Dr. Marjorie Jenkins Receives 2021 Education Spirit Award
The Education Spirit Award recognizes an individual or organization dedicated to the betterment of youth and the education experience for the Upstate.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question full of possibility, full of the weight of choices and chances. When Marjorie Jenkins’ grandfather asked her this question, she was only five years old—one of eight children in a poor, single-parent Appalachian family. “I want to be a doctor like you,” young Marjorie answered her grandfather. He worked at a hospital, she thought, so he must be a doctor. “He always seemed like the smartest person in the room,” she remembers. It was years later that Marjorie found out that her grandfather wasn’t a doctor at all, but a coal miner turned hospital janitor. What really stuck was his work ethic—and that of her hardworking, widowed mother. Marjorie’s grandfather’s question echoed with her through challenges and odds, and now? Well, you can call her Dr. Marjorie Jenkins, MD MEdHP FACP.
In 2019, Dr. Jenkins made a life-shifting move to Greenville, South Carolina. She had spent the prior four years directing health and policy research initiatives at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Women’s Health. “[My husband] Steve and I were planning the move back to West Texas, where I would resume a full-time academic role within Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the Laura Bush Institute.” She had previously achieved tenure at Texas Tech, where she founded the Laura Bush Institute for Women’s Health. Dr. Jenkins’ husband encouraged her to apply for a deanship at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, and when her colleagues at Texas Tech emailed her the same position, she knew she had to apply. “From my first visit . . . it was evident that this was a school with a passion for its students and the community,” Dr. Jenkins explains. “From that point, I was all in.”
Dr. Jenkins came to Greenville with a squall of experience in her sails. Throughout her tenure as a professor of medicine at Texas Tech University, Dr. Jenkins also served as the Associate Dean for Women in Medicine and Science. It’s clear that she is an enthusiastic proponent of the power of a good program because, in addition to growing the Laura W. Bush Institute across five Texas Tech campuses and beyond, she also spearheaded the U.S. Sex and Gender Medical Education Summit. Her work in both women’s health and sex and gender inclusion is, perhaps, her signature in the field. This important work has made waves not only in medical research, but in the ways in which clinicians assess, diagnose, and treat all patients.
“The best-kept secret in medicine is the fact that over thousands of years, scientific research has ignored sex and gender,” she explains, “two foundational variables that all humans have without fail. Yet, scientists have ignored studying differences due to sex and gender when conducting medical research.” Not under her watch. “One driver for my career in sex and gender medicine was ensuring the tens of billions of dollars spent each year on research within the U.S. could be applied to all and not just benefit a certain group of people,” she says. An equal motivator for the doctor is ensuring that evidence-based differences would be applied meaningfully in clinical settings—for the medical, nursing, and pharmacy students who are headed into the field.
Dr. Jenkins is vigilant about preparing the next generation of healthcare workers. “Our state tracks in the bottom ten states for negative health outcomes,” she says, though her optimism is secure. “[School of Medicine Greenville] students learn from top-notch clinicians who are Prisma Health physicians, in addition to training around high-value care and improving the health of a population.” Dr. Jenkins is the right captain for the ship, believing unflinchingly in a better state of health for South Carolina. “We have met and exceeded many expectations,” says Dr. Jenkins confidently. “There is more work to do.”
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