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Meet the scientist advancing respiratory health and inspiring women and Latino scientists

Dr. Carmen La Rosa is uncovering new ways to help people with respiratory conditions

October 3, 2023

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Growing up, Dr. Carmen La Rosa shared a room with her younger brother who struggled with asthma. She saw the impact of asthma on her brother’s ability to play and how it worried her parents when he was sick.

She also watched her mother care for her brother around the clock when he was sick. It was this experience that sparked her interest in medicine. Over the years, La Rosa was inspired by how much his condition improved with changes in therapy and a better understanding of how to manage his asthma.

 La Rosa, second from left, with her husband and children at her son’s medical school’s white coat ceremony.

La Rosa, second from left, with her husband and children at her son’s medical school’s white coat ceremony.

La Rosa’s family encouraged her interests in science and helping people. Today, she is the first woman in her family to become a doctor and is a leader in MSD’s respiratory research.

As a physician and clinical epidemiologist, La Rosa has worked in multiple therapeutic areas. But it’s through respiratory research where she’s currently bringing together her desire to help others and her professional goal to advance knowledge of lung health.

Delving into the science behind respiratory conditions

An important area of La Rosa’s research focus has been chronic cough, which is defined as a cough that lasts longer than eight weeks. Her team is exploring the physiology behind this condition to better understand it.

“I’ve seen how chronic cough can affect patients’ lives — physically, socially and emotionally — this is a story that needs to be told,” La Rosa said. “I’ve known many people who are struggling with respiratory diseases, and I want to help change that. As our research moves the field forward, I believe that there’s hope for these patients.” 

Mentoring tomorrow’s leaders

Outside of the lab, La Rosa enjoys volunteering in her community through our employee business resource group for Hispanic and Latino colleagues and speaking with Latino students about careers in science. Her goal is to inspire other women and Latinos to pursue careers in research and medicine.

When La Rosa first started her journey to become a physician-scientist, she was unaware that drug development was an option. La Rosa wants the next generation to know about the possibilities available to them in medical research and inspire them to pursue careers in science.

“Research offers you the opportunity to explore new areas in medicine, develop study designs and ultimately uncover new treatments that may help people in need,” La Rosa said. “This purpose keeps me grounded, even on the most challenging days.”