Student Profile: Going to Med School to Make a Difference

Chandra L. Jackson plans to end health disparities between rural and urban communities.

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Diabetes was the backdrop to Chandra L. Jackson's childhood: The two most important women in her life struggled with the disease, and Jackson couldn't help noticing that her mother fared far better with good healthcare in Atlanta than her grandmother did with poorer care in rural south Georgia. The disparity gnawed at Jackson as she studied biology at Bethune-Cookman University, then took advantage of a summer internship for minorities at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, where she realized that epidemiology might hold ways to prevent a disease like diabetes. At 27, she is now a doctoral student at Hopkins.

A-ha moment: Shadowing a physician as an undergraduate, Jackson observed a Haitian immigrant's treatment for HIV. She was struck by how many services were required for a single patient—not just doctors and nurses but a translator and social worker, too. "I saw the need for something more upstream to prevent disease."

Goal: To join a university faculty or the CDC—and help end health disparities between rural and urban communities.

Education: B.S. in biology, Bethune-Cookman, 2003; M.S. in cardiovascular disease epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 2007. Expects to finish her Hopkins Ph.D. in 2012.

Inspiration: "On those sleepless nights, that's where that Haitian immigrant comes in and reminds me to stay with it."