Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Dr. Jacqueline M. Powell

Jacqueline M. Powell, PhD

Dr. Jacqueline M. Powell is an Associate Professor at RVU, teaching Renal Physiology, Reproductive Physiology, Neurophysiology, and Ethics to MSBS students. She also serves as the Chair of the RVU-SU Diversity and Inclusivity Committee.

Below, we asked Dr. Powell to answer the following questions in regards to women in academia.

What do you think about when you hear “Women’s History Month”?

Women’s History Month is about highlighting and celebrating the many inspiring and trailblazing achievements women have made in our history, culture, and society. This month also enthuses me to learn more about the many contributions, initiatives, and issues that are unknown to me.

What has been one of your most rewarding moments at RVU?

My most rewarding moments have been when my female students thank me for being their role model. It is wonderful to know that I inspire and my support, dedication, leadership, and strength helps them through some difficult moments.

Have you been inspired by other women in life, medicine, or academia? If so, who were they and how did they impact you and/or your field?

Women’s History Month reminds me of the power and strength that women inherently possess particularly the women in my family. I come/descend from a long line of extremely fiery, feisty, strong-willed women who never let anything or anyone prevent them from achieving their goals. I am particularly inspired by my maternal great-grandmother who was a descendent of the Jamaican Maroons. Maroons were enslaved West Africans who successfully escaped from slavery, waged guerilla warfare against British colonial rule, and established independent communities in Jamaica’s rugged, mountainous interior. As my great grandmother, I am a fiery, strong-willed woman with a fighting spirit.

Some of the challenges I have faced in my career have involved breaking through both gender and racial barriers. Throughout my career, there have been many incidences of devaluation and disrespect which have been frustrating, angering, and hurtful. I am so thankful, as my great grandmother’s fighting spirit has been instrumental in my advocating for myself through numerous racial-and-gender-based inequities. It inspires my strength to rise above and overcome these challenges, pushes me to remember that I do belong in academia, and compels my passion to continue helping my students become critical thinkers and life-long learners so as to achieve their greatest potential as they journey through their medical career.

What is the best advice another woman has given you?

The advice I receive most often is from my mother. No matter what the problem is, she will undoubtedly say, “This too shall pass.” My mother is a firm believer that troubling situations are always temporary and we must press on in the face of adversity. As often as I am told this advice, I have since added, “it may pass like a kidney stone, but it’ll pass!” (Nothing like a little renal humor!). Nothing in life is permanent and you can always make your way through.

What are some challenges that you believe remain for women today, in society or more specifically in the healthcare field or academia?

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Unfortunately, the healthcare and academia fields continue to be devised by men, particularly for men. Pay for women still does not equal that of men, adequate representation of women in high-level administrative positions in business, politics, healthcare, and academia remains marginal, and not allowing women the flexibility to be a great working mother and a great working member without the mental load of having to choose promotion over parenting is still prevalent. Luckily for me, here at RVU I have been blessed to have two intelligent and powerful female bosses, who are also amazing mothers. Dr. Melissa Henderson and Dr. Francina Towne have been a huge source of inspiration and support, understanding the need for women in decision-making spaces, enabling women to work successfully and be recognized for their great work while also being incredible mothers. They have always believed in my capabilities and have always allowed my voice to be heard.

What hobbies/activities do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love to spend time with my beautiful teenage son and two toy poodles, traveling/visiting family and friends internationally, being in the gym, and playing sports.

What is your advice to women seeking a career and an educator/in the healthcare field?

To women pursuing a career in healthcare or academia: Be passionate and follow your dreams. Without a doubt, the world of healthcare and academia needs you. Be powerful as you lead with purpose so that you can shatter glass ceilings with ease. Be fearless and unapologetic in advocating for yourself and other women. Be loud and proud, you belong in the field, and your voice and contributions matter. Be supportive as you help other women in the field find strength in their voices. Be intentional in always remembering that, no matter what you look like or where you come from, you are intelligent enough, innovative enough, and impressive enough to be widely successful and excel beyond measure. 

Leave a Reply