Jasmine George Expands Accessibility in Science Policy and Communication

Jasmine George is a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Science at Morehouse School of Medicine, the President and Founder of Morehouse School of Medicine Science and Health Policy Group, and an active member of NSPN’s DEI Committee.

A photo of Jasmine George wearing a gray button-down shirt and smiling at the camera.

What is your research about?

The goal of my research is to efficiently characterize kidney disease based on eating and physical behaviors in obese individuals and to improve current treatment of kidney disease in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, my research is in kidney lipid metabolism in obese and diabetic individuals using a mouse model genetically modified to develop advanced diabetic kidney disease. Meaning, in my dissertation, I use a high-fat diet (like the typical US diet) to elucidate how lipids in circulation from "unhealthy" fats can affect the development of kidney disease in obese and diabetic mice. Further, I look to determine the cellular signaling mechanisms that play a role in kidney damage and dysfunction during these conditions.

I became interested in this research because obesity affects 2/3 of the US population, but its comorbidity with diabetes and kidney disease disproportionately affects African American adults. After completing a year-long apprenticeship in renal physiology in undergrad, and the passing of several family members from End-Stage-Renal Disease (ESRD) and other complications of diabetes, I decided to pursue my PhD in Biomedical Science.

A crucial aspect of health outcomes that affect the African American community and other communities of color includes access to healthcare, health and wellness, and healthy foods. My research on the impact of diet on diabetes and kidney disease brought me to be interested in communicating my findings to the community to improve their health. I am also interested in advocating against social determinants that negatively affect health through systems put into place which prevent access to healthcare and health information.

What made you interested in science policy? How did you find NSPN?

The concept of politics was a large part of my family, from taking part in canvassing since I was a child to communicating knowledge of policies that affect our community through church-based advocacy efforts. The importance of speaking up and speaking out for myself and my community is a significant part of my core values. However, I did not realize that I could use my science knowledge in this context until I enjoyed going on a science policy trip in 2017. There I met the late Senator John Lewis, one of my longtime heroes, and was able to communicate my knowledge in the advocacy for continued science funding and the need for affordable insulin in the state of Georgia. This experience fueled my passion for policy and helped me to develop a distinct interest in science policy.

I then searched to become more engaged in science policy and communication and joined the National Science Policy Network. The connections that I made at NSPN helped inspire me to start my science policy group at my school, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), and eventually set up a chapter of NSPN at MSM.

How are you involved in NSPN and MSM’s science policy group?

I am the president and founder of Morehouse School of Medicine Science and Health Policy Group (MSHPG), a chapter of NSPN in the Southern Hub. Additionally, I am a proud participant in NSPN’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, where I support the members in their efforts in diversity and inclusion in science policy. I am also spearheading an HBCU (Historically Black College/University) outreach program funded by NSPN with my lifelong friend, Raechel McKinley, where we aim to create more chapters of NSPN at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions as well as give BIPOC students the tools to engage in science policy and communication.

We created a series of webinars and workshops focused on educating students in science policy and communication which will give students activities focused on gaining experience in these areas. This effort is influenced by our undergraduate experiences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a prominent HBCU in North Carolina, and my experience on the graduate level at Morehouse School of Medicine. Based on our unforgettable experiences at HBCUs and in public policy, we seek to foster the passion and excellence from the student bodies at HBCUs to bring new and promising perspectives and increase the diverse voices in science policy.

What are some of MSHPG’s recent endeavors and accomplishments? What other science policy efforts are you working on?

As the president of MSHPG, my team has organized a legislative boot camp, which engaged MSM students in the legislative process and science advocacy for Georgia's state, and provided an opportunity for an open forum of current topics to present on the Georgia state floor. Additionally, my team organized a "VOTE Safe" event where we helped keep Georgians in the West-End community excited to be (safely) at the polls through the distribution of personal protective equipment, food and water, and gave information about voter registration for the disenfranchised population. In collaboration with Howard University, I have also organized a partnership with the Journal of Science Policy & Governance to increase diverse voices in science communication (what a busy year). Increasing access to science policy and communication as a career choice or even as an interest within the African American community is an essential aspect of who I am. 

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To learn more about Jasmine and the Morehouse School of Medicine Science and Health Policy Group (MSHPG), follow them on Twitter: @Jasmine_George1 and @MsmScipol.

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