Why We Serve — Giving Back as a First-Generation Scientist


Group Photo – Red Shoe Society | A young professionals network dedicated to giving back to RMHC Families.

Story by Katie Kelly, communications coordinator

Ileena Mitra always knew she wanted to help people in her community. As the daughter of Indian immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ileena saw how income and healthcare inequity affected those around her. Her childhood experience led her to become a scientist helping people in need through groundbreaking research.


Reflecting upon her inspiration for pursuing science and joining the Red Shoe Society, Ileena shares, “I’ve always had a strong internal motivation to do mission-driven work that helps people.”

Using Science to Help Families in Medical Crisis

As a scientist with a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from the University of California, San Diego, Ileena is working toward developing new technology in personalized medicine to help doctors create individually tailored therapies to help families experiencing medical crises.

“Personalized diagnostic tests and therapies can be improved through large-scale data. Developing new technology can improve patient outcomes by treating them with the right therapies at the right stage.”

“I’ve always had a strong internal motivation to do mission-driven work that helps people.” — Ileena Mitra

Supporting Families at Ronald McDonald House

When the opportunity arose to support families at Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area, Ileena jumped in as a member of the newly relaunched young professional’s network, known as the Red Shoe Society. “I realized I could make a strong contribution, leveraging my unique perspective as a scientist and Bay Area native.”

Ileena and the Red Shoe Society encourage the Bay Area’s rising corporate and community leaders to unite around Ronald McDonald’s mission to help house, feed, and support families with sick kids by engaging new donors, supporters, and sponsors in Charity activities. Red Shoe makes a positive difference in our community and supports the Charity in keeping families with sick kids together and near the medical care they need.

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Helping families access life-saving medical care far from home, no matter where they come from, motivates Ileena to get involved and encourage others to do so, too. She explains, “The Bay Area has three leading children’s hospitals, yet it is also one of the most expensive areas in the country for families needing to access care.”

Supporting RMHC Bay Area is incredibly impactful for families with sick children. The charity provides families access to world-renowned medical care in the San Francisco Bay Area, so they can focus on what matters most — their sick kid and well-being of their family.

Leaning on Family

“When one person is sick in a family, it affects the whole family.” — Ileena Mitra

As a first-generation Indian American, Ileena knows how important family is to lean on. She shared, “My family are the people in my life who are beside me no matter what happens and always support me.”

Driving Ileena is RMHC Bay Area’s mission of keeping families together and supported through the most challenging times. Ileena shares, “When one person is sick in a family, it affects the whole family.”

First-Generation Woman in STEM


In addition to her philanthropy, Ileena is proud to be breaking down barriers as an immigrant woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Ileena is a part of the 18.1% of bioinformatics scientists that are women in the United States.

“While pursuing my Ph.D. and working in various positions, I’ve often been the sole female in the group. I am proud of being the first in my family to get a Ph.D. as navigating university and post-grad are more difficult as an immigrant.”

Ileena supports other Bay Area professionals in breaking down barriers as a woman of color and builds community by making a difference for families in need. “We are creating a network of young professionals to connect through volunteer service and supporting families with sick children.”

Ripple Effect of Kindness

Ileena knows that everything she accomplishes with her team, from volunteering to supporting fundraising events, positively impacts sick children.

Ileena’s favorite saying is, “There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” As she supports Ronald McDonald House in providing housing, meals, psychosocial support, and other care, Ileena creates a huge ripple effect of kindness for families experiencing childhood illness.

“It’s wonderful to think about whom we might help at Ronald McDonald House Charities and how, in turn, the children and families may help someone down the line.”

Ready to Join Ileena and the Red Shoe Society? Learn more by clicking the button below.