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The Best of the AACR Journals Collection: Author Profiles

photo of Donna Rivera

Donna Rivera

Title & Affiliation:
Associate Director for Pharmacoepidemiology, Oncology Center of Excellence, Office of the Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, MD

Most-cited Article:
Utilization of COVID-19 Treatments and Clinical Outcomes among Patients with Cancer: A COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) Cohort Study

Q: What is your primary area of study/research?
A: Cancer pharmacoepidemiology, real-world data (RWD), and real-world evidence.

Q: What influenced your decision to embark on a research career?
A: Research was always my default lens— ask questions, generate hypotheses, and discover answers. I was compelled toward this path early. From science fair experiments, to studying DNA structures, to observing reactions in the lab; I am thankful to my science teachers for cultivating inquisitiveness and encouraging me to pursue research. In fact, I always wanted to contribute to cancer research after “taking care” of my first patient when I was very young while volunteering in a clinic. I particularly love epidemiology because it has the ability to aggregate patient level clinical data to inform population level study objectives and can be analyzed to inform or generate meaningful evidence for decision making.

Q: What excites you most about your research area?
A: Epidemiology, especially advancing the science of real-word data, is a vibrant and exciting field! Increasing availability of RWD sources and novel designs are met with evolving challenges around better methodological approaches and data quality standardization. When fit for purpose and used appropriately, RWD can generate meaningful evidence to inform a broader array of patients, advancing health equity, and increasing our understanding of treatment effects on rare populations. Because of the multi-disciplinary collaborative nature of RWD studies, one of the best parts is working alongside clinicians, statisticians, epidemiologists, and scientists who share a common goal to facilitate efficient evidence generation within a patient-centric drug development process.

Q: What do you do for fun outside of work? What are your passions and hobbies?
A: Pre-pandemic, this answer was much more fun. I really enjoyed gathering with friends and family, yoga classes, traveling, and trying new restaurants with my husband in Washington, DC. I also poured energy into a passion project as founder of EmpowHER, an elementary school-based program to empower young women by providing career and personal success sessions led by women community leaders. With the pandemic everyone has had to adjust, and I still get to be creative through baking (although I do miss getting to share with colleagues).


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