FEATURE STORY: Jessica Tall (MS4)

Jessica “Jess” Tall is looking forward to being a physician who doesn’t just treat illness. She wants to be a physician who treats people — getting to know each patient on her exam table, including the unique set of characteristics, circumstances and histories that make them who they are.

Tall, now a fourth-year medical student at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, shared her views as one of the featured speakers for the sixth annual TEDxMarshallU event Feb. 27 at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

Exploring identity helps people heal amidst all the factors at play in their lives. This goes for the medical field and beyond, said Tall, also a longtime mentor for middle and high school students.

“Medicine is highly centered around the person. The disease is only a part of the patient’s medical and healing journey,” Tall said. “Knowing a person’s background, access to care and experience can help us learn about some of the obstacles that may affect one’s care. I also believe knowing about others can help in other aspects such as mentorship and allow us to aid one another."

“Coming from a diverse background and low socioeconomic status, I always had a passion for advocating for people who may not have access to health care and resources,” she said. “My own experiences with the medical field made me passionate about aiding those who had similar backgrounds and experiences to mine, since there were moments when I felt dismissed.”

Tall, 25, came to Marshall University from Cleveland, Ohio, and is daughter of a mother who is Latina and father who is a combination of Black and other backgrounds, all of which impact her view of the world, she said.

One of the reasons she chose Marshall was its location. It wasn’t too far from home, but it also gave her a chance to meet people with experiences different than her own.

“I wanted to aid those from rural backgrounds and get out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I am glad, thankful and grateful that so many local community members have allowed me to be a part of some of their most vulnerable moments, the healing process and their medical journey.”

She looks forward to working with children as a physician and to continue working with young people as a mentor, a volunteer activity she’s been involved in since high school, helping students with things like homework, college applications and more.

“My goals are to be a child neurologist, mentor and involved community member as I pursue a future in epileptology and aid children with neurological disorders,” Tall said. “I have a deep passion for advocating for others, especially those who need all the support they can get.”

“I also love healing from a biopsychosocial perspective,” she continued. “I find that, with child neurology, you can get to know the whole family unit and care team, and work alongside others with different expertise to give the child the best care they can get for their condition and enhance their quality of life. I want to be the type of doctor my patients and community trust and can rely on. I want to become the physician I wish I had as ‘little Jess.’”

That involves being considerate of identity, said Tall, who is part of the school’s multicultural advisory committee. Growing up as multiracial and multiethnic posed challenges, Tall said.

“I had a hard time figuring out where I should be,” she said. “I think being able to see different cultures and backgrounds from my unique perspectives only reaffirms my belief that we are all more similar than we believe. It is important to me because, through connections I have made in various settings such as the Fairfield U mentor program, clinical experiences and school, I have been able to find the inspiration and passion that fuels my journey in medicine.”

“I hope those who (hear) my talk can understand my perspective, see all the beautiful things we as a society have in common, and apply that thinking to many aspects of their life.”

Date Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2024