- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
5 Questions with … Savannah Jones
by Ryan Clark
CHS Director of Communications
Savannah Jones knew she wanted a career in health care ever since she was a child.
Her mother, who suffered from diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, required consistent medical care, and Savannah saw how those medical workers helped make her family’s world a little bit easier.
Now, Savannah is in her first year as a PA student. The 22-year-old Springfield, Ill., native is an HHS graduate, a former CHS student ambassador and a former undergraduate research assistant in the Center for Muscle Biology.
We catch up with her as she gets ready to celebrate her 23rd birthday, and we talk college, culture — and how her CHS family helped her through the worst tragedy of her life.
Here’s 5 questions with Savannah Jones:
SJ: I really had never heard of the University of Kentucky, honestly, at all, being from Illinois. But we had a recruiter from Kentucky that came to my high school, and the lady was just so nice. She was just talking about the basketball games and how everything was so fun. And I got really excited about it.
But I am a first-generation college student, so we had a lot of questions about everything and were just kind of confused with application stuff and scholarships.
But UK was so helpful. I mean, from every single person that we talked to — it was never an automated machine, and it was never hard to get an answer from somebody. They were always, ‘Oh, I don't know but I'm going to find this for you’ and so pleasant on the phone. And then, when we visited, everybody was so kind on campus. The students would help us out and kind of navigate us. The Southern hospitality was very evident.
SJ: I think UK people say it’s a family, and I definitely feel that from meeting people on campus, and the professors are very, very attentive to their students.
Every single professor I've had has been like, ‘I want you to know this information — not just memorize it. And whatever you need, I'm here for you.’ And in CHS, I had a lot of personal things going on, and the Dean and a lot of faculty members were my support system.
It was my sophomore year when I lost my mom, randomly. A heart attack. And it was incredibly hard, obviously. And there was just a lot of things I had to navigate personally. Like, I had to get new healthcare insurance and I had to know how to fill out all these papers — and I also had finals and stuff. It was super overwhelming. And I knew that I could go to all my advisors and professors and they would help me. They all knew what had happened. They were there at a time when I really needed them the most. Everybody is just there for you.
They were my family.
SJ: I always knew that I wanted to do medicine. My mom was sick when I was growing up, and she was in and out of the hospital. So I was always in the hospital with her and visiting and kind of around those health care professionals. But it wasn't until I got to the College of Health Sciences that I really understood what a PA was.
Just shadowing early, I figured out that I really liked PA, and I really liked the teamwork aspect of it. I also saw a lot of changes actually being made from the American Academy of Physician Assistants. They created a scholarship for black PA students, and they were having different podcasts and letting black PAs and black PA students feel heard and explain their stories.
So I was seeing these actions being taken, and I wanted to be a part of that profession. I also noticed too, when shadowing, that none of the PAs were African-American. I think it's really important that our patients have providers that look like them, and we can all share our different experiences and cultural backgrounds.
SJ: A lot of things happened — like the George Floyd situation, and there’s still a lot of racial tension everywhere. So the Dean reached out to undergrad, grad and professional students throughout the College — he wanted to hear from us all. He asked, ‘What are you thinking about this? How do you think this college specifically can work on diversity initiatives?’ And he sat back and listened to us and we got to give our advice. I liked seeing that.
I think the Dean really tries to get a feel for the culture. People aren't just brushing it under the rug. They really want to look into hiring diverse faculty members. We want to continue to have these crucial conversations. My classes talk a lot about the differences between cultures and how health plays such a huge role. Getting to have these conversations and dialogue with each other is so beneficial. I think we’re doing some positive things.
SJ: I think it’s the people that I've met. And I love CHS because the classes were so small. You knew a lot of people. I think everybody in this program and everybody at UK is really genuine and kind. They just want to hear your story and your passions. And I love getting to have good conversations with faculty members, too. And our advisors!
Yeah. (laughs). I'd say the overall experience has been really, really good.
February is Black History Month
Since 1976 the United States and Canada have designated the month of February to recognize the contributions of people of the African diaspora. The College of Health Sciences will be recognizing and honoring some of our own Black alumni and students throughout the month – celebrating success while we also acknowledge both historical and current inequity and the work that each of us must do to dismantle systemic racism. We also hope members of our community will join with the MLK Center for events throughout the month.