Mayra E. Vargas-Rivera


Clinical Research Laboratory Manager




Tobacco Control, HIV, and Preventive Medicine


Mayra E. Vargas-Rivera is a clinical research laboratory manager at the Department of Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University. Originally from Camuy, Puerto Rico, Dr. Vargas-Rivera completed her BS degree in Biology at Iowa State University before earning her MD from Ross University School of Medicine. She has extensive experience in implementing and conducting research with a focus on minority populations experiencing health disparities, as well as teaching clinical research methodology. She is committed to addressing the needs of minority populations that have been disproportionately burdened by substance abuse, with a focus on tobacco and the use of nicotine delivery devices such as electronic cigarettes and waterpipe/hookah among teenagers and young adults. She has a strong interest in preventive medicine research that makes a difference in improving outcomes that will achieve health equality. Dr. Vargas-Rivera has also worked for the landmark Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos at both the Northwestern University and University of Miami Field Centers, and was selected as a fellow of the highly competitive Interdisciplinary Research Training Institute on Hispanic Drug Abuse (IRTI) at the University of Southern California in 2016. Her other academic and research interests include stress and health behaviors, and well-being promotion.


Dr. Vargas-Rivera is the manager of the Epidemiology Clinical Research Laboratory, located at the Academic Health Center 5. This state-of-the-art facility has been designed to serve as Florida International University’s dedicated smoking clinical research laboratory. Fully equipped with independent smoking and reception areas that are isolated from each other, the lab also features five computer stations, blood drawing and specimen processing areas, fully furnished physical examination station, physical signs monitoring equipment, subjective measures assessment capability, and the latest in smoking topography technology. For more information please see: http://news.fiu.edu/2017/05/stempel-college-unveils-first-clinical-research-lab-for-hookah-smoking-in-south-florida/111612


  • Ross University School of Medicine, MD
  • Iowa State University, BS


Ben Taleb Z, Breland A, Bahelah R, Ebrahimi Kalan M, Vargas-Rivera M, Jaber R, Eissenberg T, Maziak W. Flavored Versus Non-Flavored Waterpipe Tobacco: A Comparison of Toxicant Exposure, Puff Topography, Subjective Experiences and Harm Perceptions. Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Jul 4. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nty131.

Vargas-Rivera ME (2017). Design and Implementation of a Novel Approach to Measure Flavored Waterpipe Tobacco Effects. “New Investigators in Hispanic Drug Abuse Research” panel, Early Career Leadership Committee, National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (NHSN) 17th Annual International Conference, Phoenix, Arizona.

Miguez MJ, Vargas-Rivera M, Perez C, Espinoza L, Chan W (2016) Exposure to Stress and Separation-Induced BDNF Impairments in Adolescents. J Neurol Sci Psychiatry. Volume 2 (1): 100113.

Madhavan Nair J, MIguez MJ, Agudelo M, Yndart A, & Vargas-Rivera ME (2015). Platelets Contribute to BBB Disruption Induced by HIV and Alcohol. Journal of alcoholism and drug dependence, 3(1), 182. DOI: 10.4172/2329-6488.1000182

Míguez-Burbano MJ, Vargas-Rivera ME, Quiros C, Lewis JE, Espinoza L, Deshratan A. (2014) Menthol cigarettes and the cardiovascular risks of people living with HIV. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care 25(5): 427-35.

Vargas-Rivera ME, Miguez-Burbano MJ, Asthana D, Lewis JE, Malow R. (2013) Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels Up-regulated by HIV and Smoking of Mentholated Cigarettes. New England Science Symposium, Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts.

Vargas-Rivera ME. (2007) Providing a medical home to patients. Winning entries from the National Conference of Residents and Medical Students. American Academy of Family Physicians, Kansas City, Kansas.