Our Student Spotlight celebrates student members of the Meharry-Vanderbilt community, whose achievements reflect the MVA’s commitment to enhance and support high-impact translational research, interprofessional learning, and community engagement.
As Taylor Jackson, MHS, completes her final year at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, she will become the first doctor in her family. This has been a long time coming, as Jackson thinks back to kindergarten in Tyrone, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. Her friends would balk at her strange fondness for the dentist. “My dentist makes me smile,” she would retort, “and she teaches me how to brush.”
Fast forward to 2016. Jackson graduated from Fisk University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. Dental school is still her goal, but she decides to take a gap year to work at the front desk of a local dental office. This turns into an invaluable learning opportunity, exposing her to the business side of dentistry. On top of that, Jackson describes realizing how office staff are the first to assist patients, oftentimes setting the tone for an entire visit.
After her gap year, Jackson completes the Master of Health Sciences program at Meharry and then starts dental school.
“Meharry gives its students room for opportunity.”
She quickly identifies several highlights of her experience:
- Recognizing that the diversity in Meharry’s School of Dentistry is more an exception rather than the rule, Jackson starts The Occlusal Table Podcast to help connect dental students of color who may be feeling isolated in their programs.
- Prompted by her informative gap year experience, Jackson feels it is important for her peers to have more business exposure. She decides to host a dental business symposium called “Beyond the Clinic,” which becomes an annual event.
- Even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson finds new ways to be involved. With a team of dental students, she starts the “REACH!” initiative, collecting over 1,500 oral health toiletry kits to donate to local grade schools and assisted living facilities.
Jackson is leaving behind a legacy in Nashville, as she embarks on the next leg of her journey in the pediatric dental residency program at the University of Illinois Chicago. During her residency, she plans to complete a master’s degree in public health while pursuing different avenues of advocacy and leadership. Years after being inspired by her childhood dentist, Jackson is starting her own career as a champion for children’s oral health.
Jackson has served as president of the Meharry Chapter of the American Student Dental Association, and she is currently a Pre-Alumni Association officer, serving as the Member-at-Large for the School of Dentistry.
You can read about Jackson’s research on the self-reported oral health status of those seeking testing for COVID-19.
Learn more about Jackson’s involvement, leadership, and achievements in dental school.
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
The Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance is a collaborative initiative between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Since 1999, faculty, researchers, health professionals, students, and community members have worked with the MVA to address health disparities. The MVA is committed to cultivating strategic partnerships, building community capacity, and facilitating research and learning opportunities. We seek to promote community resources and assets that strengthen connections between our institutions, partners, and the populations they serve.