Trailblazing IUSM biochem researcher mentors others at home and beyond

July 23, 2015

When Teresita Bellido first came to the United States she had a deep passion for scientific research, a desire to succeed and a new doctoral diploma affirming her qualifications as a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the National University of the South in her native Argentina. The year was 1990 and Dr. Bellido was initiating her post-doctoral training at Indiana University School of Medicine and the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

Teresita Bellido, Ph.D., finds great satisfaction nurturing other scientists here in the U.S. and abroad. | Photo By BELLIDO LAB

She was trained in the U.S. by talented scientists and by joining the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, her scientific network expanded enormously. "I joined ASBMR for the science," Dr. Bellido said. "It is what scientists do -- they join scientific societies so they can take their research to an annual meeting to share their science with others."

What she discovered was an active professional society and she found a “scientific family” that widened her horizons not only scientifically but also at the career development level. At the ASBMR, she found a group of gifted women scientists and physicians that served as role models and gave advice to develop her career in ways that she had not been exposed to until then.

“When I first started, there were not a lot of opportunities for women beyond presenting your scientific findings at meetings or publishing your work," Dr. Bellido said. "But thanks to the foresight of women as well as men leaders of the society, ASBMR initiated programs with the goal of providing opportunities to all its members, in particular women, to excel to the highest of their potential."

Dr. Bellido, who is a professor of anatomy and cell biology and an adjunct professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine, has always been passionate about her research. Her dedication was rewarded early in her career with an ASBMR 1993 Young Investigator Award, which she describes as a proud event in her career, so much so that the plaque that comes with the award today still hangs on her office wall on the fifth floor of the VanNuys Medical Science Building.

The ASBMR was a society in tune with the times. ASBMR leaders realized the world of science was opening its doors to more women and more international scientists. Its board of directors recognized a need for programs that reflected the changing makeup of the scientific community and of its prospective membership. Soon the board created the Women in Bone and Mineral Research Committee, a committee Dr. Bellido chaired from 2012 to 2015. The committee was charged with mentoring women for career advancement, academic promotions and developing membership experiences that would fulfill the needs of female scientists. Dr. Bellido said the committee provided a forum for women to mentor women and enhanced her opportunities as a female scientist while she, in turn, helped more junior female scientists.

Setting an example as a female scientist is not foreign to Dr. Bellido. She was a founding faculty member at the University of Arkansas Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases; she was also the only female full professor in the IUSM Department of Anatomy when she arrived in 2008. And, Dr. Bellido said with an appreciative smile, she is pleased to work in the department with the first female basic science chair at IUSM, in reference to Kathryn Jones, Ph.D., who joined the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology as professor and chair in 2010.

Dr. Bellido finds nurturing other scientists -- both female and male -- satisfying. Her track record of supporting and encouraging others is one of the reasons she was named an ambassador to the ASBMR Outreach to Latin America initiative in 2014 and, in 2015, as an ambassador to the Outreach to China initiative. During her trips to Argentina and China, Dr. Bellido has met with scientists to discuss their research and the opportunities available to them through ASBMR.

"I think women scientists felt more comfortable with me because I am from another country and because I'm female. They asked me questions, and we would tour their labs and offer encouragement," she said, adding that being supportive of others' research interests is an important way to make junior scientists understand they have a place in ASBMR.

Dr. Bellido enjoys her role as mentor and feels that encouraging scientists from other countries to be active in ASBMR will strengthen everyone's research. "First you have to be a good scientist. Then you can be a mentor," she said.

Dr. Bellido has just been selected to receive the ASBMR 2015 Paula Stern Achievement Award recognizing “a woman in the bone field who has made significant scientific achievements and who has promoted the professional development/advancement of women in the field.”  Her skill at mentoring and leadership also was recognized this spring at IUPUI at the 2015 Women's History Month Leadership Award Ceremony when she received a Veteran Faculty Leadership Award.

The IUPUI awards celebrate female faculty and staff who lead through exemplary action, initiative, guidance, achievement, generosity, commitment and service.

Other IUSM faculty members honored at the 2015 Women's History Month Leadership Award Ceremony by the IUPUI Office of Women were:

  • Mary Guerriero Austrom, Ph.D., associate dean of diversity affairs and Wesley P. Martin Professor of Alzheimer Disease Education, received a Veteran Faculty Leadership Award.
  • Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and pediatrics and executive director of the IU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, received a Veteran Faculty Leadership Award.
  • Cherri Hobgood, M.D., chair and Rolly McGrath Professor of Emergency Medicine, received a Newcomer Faculty Leadership Award.
  • Angela Tomlin, Ph.D., who was named an Inspirational Woman, is an associate professor of clinical pediatrics and director of the Riley Child Development Center at Riley Hospital at IU Health.
  • Tara Hobson-Prater, director of Indiana BioMedical Gateway, received a Newcomer Staff Leadership Award.