#UMMCGrad18: Pharmacology graduate values science, service
Published on Thursday, May 24, 2018
By: Karen Bascom
Kasi McPherson has a sense of direction.
Her education has been an eastward journey along Interstate 20, starting with her B.S. from the University of Louisiana-Monroe and her M.S. from Mississippi College before she came to UMMC for her Ph.D. in medical pharmacology.
“Pharmacology is the study of how compounds manipulate the body and what you can do to make the body work better,” McPherson said.
The Epps, Louisiana, native and first doctor “of any kind” in her family, McPherson finished her graduation requirements for the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences in July 2017. She was back in Jackson for UMMC’s Commencement May 25.
Once interested in pursuing a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree, McPherson was a student worker in a Monroe-area hospital for three years. It was there that she refined her career goals, she said.
“I like solving cases and problems,” she said.
As a basic scientist, she said she’s still able to help people through understanding the origins of disease and developing new treatments for them.
For her dissertation work at UMMC, McPherson studied obesity-related renal disease. She used an animal model of childhood obesity to develop an understanding of the factors that influence the disease.
The SGSHS also took strides to help her develop scientific skills. Through the support of the school, McPherson went to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to learn a new technique.
“Her major strength is that she always wants to learn and know everything she can,” said Dr. Jan Williams, UMMC associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
McPherson said mentorship was a large part of her success. The small lab sizes at UMMC helped her gain hands-on experiences she may not have received somewhere else.
“You’re able to learn very quickly,” she said.
Williams, her Ph.D. mentor, said McPherson is what he calls the “K” personality.
“She wants every one of her projects done in a certain way, to be the best it can be,” Williams said. “When it doesn’t meet her standards, she busts her tail to make it better. She never gets herself down.”
“(She’s a) competitive student and always motivated, but willing to help other students in the lab.”
When McPherson accomplishes a task, like completing an experiment or getting a manuscript published, she takes time to celebrate, and then is ready for the next big thing.
She gave back to the UMMC and greater Jackson community by participating in outreach events like Discovery U at the Mississippi Children’s Museum and the SGSHS’s new student recruitment event.
“Recruitment Day was my favorite way to give back,” McPherson said. “I was able to be a part of the interview process (and) give insight on how prospective students may fit into the program.”
Her tastiest way to give was by serving on the hostess committee for the holiday open house, the SGSHS’s annual November luncheon to celebrate the season and thank the school’s supporters across campus. She misses the opportunity to enjoy Dr. Joey Granger’s wonderful bread pudding.
Granger, SGSHS dean, said McPherson was an exemplary student while at UMMC.
In April, McPherson won the Robert A. Mahaffey Jr. Memorial Award, given to a graduating student who demonstrates exceptional research potential. Since finishing at UMMC, she has continued to work her way eastward on I-20, now as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. She’s working with Dr. Jennifer Pollock studying the effects of early life stressors on the development of cardiovascular disease.
McPherson said she was attracted to UAB because of the opportunities to participate in translational research. But whenever she’s on her way home to Epps to visit with family, she stops in Jackson to visit the family she made at UMMC.