Jade Tso’s passion for scientific research and global health started when she was 15. She interned with the American Chemical Society, which connected her to a notable chemist at UC Davis: Betty Burri of the federal government’s Western Human Nutrition Research Center.
Tso worked under Burri on a project related to vitamin A deficiency, a condition rare in the U.S. but common in other countries.
“This experience broadened my view of what science and research could look like,” Tso said.
The former intern is now a first-year UC Davis medical student in the ARC-MD honors pathway, short for Academic Research Careers for Medical Doctors. And she’s on track to accomplish great things: Tso was recently named a 2021–2023 Anne C. Carter Global Health Fellow by the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). Tso is one of only four fellows selected from across the United States.
The fellowship allows students who are passionate about global health to conduct research around the world, perform medical services and chair AMWA committees. The first year of the program is focused primarily on global health curriculum, meeting other fellows, writing blog posts and coming up with research topics. The second year is dedicated to implementing a major research project.
“When I was applying, I really wanted to join a community of women who are also aspiring leaders in global health, and I hope to apply the leadership and project management skills I’ve gained from previous experiences to the fellowship’s second-year capstone project,” Tso said. “I’m looking forward to listening to community members and helping to design programs that best serve their priorities.”
An early interest in medicine
Tso was born in New York. She moved to Elk Grove as a child where she developed an interest in medicine.
When she was 12, her father was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a disorder of the heart muscle that makes it difficult to pump blood. Her family watched her father lose more than 50 pounds and go in and out of intensive care units for eight months before he received a heart transplant.
“This experience inspired me to want to be the physician serving patients and their families in their hardest moments. It also began my interest in cardiology,” Tso said. “I believe that building stronger health care systems to fight cardiovascular diseases will become a major theme in global health in the coming decades.”
Tso already has valuable research and global health programming experience on her résumé.
After graduating from Franklin High School in Elk Grove, she enrolled at Duke University. There, she led a community-based nutrition project in Argentina and conducted research on mosquito-borne diseases in Costa Rica. She also researched delivery models for anticoagulants in sub-Saharan Africa for a project based at Harvard Medical School.
She spent six years facilitating workshops and coaching leaders from around the country to organize advocacy efforts for global health legislation on behalf of Partners in Health Engage, a nonprofit dedicated to improving health care to the underserved.
Following her college graduation, she spent two years at Advance Access & Delivery, a global health organization that assigned her to help prevent tuberculosis in the Republic of Georgia, then develop COVID-19 testing strategies at Oklahoma City homeless shelters.
Each of the experiences, Tso said, has reinforced a couple of core principles.
“One, health care is a human right. And two, policy and public health initiatives should directly address barriers to care and honor the struggles of the most vulnerable patients,” Tso said. “The stories I have had the privilege of hearing from patients have challenged me to think about system-level changes that could make health care more accessible.”
As an ARC-MD student, Tso will attend the first three years of traditional medical school, take a year off to conduct research, then graduate after her fifth year.
On track for a career in research
Tso’s recognition as an Anne C. Carter Global Health Fellow reflects the caliber of ARC-MD students at UC Davis.
“All members of the ARC-MD program are incredibly proud of Jade’s accomplishment,” said Professor Luis Fernando Santana, Ph.D., the Arline Miller Rolkin Endowed Chair in Physiology & Membrane Biology.
“This award is an example of how we achieve our goal of developing the next generation of diverse, team oriented, community health-committed faculty,” said Professor of Internal Medicine Frederick J. Meyers, M.D., M.A.C.P., who oversees the ARC-MD pathway.
Tso, who enjoys photography, running, golf, and watching Duke basketball, is eager to enter a medical career that will allow her to care for patients, conduct research and prevent diseases around the world.
She has fond memories of the high school internship that started her educational and career path.
“As I reflect on what has been an almost 10-year journey, I am very excited because I know this is just the beginning,” she said. “I am passionate about empowering the voices of those who are too often left behind by the health care system. It will be my lifelong journey to prove that the highest standard of health care can be provided in low-resource settings.”