Having won first place in the Community-Based Poster Competition at Mississippi IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022 in late July, we interviewed Mississippi INBRE Service Scholar (MISS) Jaylen Sandifer about his summer research experience. A Jackson, Miss. native, Sandifer is a 22-year-old biology pre-medicine and music dual major at Jackson State University. He spent his summer working at the Open Arms Healthcare Center in Jackson, a clinic operated by our partners at My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. (MBK). While there, Sandifer conducted research with the MISS program through several outreach events. Drawing from his experiences at the clinic and his research, his presentation was titled “Understanding Disparities in Healthcare for Transgender People in Jackson, Mississippi.” 

  • Why did you choose the MISS program? 
    • Sandifer: “I chose the Mississippi INBRE Service Scholars Program due to its emphasis on Public Health and it represented an opportunity to conduct impactful research. I love Mississippi and understand our state faces unique and complex health challenges. My initial motivation for pursuing this program stems from the fact heart disease is the top killer in Mississippi and because of the high chronic disease prevalence in African Americans. The program greatly expanded my scope of pressing health issues and their effect on the world. I have committed myself to improving the South’s poor health status. My goal is to obtain an MD/MPH in pursuit of a career in lessening health disparities in vulnerable populations. I sought a summer experience that would challenge my mind, provide valuable public health content, clinical experiences, and explore my passion for helping others. MISS fit the mold perfectly.”
  • What skills have you gained from participating in the program and how do they factor into your future career? 
    • Sandifer: “I gained a variety of skills through the clinical and research experiences. During the program, we participated in weekly debates that improved my public speaking skills. I received CPR certification and improved my patient interaction skills while shadowing at the clinic.”
  • What was it like to work in a real-world clinic setting? Thoughts about the experience? 
    • Sandifer: “As an aspiring physician, I was glad to be placed at the Open Arms Healthcare Center. Through shadowing the providers, pharmacist and staff, I gained a deeper insight into the daily operations of a clinic and the importance of an inclusive and diverse clinical team. The experience also opened my eyes to the realities of LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive patients concerning healthcare. It was an invaluable experience seeing culturally competent healthcare workers, and I think it will serve to make me a better physician in my future career.”
  • Congratulations on winning first place in the Community-Based Poster Competition at Mississippi IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022! How did it feel to see all your hard work come to fruition in such a big way? 
    • Sandifer: “Thank you! It was wonderful to see my research be acknowledged with a first-place win. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face increased barriers in healthcare access and discrimination. Having the opportunity to shine a light on this often-overlooked group of people is important to me. I am extremely proud of my research’s ability to create dialogue and push the conversation forward in this way.”
  • Do you have any advice for students considering applying for next year’s program? 
    • Sandifer: “The top advice I will give students is to be your authentic self and allow curiosity to lead your research. You will receive an immense amount of valuable information and networking opportunities from the program. Take advantage of every opportunity and ask questions.”
  • Favorite memory from this summer? 
    • Sandifer: “My favorite memory from this summer was our last fun day at the bowling alley. It was great seeing everyone together one last time. I developed new friendships and had many awesome mentors during the program. It was bitter-sweet leaving everyone, however I am excited to see the unique ways my peers will impact the world.”
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
    • Sandifer: “In 10 years, I see myself continuing the work I am doing now- exploring my passion for the arts and sciences. I envision myself as a leader in medicine and public health, while continuing to conduct impactful patient-centered research. I seek to be the passionate physician and role model that patients can see themselves reflected in.”

Passionate, curious, and bright- Sandifer is a role model for all undergraduate researchers. We’d like to thank Sandifer for his participation in the interview, and we wish him the best of luck on his road to becoming a physician.