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Emerging Principal Investigators: Dr. Romina Barral


Emerging Principal Investigators: Dr. Romina Barral

Headshot of Romina L. Barral, MD, MSCR
Romina L. Barral, MD, MSCR
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine; Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Kansas School of Medicine
Full Biography

As Children’s Mercy Research Institute (CMRI) grows its research programs, the institute has welcomed many innovative, early-career investigators to its roster of researchers. These investigators bring their novel ideas, unique talents, and diverse interests to CMRI. The following profile is one in our series on emerging principal investigators.

Growing up, Romina Barral, MD, MS-CR, Adolescent Medicine, felt a call to serve. She channeled that interest by pursuing a career in medicine, later specializing in pediatrics and eventually a subspecialty in adolescent medicine. In 2012, she joined Children’s Mercy Kansas City (CMKC) as a physician-researcher and has recently focused on research aimed at decreasing disparities in reproductive and sexual health care for youth from communities that have been marginalized. Dr. Barral said, “I felt like research would give me an opportunity to create a program with a different impact scale than my individual encounters in the clinical setting, which I also love.”  

In 2022, Dr. Barral received a five-year, $809,242 K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health for her study, “Reducing reproductive health disparities among Latinx youth living in rural communities.” The study’s aim is to partner with community members to co-develop and pilot test an unintended teen pregnancy prevention intervention for Latino teens in rural communities. 

Dr. Barral noted that although U.S. teen pregnancy rates have declined since the 1990s, birth rates among Latino teens in the U.S. are 1.5 times higher than the national average and more than two times higher in rural areas compared to rural White teens.

Dr. Barral created a youth advisory board to partner in developing the study’s intervention. Board members are Latino teens from rural Kansas. “The teens are helping to develop a program that can address reproductive health needs for teens living in rural Latino communities.” Once the team has developed the program, they will run a pilot trial to test it. 

The K23-funded project builds on earlier work by Dr. Barral. In 2021, Dr. Barral received a two-year, $143,494 KL2 Career Development Program award from Frontiers Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Kansas for the project, “Understanding teen reproductive health needs in rural Latino immigrant communities.” Since joining CMKC, Dr. Barral has also collaborated with JUNTOS, the Center for Advancing Latino Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). JUNTOS has projects and networks of partners in Kansas, and the JUNTOS team has helped in all aspects of these studies.  

Dr. Romina Barral provides information about her poster presentation, "Co-creating a program for Latino teens in rural communities: Empowering teens to make informed SRH decision," at the 2024 Annual Conference of the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Dr. Barral is appreciative of her mentors. Co-Investigators on the K23 grant project include the following mentors and advisors: Melissa Miller, MD (CMKC); Megha Ramaswamy, PhD, MPH (KUMC); Claire Brindis, PhD (University of Calif., San Francisco); Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD (University of Pittsburgh); Jill Joseph, MD, PhD, MPH (University of Calif., Davis); and Vincent Staggs, PhD. Dr. Barral also closely collaborates with Mariana Ramirez, LSMW (JUNTOS) and her team.

In the future, Dr. Barral plans to build on her current research. “I would love to create a program for teens to make healthy choices for their futures, not limited to reproductive health,” she said. “There are many different issues that we can address that are informed by the teens themselves.”

In addition to her role at CM, Dr. Barral is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine and a Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at KUMC.