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Mentorship is the Invaluable Key for HEALTH-RCMI's new Investigator Development Core Director, Dr. Stacey Gorniak

For Immediate Release: January 19, 2024 

Leading by example is something that comes naturally for HEALTH-RCMI's new Investigator Development Core Director, Dr. Stacey Gorniak.  A researcher who’s passionate about neuroscience and improving health outcomes, Gorniak embraces her new role with a dedication to mentorship through HEALTH-RCMI [PI: Dr. Ezemenari Obasi].

“A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately is within groups who have been underrepresented,” Gorniak said. “For me, it’s about leading by example and helping to make connections that help other investigators. It is not just about raising my own boat but raising everyone’s boat. If I talk to someone who also has an interest that could be a benefit to someone else within HRI, then I can make those connections and introductions.” 

Through a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Gorniak is currently spearheading a research initiative to study the factors which lead to dementia in women. Gorniak will specifically focus on underrepresented, perimenopausal women who have a more significant risk for Type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, and inflammation that might lead to dementia during their lifetime.  

“In terms of dementia, the risks for women are significant,” Gorniak said. “Women are 67 percent more likely to develop dementia over the course of their lifetime than men. And if you have Type 2 Diabetes, your risk of developing dementia is more than 2 times higher than a person who doesn’t have Type 2 Diabetes, and these risks are exacerbated in minority populations.”  

Gorniak is an associate professor in University of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Performance. Her research interests specifically include how neurological changes which result from aging impact movement disorders and chronic health conditions. 

“Uncovering the breadth and depth of health-related issues that don’t get attention is what interests me,” Gorniak said. “Many of these issues are under the umbrella of HRI. Some researchers know of HRI, but they do not know the depth and breadth of the work. I want to know wat can I do to really facilitate and help over the next several years, especially as we grow.” 

Gorniak underscored that her new chapter with the HRI offers a unique opportunity for her to foster growth in early investigator training and grant opportunities. 

“I’m excited about some of the work that’s coming out,” Gorniak said. “I would like to grow some of our programs, such as the RCMI multi-institutional grant, if we can do some growth there. I’m excited about that. I am also excited to contribute to and potentially add to the investigator development based on the other training and facilitation opportunities. I would like to share with HRI investigators and see if we can help everyone through the trainings I have gone through.” 

The opportunity for mentorship is one aspect of the new role that truly inspires Gorniak.


“I want to be viewed as a mentor and a teacher who cares about her students, in terms of women’s health,” Gorniak said. “I would love to be one of the women who opens the doors into women’s health and casting light into all this dark we have. Opening that door so that women can talk freely about their health.” 

--Alison Medley 

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Alison Medley at 713.320.0933 or email 



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