Jennifer Kizza’s passion for medicine impacts every aspect of her life, both in the U.S. and across borders. At Harvard, this driven and compassionate collegiette is a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) and a student researcher at Boston Children’s hospital. Over the last three years, she has volunteered in clinics in Uganda, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Kenya. These trips served to remind her of the barriers we face in medicine, both locally and globally, and motivated her to change the situation for the better.
Jennifer loves to share her wealth of knowledge in and out of the classroom, as an advisor for potential pre-health students and a tutor for introductory level chemistry. As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, she is also a member of Delta Gamma Sorority, the Association of Black Harvard Women and the Harvard Society of Black Scientists and Engineers.
Jennifer’s parents are first-generation immigrants to the United States; her mother was born in Malawi and her father in Uganda. From them, the collegiette has learned the importance of education and to have a genuine respect for others as they are, including their “religious beliefs, cultural practices, socioeconomic differences, gender identity, sexual preference, political views and more.” This humble and incredible woman recognizes the opportunities she has enjoyed and strives to give back to those who made her dreams possible.
Name: Jennifer Kizza
Graduation Year: 2016
Hometown: Gainesville, FL
Twitter Handle: @Jen_Kizz
Instagram Handle: Jen_Kizz
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Jennifer Kizza: I’d have to say my greatest achievement to date was getting emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. I came into college knowing I was interested in medicine, but my only previous experience with medicine was through shadowing doctors in hospitals. The EMT certification process definitely allowed me to further explore the medical field. The EMT course I took my freshman spring comprised of 100 hours of training on top of my regular school course load. It therefore was a huge time commitment, but so rewarding.
To this day, the EMT course along with the shifts I have served as an EMT on my school’s campus have provided the most amazing hands-on medical experience. I also am always surprised to find the numerous ways and settings in which the skills I learned can be put to use. For example, when I was teaching in Botswana the summer of my freshman year, I was able to splint a student’s broken arm using twigs and a shin guard. Serving as an EMT has been so reaffirming of my interests in and passion for medicine.
HC: What do you think is the biggest factor that led you to where you are today?
JK: Support from incredible parents and teachers/professors has definitely led me to where I am today. I am always so thankful for the guidance and encouragement I have received, and I know I most certainly would not be where I am today without the wonderful people who have helped me grow and who constantly challenge me to be my best. My parents and teachers/professors have served as phenomenal role models and mentors; I only hope to serve the same role for others in the future.
HC: What are you working on right now?
JK: Currently I am working on my thesis at Boston Children’s Hospital Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience. My thesis focuses on better understanding the male preponderance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by restricted and stereotyped behaviors as well as social and communication impairments. Interestingly, ASD is more likely to occur in males than in females, but females with autism are more likely to have more severe forms of ASD. Currently, the cause of ASD is unknown. I am therefore working with electroencephalogram (EEG) data collected from pre-adolescent males and females with ASD and without ASD to see whether this data may uncover neural correlates behind this ASD gendered phenomenon. I am also correlating this EEG data with behavioral characteristics such as language and IQ to see whether any patterns may emerge.
HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
JK: My top goal and priority post-graduation is to make an impact in health care inequalities. I am especially interested in mental health and nutrition. I would love to improve outreach, awareness, and resources for both mental health and nutrition, especially in communities of lower socioeconomic status. I would especially love to work in the communities in which my parents grew up, namely, Uganda and Malawi. Post-graduation, I therefore plan to receive both a medical degree and a master of public health.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
JK: Primarily, love what you do and do what you love. To that effect, never let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing your goals/dreams. If you are passionate about and truly love what you are pursuing, let nothing stop you. The path to this goal will of course require sacrifices, determination and resiliency. In the toughest moments, I think it is always therefore important to put everything into perspective; save time for personal reflections and take time to remind yourself of your long-term goal and motivations.
As an equally important point, your health and well-being should also always be a number one priority. You should always feel comfortable to reach out to others for support, assistance, and advice. There is no reason to feel that you have to reach your goal/dream alone!
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
JK: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Iris is the associate editor at Her Campus. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications and gender studies, but was born and raised in France with an English mother. She enjoys country music, the color pink and pretending she has her life together. Iris was the style editor and LGBTQ+ editor for HC as an undergrad, and has interned for Cosmopolitan.com and goop. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @irisgoldsztajn, or check out her writing portfolio here.