Rory Meyers professor Jacquelyn Taylor was selected as one of 100 new members of the National Academy of Medicine, one of the most respected achievements in the field of health, in October.
Taylor researches how social factors contribute to health disparities among minorities. She was noted for her research on how environmental factors can affect blood pressure among black people.
Taylor responded to her appointment in an interview with WSN.
“It is a great honor being the only faculty member in the College of Nursing to receive this,” Taylor said. “The National Academy of Medicine is known for their body of brilliant experts in the field.”
This is not the first major achievement Taylor has received for her work. In 2017, former President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Recipients of the award are employed or funded by a department or agency, in hopes of making discoveries that advance U.S. society.
Her intergenerational blood pressure study evaluated the connection between factors like parenting stress, depression and racism and the propensity for high blood pressure among black people.
After receiving the PECASE award, Taylor used pre-existing samples from her study to identify how alterations in DNA could lead to other cardiovascular-related diseases, finding that black mothers have higher levels of parenting stress compared to white mothers, which could lead to other risk factors like high blood pressure.
It included 500 participants — 250 mothers and 250 children — who were involved in Head Start, a program led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides education, nutrition and parent involvement initiatives for low-income families.
Participants’ blood pressure, height, weight and saliva samples were collected by the research team. They were also interviewed every six months during the two-year period.
The study found that parenting stress affected gene repression, or the switching on and off of genes to maintain cells’ functions.
Dr. Veronica Barcelona, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Nursing, first met Taylor more than four years ago while pursuing her postdoctoral degree at Yale. She worked with Taylor on the InterGen study for two years, during which time she posed questions for her research on how pregnancy complications led to poor birth outcomes.
Barcelona emphasized how Taylor supported her early in her career by helping her write grants to fund research for her area of interest: maternal-child health.
“She set you up in your future goals, and identified the best training programs and the skills in order for you to be successful,” Barcelona said. “I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.”
Dr. Michelle Wright, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin, first worked with Taylor in 2012 while in graduate school at the University of North Dakota. Wright also worked on the InterGen study, analyzing the data the team received from the interviewees.
Before meeting Taylor, Wright did not know about health disparities disproportionately affecting minority communities, specifically how certain factors can influence risk for physiological disease. She noted that Taylor opened her eyes to the fact that people who have the most health disparities are usually excluded from research.
Similar to Barcelona, Wright spoke about how Taylor has become a great mentor to her.
“Dr. Taylor has been inspiring,” Wright said. “Since we’re both from Michigan, following her trajectory has been impressive. She has been instrumental in lifting up her mentees and helping them become successful.”
Wright still works with Taylor on a regular basis. Recently, they submitted a project to the National Institute of Health together.
In addition to her role as a nursing professor, Taylor serves as the co-director of the P20 Center for Precision Health in Diverse Populations at NYU, which provides pilot grants to junior faculty to help build their research programs on chronic conditions.
Abraham Brody, Enrichment Program Director of the center, met Taylor in 2014 when both of them were Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars. The program was designed to create a national network of leaders in nursing.
Brody mentioned Taylor was two years ahead of him, serving as one of the senior members in the scholars program. He spoke fondly of her work in the role of genetics in health disparities.
“She was very welcoming, engaging and enthusiastic in sharing her wisdom and experience,” Brody said.
As a black woman from Inkster, Michigan, Taylor acknowledges how her role in the National Academy of Medicine can have an impact on advising health policy in the future.
“It’s good to have a voice at the table to potentially influence health policy,” Taylor said. “Since my work has focused on health equity, I want to continue to improve healthcare for vulnerable populations.”
Email Alex Johnson at [email protected].