Featured Researcher – Jamie Jackson, PhD

Featured Researcher – Jamie Jackson, PhD 150 150 Alaina Doklovic

Jamie Jackson, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health in the Abigail Wexner Medical Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, an assistant professor of Pediatrics and Psychology in the College of Medicine and Department of Psychology at The Ohio State University, and a licensed clinical health psychologist.

Dr. Jackson attended graduate school in clinical health psychology at The Ohio State University and completed her clinical internship at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She completed a clinical fellowship in cardiac behavioral medicine at the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

She then completed a two-year research fellowship as a T32 recipient (T32-HL-098039) in congenital heart disease through The Heart Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital before joining the Nationwide Children’s Hospital research faculty. Dr. Jackson’s current research focuses on disease self-management and health behavior engagement among cardiovascular at-risk adolescents and adults with an emphasis on individuals with congenital heart defects.

Because Halloween is her favorite holiday, every year her and her team take the day to create an elaborate Halloween display on her door with construction paper and other decorations. This past year, Dr. Jackson and her team created an entire Pennywise from “It” layout. They have also done zombies, skeletons, “Stranger Things” and “all kinds of spooky stuff”. Dr. Jackson is one of the only people who decorates her office door like this!

Read on to learn more about Dr. Jackson’s work and research career.

How/why did you decide to pursue a career in your field?

From an early age, I knew I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives. But for a while, I really had to figure out what that looked like for me. I went through a period where I was interested in genetic counseling and then took my first biology class and discovered that maybe genetics wasn’t the route for me. I had contemplated medicine and came upon psychology during my freshman year of college.

I really fell in love with the research aspect of it and found that I could actually meld my interest in human behavior and how people cope with medical adversity through clinical health psychology. This ended up being the perfect fit for me. That was where my interest was born. So, when I was applying for graduate school, I knew I wanted to try to pursue something where I was working with a population experiencing chronic illness as part of the adversity they were facing.

What was your path to your current role?

A lot of my graduate school career was focused on acquired heart disease. I learned a lot about gerontology from the clinical health psychology perspective and managing an acquired heart condition in which the onset was later in life. But, when I was trying to figure out what to do next, I knew I wanted to stay in research and just happened to bump into this opportunity at Nationwide Children’s where there was a research training grant (T32) in the Heart Center training people on adult congenital heart disease.

Here, I trained with Kathy Vannatta at the Center for Biobehavioral Health and Curt Daniels, director of our Columbus, Ohio Adult Congenital Disease and Pulmonary Hypertension (COACH) Program and was able to learn about congenital heart disease – a disease that in some cases goes undetected until adulthood, despite the patient being born with it.

I found my adult training in acquired heart disease was a nice marriage with what I had learned from Dr. Vannatta about the unique psychosocial aspects of being born with a chronic condition and then learning to manage that condition through their life. I was amazed at how resilient these individuals were at such a young age and fell in love with this area of research and the patients who are impacted.

Fun Facts About Dr. Jackson

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

For years, I’ve been eating the same thing for breakfast: a piece of toast, peanut butter and cut of a banana. The Elvis classic!

What’s your favorite way to relax?

Watching a new series on Netflix – drama, murder mystery, sci-fi. I usually watch series because I can’t watch a full movie without falling asleep. I most recently watched “Fallout”, but I love “True Detective” and even “The Walking Dead” for the longest time.

What is your favorite thing you’ve bought this year?

Remarkable – digital notebook. I like being able to organize my thoughts and then actually search them. Writing stuff down helps encode things in my mind, so this is the best of both worlds. A shout out to Drs. Sam King and Kevin Mason for introducing me to Remarkable!

Why did you decide to pursue your work at Nationwide Children’s?

This institution has always had such a great reputation, and I was really interested in coming here and learning about this institution because of the training program. I had done my graduate work at The Ohio State University, so I knew that Nationwide Children’s was well-respected. I also really like Columbus. I came from Arizona originally, where I did my undergraduate work, and I grew to really enjoy Columbus area (and all four seasons!). So, not only was it great for me to stay in Columbus, but I was excited to be a part of this institution that had been around for a long time, had a great reputation and a great training program.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I really enjoy working with people, and I feel like I get to do that at so many different levels at Nationwide Children’s. I get to work with brilliant people in my center who are tremendous colleagues. Because of them, we have an amazing atmosphere, and it makes it exciting to come to work.

I also enjoy training. I recently had the opportunity to train a postdoc who has now joined us as a faculty member. Being able to pass along some of the information that I learned during my own training and all of the lessons since then is very gratifying. Even if they aren’t going into the same career or field I’m in, I can hopefully leave a positive impression about the field I’m in, the patient populations we work with, and provide some guidance on career development.

Finally, I enjoy the intermittent interacting with participants and patients involved in the research. I do a lot of supervision – I have interventionists that work for me as part of my behavioral clinical trial – and I get to listen to them work with these patients. It is energizing to hear when the intervention appears to be working and a patient says they feel better and are being more active. It feels amazing to hear this and get the sense that I’m actually making a difference.

I could say many other things I love about my job, like I also enjoy writing and the scientific inquiry process and the methods of research, but I really get a lot of joy from the research team here in the Center for Behavioral Health.

How does your research serve our patients and our community?

One of the things that interested me as I transitioned from being a fellow to faculty is the behavioral clinical trial work. This is where you get to see more of the direct influence, and you hope benefit, on a patient’s life and where you can make a difference.

What’s next? What do you hope to accomplish in your research and professional development going forward?

On the research front, if the intervention we are currently researching is efficacious, I want to delve into how we can implement this in the real-world clinical setting. I want to know how we can make the intervention available and how can we see the equality and equity in our research populations. The more we can incorporate certain populations into our current research, the more we can help kids from all backgrounds.

About the author

Alaina Doklovic is a Marketing Specialist for Research Communications at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She received her BS in medical anthropology and English from The Ohio State University. Her passions for science and health, combined with her desire to help others, motivated her to pursue a career in which she could actively help improve patient outcomes and scientific research through writing.