NASHVILLE, Tenn. Jessica Jones, MS, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance’s (MVA) newest Program Manager, says her path was driven almost entirely by research.
“It was the research component that drove me,” she said, “and the projects happened to be centered around preventative health.”
Bridging the gap
Jones heads up the MVA’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Inter-Institutional Collaborative Learning pillar. Its aims are twofold: to allow students and faculty to share and apply knowledge, and to make a positive impact on the community.
“I want to continue bridging students with real-life experiences in public health that will guide them in their careers,” she said.
IPE, she believes, is all about making those connections. Academia can only take education so far. The most effective lessons, Jones stresses, are learned in the field.
After graduating from Tennessee State University (TSU) with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, Jones joined the Lloyd C. Elam Mental Health Center at Meharry Medical College (MMC). During her time there, she worked in addictions counseling with adults.
She then moved on to the Juvenile Court of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County and supervised adolescents as a Probation Officer. After a couple of years, she headed to Metro Nashville Public Schools to work as a Behavior Specialist, and then, a few years later, she returned to TSU to work at the Center for Prevention Research.
“I worked with Nashville Children Eating Well for Health (CHEW) for five years,” Jones recalled. “Then, I worked on an AARP Foundation project supporting seniors with access to healthy foods.”
Eventually, she joined the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), where she continued her nutrition efforts with CHEW 2.0.
“We were developing a mobile app to be implemented statewide as the new Women, Infants and Children (WIC) EBT system rolled out,” she said. "The goal of the app was to increase the consumption of healthy foods."
Then, two years later, Jones joined the MVA.
The ‘aha moment’
“A lot of my work at TSU was mentoring grad and undergrad students in community-based participatory research,” Jones said. “It was energizing to work with students in the capacity of their emerging professions and their innovative thinking.”
That urge to help students find their passion brought her to the MVA.
“Students have that ‘aha moment,’ and I thrive on seeing it connect and make sense for them,” she said. “They find their purpose, and that motivates me, because they’re the future.”
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.