Sadhana Jackson, MD Sadhana Jackson, MD


NIH researcher values the compassion EVMS taught her


NIH researcher values the compassion EVMS taught her

When Sadhana Jackson, MD (MD ’07), was a student at EVMS, she was able to interact with doctors from a variety of specialties. And she noticed something special about the pediatricians: They seemed to be the happiest physicians.

“I thought, I want to be one of the happiest physicians, too,” she says.

Dr. Jackson also knew she wanted to contribute to cancer research after two of her family members were affected by the disease. While completing a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, she developed an interest in children with brain tumors. In 2015, that interest led her to the National Cancer Institute within the National Institutes of Health.

As a clinical investigator with one of the world’s top medical-research centers, Dr. Jackson works with patients and directs lab research on brain cancer that examines the blood-brain barrier.

A tweet from Dr. Sadhana Jackson
A Match Day tweet of encouragement from Dr. Sadhana Jackson.

The barrier is a collection of cells that prevents toxins from entering the brain. But it also can stop effective chemotherapy agents from getting through to brain tumors. While some researchers work on manipulating these chemotherapy agents to reach the tumor cells, Dr. Jackson studies how to temporarily decrease the strength of the blood-brain barrier to improve drug delivery.

“I want to tell the brain what to do while others want to tell the drug what to do,” Dr. Jackson says, “which is fine. Either way, we need to figure out the answer. If the chemotherapy can’t get to where we want it to go, it becomes dead in the water. We need to improve the delivery so that we can improve survival.”

Outside the lab, Dr. Jackson likes to play board games with her children — Life and Monopoly are two favorites. As a family, they go on nature walks. They also dress up and act out books. Her hope, she says, is that her children can see her research pay off someday, and she wants them to recognize the compassion she has for patients and their families.

She attributes her heightened compassion to the “great pediatric advisers” she had at EVMS. “They loved teaching, they loved their patients, and they loved solving medical issues,” Dr. Jackson says. “I felt like that was what I wanted to become.”

A page from Dr. Jackson's (year)book

A page from the EVMS 2007 yearbook.
Source: EVMS Harbour 2007