(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University doctoral student TyKera “Kera” Marrow has been selected to participate in Health Policy Research Scholars, a leadership program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Marrow is the first student from a Mississippi institution to be selected for the program. She joins the program’s fourth cohort, which includes 59 other doctoral students from various universities.
Designed for doctoral students from historically marginalized backgrounds and populations underrepresented in specific disciplines, Health Policy Research Scholars help researchers from all fields apply their work to policies that advance equity and health while building a diverse field of leaders who reflect changing national demographics.
The program also provides an annual $30,000 stipend, which can be used for educational and living expenses.
In early October, Marrow’s cohort attended a virtual two-day fall institute, including administrators and speakers. The event centered on leadership, collaboration across disciplines and how to use research to drive policy.
“This was the most interactive and engaging digital forum I have participated in,” Marrow said. “There was music, small interactive groups, team-building exercises, moments of reflection, honoring ancestors and other indigenous bodies, collaborative engagement, etc.”
After the experience, Marrow said participants tweeted about how close they all felt despite not meeting physically.
“We’ve met twice since then during our biweekly courses, and the effects of the fall institute were evident because the other scholars were eager to engage with one another. It was a wonderful start to years of community and interdisciplinary partnership,” she said.
In 2018, Marrow attended RWJF’s summer institute while doing a fellowship with the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. She was then introduced to a representative of the foundation and encouraged to apply.
“I applied in January of 2020. I was then invited for an interview via zoom in April and selected as a finalist in July.”
For Marrow, who is studying clinical psychology, the opportunity is a “godsend.”
“It has allowed me to breathe and decrease my worry about certain expenses,” the Baltimore, Maryland, native said. “This funding will assist me in educational and daily living expenses, research projects, electronic updates, and other tools that I need to be successful as I complete my studies.”
After graduation from JSU, Marrow will seek licensure as a psychologist. Her areas of interest center on ethnic, gender and sexual minority health disparities.
“I have always had an interest in health but never wanted to pursue medicine. During my master’s program, I learned about medical/health psychology and became invested in learning more about the intersectionality of behavioral and physical health,” she shared.
Discovering more about the rising Black maternal and infant mortality disparity in America, Marrow became more invested in this research area.
“Overall, I want to help disseminate and implement culturally sound clinical research and therapy that decreases the stigmatization of mental and physical health care utilization to promote oppressed and repressed populations’ holistic wellness,” she says.
Marrow holds a B.A. in psychology from Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. She has an M.S. in applied counseling psychology from the University of Baltimore.
On choosing JSU for her doctoral studies, Marrow points out that there are only three HBCUs in the country that offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
“JSU provides me the intimacy and community that I desperately needed to pursue this degree,” she explained.
The new Health Policy Research Scholar acknowledges Dr. Dawn Bishop-McLin, professor of psychology, and Andrea Hall, receptionist in the Department of Financial Aid, for being supportive throughout her time at Jackson State.
“My cohort members are also phenomenal, and I appreciate all of their love and support. Most importantly, I want to thank my family and friends at home who have always encouraged and poured into me.”