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2023 21st Century Scholars Program Mentors

Meet Our Program Mentors

Program mentors are seasoned NIH scientific extramural staff with demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; outstanding mentoring experience; and passion for fostering professional and personal growth among early-career staff. (Bios are as of 3/14/23)



Gabriel Lai 

Program Director Division of Integrative Biological and Behavioral Sciences National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)

Dr. Gabriel Lai recently joined NIMHD as a program director in the Division of Integrative Biological and Behavioral Sciences. Previously, he served as a program director in the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program at NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) where he managed a research portfolio and developed initiatives on a spectrum of modifiable factors and environmental exposures (e.g., obesity, diabetes, lifestyle, microbiome, radiation, air pollution) associated with cancer. He earned his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and later joined the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at NCI. As a fellow, he conducted research in the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch (now known as the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch) within NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. He is committed to DEIA efforts at NIH, serving in various roles such as a cochair for DCCPS’ Committee on Racial and Ethnic Equity and Discrimination and as a member of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Engagement Committee of the NIH’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.


Tiffani Bailey Lash, Ph.D.

Scientific Initiatives Director Division of Health Informatics Technologies (Informatics) National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

Dr. Tiffani Bailey Lash serves as a scientific initiative leader for NIBIB. She is a director for the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx℠) Tech and Advanced Technology Platforms initiative, NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge, and NIBIB Point of Care Technologies Research Network. She serves as co-coordinator for the NIH Common Fund's Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa. She also manages a research portfolio that includes Point of Care Technologies and Digital Health. Prior to NIBIB, Dr. Lash worked within NIH’s science policy administration. During that time, she worked at NIGMS and NHLBI, as well as the NIH OD. Dr. Lash has been a science policy fellow for both AAAS and the National Academy of Engineering. She earned her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from North Carolina State University via a collaboration between the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her interdisciplinary research interests include microfluidics, biopolymers with controlled molecular architecture, and biosensor technologies.


Orlando Lopez, Ph.D.

Director, Dental Materials and Biomaterials Program, and Coordinator, Small Business Program Division of Extramural Research National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

Dr. Orlando Lopez is the director of the Dental Materials and Biomaterials Program and coordinator of the Small Business Program at NIDCR. He provides scientific leadership and strategic vision to strengthening a diverse national research agenda on basic science and translational research on biomaterials, biosensing and digital technologies addressing unmet clinical needs in dental, oral, and craniofacial conditions. He serves on trans-NIH and external professional committees and working groups and leads interagency collaborations with NIST and FDA supporting the development of clinically relevant standards and other initiatives to improve R&D cycles and regulatory evaluations of emerging technologies. Prior to NIDCR, Dr. Lopez served as lead regulatory reviewer at CDRH/FDA on medical devices and combination products for cardiovascular applications. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston University, a doctoral degree from the Mayo Clinic in biomedical engineering, and a master’s certificate in project management from George Washington University.


Dharmendar Rathore (Dharm), Ph.D.

Chief, Scientific Review Branch National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Dr. Dharm Rathore is chief of the Scientific Review Branch at NIDA and brings over two decades of NIH extramural review administration and intramural research experience to the 21st Century Scholars Program. In his current role, he leads a high performing team of 19 scientific review officers, program specialists, and extramural support assistants who manage peer review of submissions to NIDA initiatives. Dr. Rathore is closely involved in implementing NIDA’s racial equity initiatives. He is a member of NIDA DEIA Steering committee and serves as a coordinator for NIDA’s Mentoring Circle program. Before joining NIDA in 2019, Dr. Rathore was chief of the AIDS Review Branch within NIAID’s Scientific Review Program. He has extensive leadership experience and has mentored a significant number of health scientist administrators across NIH. He is an alumnus of the NIH Senior Leadership Training Program.


Dorit Zuk, Ph.D. (Super Mentor)

Deputy Director National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

Dr. Dorit Zuk is the deputy director of NIGMS. She joined NIGMS as director of the Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology in 2016. Dr. Zuk’s research focused on muscle development and RNA metabolism. She has a strong background in science policy. Prior to joining NIGMS, Dr. Zuk directed policy and communications at NCATS. Before that, she served as the science policy advisor to the NIH deputy director for extramural research in OER. Dr. Zuk came to NIH in 2007 as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow. In 2008–2009 she was a program officer for science policy at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She began her policy career after serving as the deputy editor of Cell from 2000-2002 and as the editor of Molecular Cell from 2003–2007. Dr. Zuk earned a B.Sc. in biology from Tel Aviv University and an M.Sc. in biology and a Ph.D. in cell biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Page Last Reviewed
09 February, 2024