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Dr. Andrea Apolo

Principal Investigator, National Cancer Institute (NCI)
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Apolo combines her passion for biomedical research and clinical work to develop novel approaches in cancer treatment.

How did your background and interests lead you to research and medicine?

I did not come from a family of doctors or scientists, but always aspired to do something important with my life. I grew up in New York City, went to school in Spanish Harlem, and by the time I was applying to college was already working full-time. I set my eyes on becoming a doctor during my undergraduate studies.

Tell us about your journey to the NIH.

In order to get into medical school, I knew I needed to get good grades. To help me focus on my studies, I applied for and was accepted to the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program, which allowed me to do biomedical research in an NIH laboratory. That was my first exposure to research and a pivotal turning point for me. I fell in love with the process of asking questions, solving problems, and changing how medicine is practiced. After completing my clinical training in internal medicine and a medical oncology fellowship, I returned to NIH to join the National Cancer Institute, where I currently design and conduct clinical trials aimed at treating patients with bladder cancer. Describe what a typical day looks like for you. Every day is different, but during the week I see patients in the clinic, meet with subspecialists to discuss treatment plans, attend lab meetings, give lectures, meet with a statistician to design new clinical trials, and write research manuscripts. I am lucky to be a part of a brilliant multidisciplinary team from fields such as urology, radiation oncology, pathology, and radiology.

What do you love most about your job?

Translating biomedical research into clinical work is a dream come true. I am in awe of the science that takes place here. With that said, it’s my patients that motivate me to come into work every day. I feel humbled that they put their trust in my hands, and they inspire me on a daily basis.

National Institutes of Health Universum Awards

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Some interesting facts about NIH

NIH is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers.

NIH is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world.

NIH is the leading supporter of biomedical research worldwide by providing 50,000 competitive grants to 300,000 researchers.

More than 80% of the NIH's budget goes to research personnel at over 2,500 universities and research institutions.