Women’s Health Research

From the time as an eighth-grader when she studied thyroid hormone levels on a rat colony in her family’s living room through years of medical studies and a residency at John’s Hopkins, to becoming the associate clinical research dean and director at–OSU–Ohio State University’s CCTS–Center for Clinical and Translational Science, Rebecca Jackson let nothing stand in the way of reaching her goals or accomplishing all she set out to do, including a heavy involvement in women’s health research.

One of the obstacles she had to overcome included a spinal injury that resulted in confining her to a wheelchair. Although everyone would have understood if she had quit then, Victor McKusick, renowned human geneticist, then medical residents director at Hopkins and her mentor, included her in the discussion of his rounds every day and expected her to participate from her bed in intensive care. She stated it helped her learn that since her mind was intact, she could do anything she wanted to do, regardless of the limitations of her body.

After completing her studies, Jackson returned to her home state of Ohio, where she landed a position in Ohio State University’s internal medicine department. By chance, she had a discussion with the department chair concerning the osteoporosis risk in postmenopausal women. Noting her enthusiasm, the department chair asked her present a proposal on bone densitometry. Her proposal was subsequently approved and she was given an assignment to lead in the development of the Center for Women’s Health.

Jackson continues now, in her role as director of CCTS, to diversify her research topics, which she attributes to her inborn curiosity and prolific reading habits. She is currently exploring the joint degeneration process leading to osteoarthritis in the knees. A $34 million Clinical and Translational Science Award granted to CCTS from the National Institute of Health has allowed her to cross disciplinary boundaries and apply multiple specialties in her quest to answer elusive and complex questions.

Jackson sees herself as a role model not only as a scientist-researcher to other scientists and trainees, but also as a woman and mother. She teaches that making choices that balance home life and career is wise, and that newcomers to the field should not over-commit to science too early in their careers to the detriment of all other roles in life.