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Women in research: Heimar de Fatima Marin

17 February 2022 | 5 min read

By Heimar de Fatima Marin

Portrait photo of Heimar de Fatima Marin

"One must be open to changes and the exchange of routines, yet always ensure that equality is respected by all."

in this miniseries, we take a look at the issues experienced by women in research and will try to unpack some of the problems they may face in accepting and discharging editorial roles. We hope to highlight these issues, explore solutions and continue the conversation about how we can best enable gender balance in editorial teams without overloading any of the participants. We welcome all constructive comments and suggestions.

Heimar de Fatima Marin was interviewed by Christopher Tancock.

Tell us a little bit about your background and current role…

I graduated in nursing from the Federal University of São Paulo in 1983. Then followed a Master of Science in Nursing and a PhD in sciences with a focus on health informatics. Between 1996 and 1997, I did a post-doctorate in clinical informatics at the Center for Clinical Computing at Harvard Medical School. In 2004, I became a Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics, being the first Brazilian named in this College. In 2006, I became Full Professor at the Federal University of São Paulo and served as the President of the Brazilian Society of Health Informatics from 2004 to 2008 and Vice President from 2010 to 2013. In 2009 I founded and became Chief Editor of the Journal of Health Informatics of the Brazilian Society of Health Informatics.

What does a “normal” day look like for you?

I usually wake up at 6am, do my gym and Pilates and at 8am, I am at my desk. I stop for a few minutes every two hours to walk around the garden and try to close my computer around 5pm. This has been the routine since the start of the pandemic here in Brazil. In the past, I used to go to the university and very frequently to Brasilia to work at the Ministry of Health. Currently, I am also a consultant for the Alemão Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in digital health and in a project of digitalization of health information system at WHO Europe. So, that makes my day and agenda quite busy, including my journal work, of course. But I have still time to walk my precious dog – a sweet Golden Retriever!

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment?

I would say two things – one national and one international:

  • National: being the woman Full Professor in Health Informatics in Brazil.

  • International: being the first woman and nurse as the Editor-in-Chief of IJMIopens in new tab/window.

How did you come to be involved with the journal?

I was first involved as a reviewer from 1997 and as a member of the Editorial Board from 2001. At the time Dr. Charles Safran from Harvard Medical School was the Editor-in-Chief and I was conducting my post-doctoral fellowship with him. I stayed in that role for several years, most of them as a volunteer. When he decided to step down, we had a talk and agreed that it would be a good time for me to take over. So, I was interviewed and in June 2016, I became the Editor-in-Chief.

Do you enjoy being an editor – what are the best and worst aspects?

Yes, of course I do enjoy it a lot. I get the chance to see what is going on the field of clinical informatics. I can read and analyze the trends, challenges, and opportunities we are facing in each country and region.

The best aspect is to have this access and to be in touch with so many researchers from different countries. The “worst” - not that I’d put it in such strong terms, is having to adapt to the frequent change of managers and publishers. Securing reviewers is also always a challenge!

How have you been approaching the issue of gender balance and diversity on your journal?

I discussed this topic with the publisher, and we decided we would invite more women onto the Editorial Board. In terms of the Associate Editors, we are well already balanced. We also discussed the issue in a Board meetings and the approach was well received by all members.

In your opinion what is/are the 1-3 biggest obstacles facing women who want to participate more in editorial roles?

The main issue is that of time/availability. It is often the case that women have many hats to wear (house, children, academic position, research, industry, and other roles…).

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self – or other women who might be in a similar situation – what would that be?

One must have a robust knowledge of the field. It is important to create a reliable and strong leadership and the ability to make decisions, develop editorial judgement and pay attention to details.

Do you think that the pandemic has helped or hindered the cause of gender equality in editorial teams?

The pandemic has brought out all the best and worst experiences for countries and citizens. On the other hand, we have more opportunities to learn and to apply the acquired knowledge.

Do you think it is easier now for women to undertake editorial roles?

I think so, since they are occupying more and more positions as directors, managers, researchers, and head of industries. Women are also occupying more positions in sectors such as governments, organizations, and as world leaders. Thus, it is natural that editorial roles are among these. In my opinion, you should defend your position and your certainties. One must be open to changes and the exchange of routines yet, always ensure that equality is respected by all. Many positions still maintain lower salaries and fees for women. Try to be informed and don't settle for less!


Portrait photo of Heimar de Fatima Marin


Heimar de Fatima Marin