Kianna Jackson, MD’20, recipient of the 1965 School of Medicine Class Scholarship and the Darline & Robert Raskind Scholarships, was the Founders Medalist for the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine class of 2020, bestowed to the student graduating with first honors. Jackson is also the first Black student to receive the medal at VUSM. She is a first-year plastic surgery resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Q. In your view, as a new physician, how can health care be improved for people of color and the LGBTQ community?
A. There is already a large amount of data elucidating the health care inequities that people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals face. The first step in improving those inequities is educating providers about them, and we still have a lot of work to do as a medical community. As a new physician, I am focusing not only on being aware of those inequities when interacting with patients, but also on learning as much as I can from patients about their individual experiences. By learning from the patients themselves, I can be in a better position to help educate my peers, and hopefully make some positive change.
Q. You were a first-generation college student and the first Black Founders Medalist for VUSM. What does that mean to you and what responsibility do you feel with these designations?
A. As a Black woman in medicine, I feel a responsibility to be a mentor and resource to other Black students who are traversing the same path. I have always struggled with imposter syndrome, and I hope to normalize that experience and reaffirm others feeling the same. I was shocked to be the first Black Founders Medalist, and learning that it took almost 150 years for a Black student to graduate at the top of the VUSM class re-emphasizes the need to constantly advocate for support for our URMs and first-generation students.
Q. You began your plastic surgery residency in July. Why did you choose plastic surgery?
A. Ironically, I entered my clerkship year confident that surgery wasn’t for me, and only stumbled into a plastic surgery case by chance. I immediately loved the attention to detail, the creativity, and the variety that plastic surgery cases offered. As I learned more about the field and was introduced to gender affirmation surgery, I realized that plastic surgery was the perfect field to combine my love for surgery with my social passion of improving health care for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Q. What are your fondest memories of VUSM and what do you most appreciate about being a member of the Class of 2020?
A. My fondest memories are of spending time with my classmates and going through the struggles of medical school together. I can vividly remember hilarious moments in Light Hall while studying for Step 1 with two of my closest friends, a time filled with joy and lots of long hours. I chose VUSM because of the people that I met on my interview day, and it was the best decision that I could have made. My classmates, our teachers, our deans, and our medical school staff have all been more than I could’ve asked for. I’m so excited to stick around for residency and see their faces around campus!