Kattia Jimenez is an engagement specialist for the All of Us Research Program.
What is your current position?
Engagement Specialist for the All of Us Research Program (AoU), led by the NIH. This program is establishing two large repositories of data – biomarkers and EHR data from a truly representative sample of individuals who live in the United States; Wisconsin is one of 17 consortia participating in All of Us. You can learn more about local program operations here.
Can you describe your main duties?
I have two primary roles. A significant amount of my time is spent in off-campus settings introducing the program to different individuals and organizations and answering their questions about what participation entails. This is an innovative research program, in which there is no research hypothesis. The public is being asked to share information and become partners with the program, which seeks to learn more about participants over time, and the data will be used to inform research questions not yet known. That is a very sensitive and important ask of the public, and it can require significant conversation. The other side of my work is establishing and supporting systems and processes for documenting and tracking my efforts and those of my colleagues so that we can share best practices about how to do this sensitive and important work successfully and effectively.
How has your work changed in the light of Covid-19?
Like many of us, I am now working from home. Our team is individually and collaboratively trying to keep our study participants informed and updated about our pause in in-person enrollment and other programmatic activities, so we can stay engaged with our participants and the larger community throughout this time. We are keeping our website, social media platforms, and other forward-facing modes of communication current, and we are trying to curate sources of information about COVID and associated challenges that stem from trusted campus and non-campus sources. It is quite challenging to find the right balance of maintaining connection, while recognizing that we are all experiencing something quite unique, stressful, and unknown. I am proud of how our local team has adjusted and how intentional the national AoU Program is being about this. Our local program is also very excited to be of service to the UW/UWH Chief Clinical Research Officer, Betsy Nugent, as she mobilizes local resources to support innovative new clinical trials targeting COVID-19.
When did you start working in the SMPH?
I began working at SMPH in August of 2018, after traveling full-time with the CDC’s National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is helping to develop relationships with members of the Dane County community. As a representative of the All of Us Research Program, it’s important our team is able to both offer information about AoU and recognize that we represent the UW and we are building relationships that, if established and maintained, could last well after this research project concludes.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
There are many! But two important ones are: (1) building trust in community settings where it may be lacking—trust in the UW, trust in research and researchers. Many communities in which I and my colleagues work have not experienced the benefits of many research breakthroughs occurring here and elsewhere; they may have actually experienced harm from participating in research that was carried out without respecting community values and/or priorities; and (2) introducing the concept of precision medicine to individuals who may lack health literacy, health care access and/or a medical home.
Can you give us an example of your typical workday?
My day is divided between time in the community and time at the HSLC. I may start my day promoting AoU on the radio, at community meetings, or at an event set up with a community partner. Sometimes this entails evening and weekend work to maintain our visibility with communities who work different shifts and who request a certain format for exchange. At the HSLC, I am typically in meetings with colleagues and developing new workflows, reference documents, and community engagement strategies. The scholarship of research engagement includes defining terms, creating common languages with partners, carefully tracking and documenting our work, and making strategic decisions about individual and team priorities, given we have to adhere to often-strict national program requirements and budget expectations.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and grew up in Seattle, Washington.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not at work?
My husband and I live on a small farm in Mount Horeb. I enjoy spending time taking care of our many rescued pets which include chickens, potbellied pigs, and a goat.
Share one fact about yourself that your co-workers might not be aware of.
I own a small business, Mount Horeb Hemp LLC. (Editor’s note: Ms. Jimenez’s Hemp Farm was recently profiled in a Madison 365 article.) We have grown hemp on our small farm since 2018, the first year of Wisconsin’s Hemp Pilot Program. Wisconsin was once a leader in the hemp industry, and it is very rewarding to be a part of the re-emergence of this versatile agricultural crop.