Dr. Chandra Jackson is Paving the Road to Prevention While Mentoring the Next Generation of Scientists

Dr. Chandra Jackson
Dr. Chandra Jackson

As an Adjunct Investigator within the Division of Intramural Research of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), Chandra L. Jackson, Ph.D., M.S., contributes to the Intramural Research Program’s high-risk/high-impact health disparities research. These new areas are: social and behavioral sciences, community and population health, and molecular and epidemiology and genomic sciences. Jackson’s focus is on the latter.

Jackson also holds an Earl Stadtman Investigator (tenure-track) appointment with the Epidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), where she directs the research conducted by the Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group, and mentors up-and-coming scientists.

This busy scientist is employed in a modestly-diverse career field. In spite of a growing minority population, blacks are underrepresented in science occupations. According to the National Science Foundation , employed black scientists within health-related occupations was only 6.4 percent in 2015. However, Jackson leads a diverse team of early stage investigators – inspiring the next generation of scientists, which is integral to diversifying the career field.

As a first-generation college graduate, it was Jackson’s tenaciousness and eagerness to improve health outcomes which led her to further her education. After receiving her B.S. in biology from Bethune-Cookman University, she graduated from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health with a Master of Science degree in Cardiovascular Epidemiology. She earned her Ph.D. in Cardiovascular Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Recently named a JBP Health Fellow by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, (where she is set to receive up to $240,000 over a three-year period,) and a $300,000 Bench-to-Bedside Award recipient, Jackson says her research is focused on disease prevention and health promotion.

Black adults in the United States are nearly two times more likely than white adults to develop type 2 diabetes, and this disparity has continually risen for the past 30 years. “I am very interested in identifying upstream, modifiable determinants in hopes of providing scientific evidence that informs the prevention of type 2 diabetes and its complications,” said Jackson. Several family members were stricken with the condition and experience various levels of disease management, and she wanted to focus her efforts on primordial and primary prevention.

“It turns out that poor sleep may be an important, fundamental contributor to poor mental and physical health, including type 2 diabetes. I plan to focus on improving sleep as a strategy for preventing diabetes with an ultimate goal of developing and evaluating effective interventions that improve health and address health disparities, in hopes of helping everyone reach their greatest [health] potential,” said Jackson.

At the 2018 Research Conference on Sleep and the Health of Women, Jackson presented The Epidemiology of Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Sleep Health and Sleep and Sleep Disorders Among Women in the United States, and spoke about how individual behaviors like sleep, nutrition, and physical activity are influenced by physical and social environments which, themselves are influenced by social conditions and policies –considered drivers of disparities.

Jackson’s favorite quote, penned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Education without social action is a one‐sided value because it has no true power potential. Social action without education is a weak expression of pure energy,” is a testament to the work she is doing. Jackson plans to ensure that her evidence-based research affects policy to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.

Posted December 17, 2018