Miami CTSI

CTSI Spotlight: Omar Picado


Born and raised in Nicaragua, Omar Picado made the decision to go to medical school at the age of 16. He had spent much of his youth volunteering in hospitals visiting children with cancer. By the time he was a teenager, he knew he wanted to devote his life to helping people.

After arriving in Miami, Omar became interested in research. Now, almost four years later he is carving out his own unique path to becoming a clinician scientist. He completed the Master’s of Science in Clinical and Translational Investigation (MSCTI) from the University of Miami; was recently awarded a grant from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to map cancer patterns and trends in Costa Rica; and has applied to the general surgery residency program.

Omar sat down with CTSI Communications Manager Raquel Perez to talk about the path that has led him to this point, what the future holds, and how the CTSI has helped along the way.

How did you make the decision to go to medical school at 16?

Growing up, I participated in an outreach program through my school where I would visit a local hospital to play with children diagnosed with cancer. My hope at the time was to bring some delight to their day. This experience drove my decision to pursue a career in medicine.

In medical school, I had the privilege to walk through the surgical wards to see how surgeons build relationships with their patients, which is unique in comparison to other specialties. I became interested in surgery because you can better the life of a patient dramatically in a short period of time.

What brought you to the United States and Miami more specifically?

I wanted to receive fellowship training, which was not available in Nicaragua. Also, my mom moved to the U.S. right before I started medical school, so the decision was easy.

It’s funny how things happen. While studying for my “steps” (United States Medical Licensing Examination), my mom met a surgeon from the University of Miami at a poetry reading, and they talked about having both come from Nicaragua and about my recent move to Miami. Shortly after, I started
volunteering at the Department of Surgery.

How has the CTSI helped you advance your goals?

While volunteering, I got involved in research, but I really had no idea what research was about. I began to do a lot of things that were new to me and did a lot of learning on the go. Eventually, I knew I needed proper training if I was going to continue to grow. I learned though the CTSI about the Master’s of Science in Clinical and Translational Investigation, which I applied to and completed it in 18 months.

Describe the award you received from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Global Oncology Award is a $25,000 pilot grant for young investigators that aims at improving cancer control in low- and middle-income countries in Latin America. My project is inspired by my work with Dr. Erin Kobetz, who is my award sponsor, and the Sylvester Cancer Portal (SCAN 360). Our team will be analyzing data from the Costa Rican National Tumor Registry to map the cancer burden within the country. It will be an interactive website that will show cancer incidence and mortality rates, and population risk factors in different regions of the country. This will benefit cancer researchers in Costa Rica by allowing them to create tailored interventions to address regional cancer disparities.

If I didn’t have the experience working on SCAN 360, a web-based platform that provides a visual representation of the cancer burden in South Florida, I would not have been able to apply. The combination of my background in medicine, the skills acquired from my masters, the CTSI’s grant writing workshop with Dr. King, and the support of my mentor all contributed to my success.

What’s next?

I want to create my own path on what I want to do. I want to complete a residency in general surgery and continue doing research. I have applied and will know soon. Right now, I’m working with international collaborators and maybe that’s the path that I can go, but we will see what the future holds.

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