Two female researchers wearing white lab coats sit at a desk in a laboratory setting

Jesse Berry, MD, and Heidy Paniagua at CHLA

Hospital News

Heidy Paniagua: In Her Own Words

A Chuck Lorre Research Scholar reflects on her time at CHLA.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been in my sights since I was a baby, literally! I was born at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, which is next door to CHLA. And as a child, I came to CHLA for bloodwork. Years later, I was in the gifted medical magnet at John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills and worked with a CHLA research scientist, Dr. Stefano Da Sacco, as a student in the Samuels Family Latino and African American High School Internship Program (LA-HIP).

I had a full-circle moment this past summer being back at CHLA as a Chuck Lorre Research Scholar and working full-time in the Aqueous Humor Liquid Biopsy Lab, where Dr. Jesse Berry and Dr. Liya Xu are both principal investigators.

My research focused on retinoblastoma, the most common primary intraocular childhood cancer. Many times, I learned by first observing Dr. Xu perform an experiment and then repeating the experiment myself and taking note of any flaws in my procedure. Dr. Xu always had faith in me to run experiments independently, and I know I gained more confidence in the lab because of that.

I also shadowed Dr. Berry in the operating room during clinicals, which allowed me to see where samples I worked on in the lab came from. Dr. Berry and I talked about my future, and I plan to continue with research in her lab while I'm studying at UC Berkeley.

I am so grateful to Mr. Lorre for his investment in my future. My mom and dad are both immigrants, and it makes me very proud to be the first in the family to go to college.

The people at Children's Hospital Los Angeles greeted me with open arms and want to see me succeed. I hope to one day pay it forward.

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This article is featured in the Winter 2023 issue of Imagine magazine.