Women who Inspire: Gabby Salinas

With an unyielding spirit, Gabby triumphs over adversity as a three-time cancer survivor.

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  •  2 min

Women who Inspire: Gabby Salinas

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Gabby Salinas is a living example of perseverance. 

From her childhood, she learned to surpass expectations and defy predictions, which has driven her to become an outstanding professional.

“If I’m a good scientist, it’s because I know that giving up is not an option for me. When something doesn’t work in the lab, I’ve already learned the lesson that I won’t give up,” Gabby said.

Her story consistently demonstrates her tenacity. 

Women who Inspire: Gabby Salinas

Gabby has survived cancer three times. 

Born in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, her life was threatened at the age of 7 due to a diagnosis of Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer affecting bones and soft tissues.

In 1996, she arrived at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee unable to walk due to the tumor’s pressure on her spinal cord. She was accompanied by her twin brother, Alejandro, her little sister and her parents.

At St. Jude, they found unexpected support. “I remember there were about six Hispanic families in the hospital, which was very positive. We celebrated and cried together because we knew we were going through the same thing,” said Gabby.

Gradually, Gabby reclaimed movement in her legs. Although some nerve damage from the tumor was permanent, she persevered through challenging and painful physical therapy. Her unwavering determination paid off: She achieved her goal of walking again. 

At the age of 8, Gabby experienced a family tragedy: She lost her father and her sister in a car accident that also paralyzed her then-pregnant mother.

Years later, after surviving Ewing sarcoma, she faced two subsequent diagnoses of different cancers. Each time, she sought treatment at St. Jude.

Despite it all, Gabby has persevered and continues to seize every opportunity.

“What motivates me is to see that my life has a greater purpose,” she explained.

Growing up in hospitals profoundly shaped her view of the world and science. “As a child, I was very curious about medicine and research, so I fell in love with science,” she said. Years later, she graduated from college with a degree in biochemistry.

Women who Inspire: Gabby Salinas

As a professional, she returned to St. Jude as a researcher for several years. 

“Returning to St. Jude and working with people I admired since childhood was a dream come true. It felt like working with family,” she said. She was also inspired by the fact that St. Jude shares its scientific discoveries with the world. 

She acknowledges the many barriers she faced as a woman and Latina in the field of science and is determined not to be the only one in those positions. “That’s why I also engage in politics, because as a scientist, we have a responsibility to communicate science broadly.”

In her various roles, Gabby embraces her greatest purpose: “I want to use the time I have in this world to leave it better than I found it.”

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