June 14, 2024

Stream Health Care

It Looks Good On You

Meet Ralph Brooks, Research Associate, Infectious Diseases < Yale Institute for Global Health

3 min read

What is your role in the Department of Internal Medicine?

As a research data manager, I build data management tools, including REDCap databases, Excel spreadsheets, and queries for quality assurance, in the Yale AIDS Care Program. Working with principal investigators, I ensure all required data elements are captured and in a format that answers the questions being asked. I consider the entire data universe for the project, alongside the operational processes, to identify the most efficient and streamlined data sequences and pathways while limiting response ambiguity. By creating alerts, notifications, and data visualizations that automatically trigger when information is updated, I automate as much of the data path as possible.

Since 2012, I have worked with several principal investigators in the department, including Drs. Ditas Villanueva (HIV and hepatitis C) and Gerald Friedland (HIV, tuberculosis, and multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis). I currently work with Dr. Sandy Springer (HIV, pre-exposure prophylaxis, medications for opioid use disorder, hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections, and justice-involved populations).

Why did you decide to work at Yale School of Medicine?

Originally trained as a chemical engineer, I spent 10 years in drug research and development and business process optimization for big pharma. Industry consolidation led to my position being eliminated. My wife was a research fellow here at Yale and was planning a two-month research rotation in South Africa with Dr. Friedland’s collaborators. I tagged along and became involved with clinical research; I possessed multiple translatable skills from the corporate sector that successfully facilitated the capacity-building of the research team members in our resource-limited setting. We stayed in South Africa for nearly three years. Upon returning to the U.S., we realized I could be an asset to additional projects in the AIDS program.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I’ve always been interested in science and data. I find it fascinating to learn how things work, and I love finding creative solutions to problems. I credit my parents with supporting and nurturing my innate curiosities, from my earliest trips to New England-area science museums and aquariums to my multiple hobbies as I got older.

What is the most rewarding part of your career?

I love seeing YSM colleagues’ passion for helping others and the positive impact on patients’ lives. I enjoyed working in pharma because I was developing lifesaving drugs, but through the research here at YSM, we are identifying how to optimally deliver those and other treatments into the hands (and bodies) of those who need them.

What do you love about working at Yale?

The best thing about Yale is its convenient access to New Haven pizza! Seriously, it’s amazing how much art, culture, history, science, and great food is jam-packed into this small city wedged halfway between New York and Boston that Yale calls home. Yale attracts talented individuals, and New Haven keeps them engaged. I love that working at Yale comes with access to so many different on and off-campus activities.

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m a Yale alumnus and previously sang a cappella at Yale College: Out of the Blue, the Yale Alley Cats, and Living Water. Since graduation, I have sung in barbershop quartets and my local church choir. Pre-COVID, I would often sing a ballad or two with a former colleague in the elevator on the way up to the office.

Tell us one piece of advice you will never forget.

“Do or do not. There is no ‘try.’”


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