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“I am inspired every day by the work that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital does, and by the fact I can contribute to that mission of saving children and creating a better world for them,” said Dr. Daniel Bastardo Blanco ’12.
Dr. Daniel Bastardo Blanco, Manager of the Together by St. Jude™ online resource and a member of Elmira College’s Astonishing Class of 2012, travels and works with people from around the world, developing communications about complex biomedical research, patient education, and humanitarian service projects. An up-and-coming star in the biomedical communications field, he recently earned the Memphis Business Journal's 2023 class of 40 Under 40!
But communications wasn’t the original career trajectory for Bastardo Blanco. He had dreamed of being a scientist, and if he had stayed and studied in his home country of Venezuela, Bastardo Blanco would likely be a veterinarian today.
When Bastardo Blanco was younger, he visited the school in Venezuela that would train him to become a veterinarian. He was set to attend but then his mother learned about a new program for high-achieving students that provides a scholarship to attend college in the United States.
“I was very intrigued and decided to try for it. Because why not?”
After a lengthy and difficult application process, Bastardo Blanco became one of the few students from outside of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to earn the scholarship.
“That changed my life. That is what enabled me to be here today: the opportunity I took and the risk my parents allowed me to take. It gave me my education at EC and propelled me to success.”
Because of the different school systems, Bastardo Blanco decided to study Biology and become a scientist. He chose EC for its traditions, small class sizes, and active campus community.
“I felt Elmira College was a place for me to grow and to serve. Also, I loved that EC has such a diverse number of classes and themes and subjects to explore,” he said excitedly. “It was very good for me because it enabled me to explore more areas of study I hadn’t considered before, and I grew and learned in a more holistic way.”
The smaller class sizes meant he could really get to know his professors.
“My relationship with my professors was really close. It went beyond just taking classes with them. I was learning about their own journeys to become scientists and professors. So it was really special.”
Although Bastardo Blanco was a Biology major, he was inspired by his Chemistry professor, Dr. Dale Powers, a published scientist with many patents. “To me, he seemed like an inspiration. I asked him within the first week or two if I could do research with him.”
And the answer was yes. While Bastardo Blanco conducted research with Powers, the experience that ignited his true passion was the microbiology research he conducted in the Obler Summer Research program between his second and third years.
“I continued to do that work through the rest of my studies at EC.”
While Bastardo Blanco found success in the lab, he also flourished outside the classroom. In his first year, he joined seven clubs, including Ultimate Frisbee, Model United Nations, Spanish, and Tennis. Bastardo Blanco also wanted to stay involved with Rotary International, which he volunteered with in high school. He ultimately started a Rotaract Club chapter at Elmira College, which continues to thrive today. Meetings with his classmates and strategizing how to make a difference in the community would become the best hours of every week.
“That was a significant part of my education. It was where I learned how to build relationships, be a leader, sell my ideas, and bring people together. I am very thankful to EC for providing me with this community where I could grow as a leader and grow as a person.”
After EC, Bastardo Blanco was on track to become the scientist he dreamed of becoming, joining the Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He felt better prepared to face the challenges of graduate school than many of his classmates, thanks to his experiences at EC.
“Some of my classmates didn’t really have the opportunity to participate in class,” he explained. “They could just go to a class with 100 other people and be silent all day and not be part of the discussion.”
Yet, as Bastardo Blanco went through his education, he realized he wasn’t taking advantage of some of his strengths like communication and relationship building. He decided to explore that side of himself and eventually switched from being a scientist to becoming a professional communicator and public relations professional.
“My science training helps me connect with scientists and physicians and think of creative ways to communicate scientific and medical information to lay audiences effectively. Additionally, I use the skills developed in the lab to improve how my team approaches our work and make research a regular part of it.”
“The work I do now inspires me every day and allows me to be closer to people - to patients - and to continue to do work that has a global impact on people’s lives. Families facing childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases need educational resources they can trust and the Together by St. Jude™ online resource provides trusted information no matter where the patient receives treatment, in a language they can understand.”
This story was first featured in the 2023 edition of Campus Magazine. Click here to see more!