Jade Tso’s passion for scientific research and global health began at the age of 15. She did an internship at the American Chemical Society, which put her in touch with 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, which is rare in the United States but common in other countries.
“This experience broadened my perspective on what science and research might look like,” Tso said.
The former intern is now a first-year medical student at UC Davis on the ARC-MD Honors Pathway, short for Academic Research Careers for Medical Doctors. And she’s on her way to 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 grantees selected from the United States.
The scholarship enables students passionate about global health to conduct research worldwide, provide medical services, and chair AMWA committees.
The first year of the program focuses primarily on the global health curriculum, meeting with fellow grantees, writing blog posts, and developing research topics. The second year is dedicated to the implementation of a major research project.
“When I applied, I was keen to join a community of women who are also emerging leaders in global healthcare, and I hope to apply the leadership and project management skills I have gained from previous experience to the fellowship’s final project in my second year apply,” Tso said. “I look forward to listening to community members and helping design programs that best serve their priorities.”
Early interest in medicine
Tso was born in New York. As a child she moved to Elk Grove where she developed an interest in medicine.
When she was 12, her father was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a condition of the heart muscle that makes it difficult for blood to pump. Her family watched her father lose more than 50 pounds and go to intensive care units for eight months before receiving a heart transplant.
“This experience inspired me to be the doctor who stands by patients and their families through their most difficult moments. It also sparked my interest in cardiology,” Tso said. “I believe that building stronger health systems to fight cardiovascular disease will become a major global health issue in the coming decades.”
Tso already has valuable research and global health programming experience on her resume.
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 conducted research on anticoagulant delivery models in sub-Saharan Africa for a Harvard Medical School-based project.
She spent six years facilitating workshops and coaching leaders from around the country to organize lobbying for global health laws on behalf of Partners in Health Engage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care for the underserved.
After graduating from college, she spent two years at Advance Access & Delivery, a global health organization that tasked her with tuberculosis prevention in the Republic of Georgia, and then developed COVID-19 testing strategies at homeless shelters in Oklahoma City.
Each of the experiences, Tso said, reinforced a few core principles.
“First, health care is a human right. And second, 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’ve heard from patients have challenged me to think about system-level changes that could make healthcare more accessible.”
As an ARC-MD student, Tso will attend the first three years of traditional medical school, take a year off to do research, and then graduate after her fifth year.
I am passionate about strengthening the voices of those who are all too often left behind by the healthcare system. It will be my lifelong journey to prove that the highest standard of healthcare can be delivered in a resource-poor environment.”
Towards 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 accomplishments,” said Professor Luis Fernando Santana, Arline Miller-Rolkin Endowed Chair in Physiology and Membrane Biology.
“This award is an example of how we are meeting our goal of developing the next generation of diverse, team-focused, health-engaged faculty,” said Frederick J. Meyers, professor of internal medicine who leads the ARC-MD path.
Tso, who enjoys photography, running, golfing and watching Duke basketball, is keen to pursue a career in medicine that will allow her to care for patients, conduct research and prevent disease around the world.
She has fond memories of the high school internship that started her training and career path.
“When I think about a nearly 10-year journey, I get very excited because I know this is just the beginning,” Tso said.
“I am passionate about strengthening the voices of those who are all too often left behind by the healthcare system. It will be my lifelong journey to prove that the highest standard of healthcare can be delivered in a resource-poor environment.”