Describe your career path:

    Life is a rollercoaster full of unpredictable events, and my career path has been no different. As a child, I always dreamed of becoming a medical doctor. I pursued this dream and went to Medical School with the goal of becoming a surgeon. However, life threw me a curveball and my passion shifted towards Public Health. While completing my master's degree at UM, I had the pleasure of working with fantastic professionals such as Dr. Viviana Horigian and Dr. Jose Szapocznik. They opened up new opportunities for me in the clinical research arena, including working at UM- Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). During my time at UM-CTSI, I had the honor of learning from Dr. Carmen Gomez and Dr. Jorda Merce, two amazing women who are passionate about providing the best care to patients and translating clinical research to beside.
    I gained valuable experience working with four exceptional leaders, which allowed me to broaden my horizons and ultimately led me to join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was there that my education and career path came full circle as I had the privilege of working with the remarkable Dr. Nelson Arboleda, who had been my professor in global health at the University of Miami. This goes to show that everyone's career path is unique. It doesn't matter where you're starting from or where you are now, just enjoy the journey. As an immigrant in this country, I've faced many challenges. But I've been fortunate to receive support and guidance from others who've gone through similar experiences. Learning from those who came before me and establishing personal and professional connections has been incredibly helpful. I hope to pay it forward and do the same for others.

  • How did you obtain your current position?

    During my time at the CDC, I received a call from a colleague at UM who had recently joined a pediatric hospital. They expressed interest in recruiting me for my skills in developing a Pediatric Biobank, which I had gained while working at UM-CTSI. The idea of creating a new program from the ground up fascinated me, so I eagerly accepted the opportunity and embarked on this exciting new adventure.

  • How did your degree prepare you for your current position?

    I think that as a medical doctor, I possess a distinct point of view on patient care and healthcare system operations. Also, my Master's in Public Health has taught me to approach issues from a wider perspective, making me a skilled problem-solver. My work as a physician-scientist in clinical research has made me an advocate for translational research and a liaison between two fields that should be more integrated. As an immigrant with experience in global health, I have a unique understanding of the impact of health disparities both in the United States and worldwide. While my degrees have certainly helped prepare me for my current role, I have found that the most valuable lessons I have learned have come from the experiences I have gained throughout my career path. As I embark on new endeavors, I am excited to continue on my learning journey and see where it takes me.

  • What is your favorite part of your job?

    I understand that in today’s job market, the words of Confucius may seem out to place, but I still believe that if you “Choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.” Any job comes with ups and downs, good and bad… so I would say be passionate about the work you do every day and don’t sight of your career and personal growth along the way.

  • What are your long-term career plans/goals?

    Life is full of surprises, and challenges can come unexpectedly. This is why setting goals can be daunting, as they may not always be within your reach. It's important to remember that setbacks are not failures, and every step forward is progress. Keep moving forward, no matter how small the step may seem, and eventually, you will reach your destination.
    As AI becomes more prevalent, the traditional career path may no longer guarantee success. This can be discouraging for young professionals, especially Millennials and Zoomers, as they navigate the modern workforce. However, it also means that there are new and exciting opportunities to explore outside of the norm. Personally, my main career goal is to continually learn and grow both professionally and personally over the long term.

  • What advice do you have for someone interested in your career path?

    You should definitely go for it! Personally, I have found my career path to be fulfilling and inspirational. There is a clear need for innovative ideas and fresh perspectives to help bridge the gap in clinical research - not just within the medical community, but for the entire population as a whole. Why not come and join us? Set your priorities, and connect with colleagues in the field. Don't second-guess yourselves, just go for it!