Khayla McClinton, a master’s student in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, wants to close the health access gap and bring the voice of underrepresented communities to conversations about research, discoveries and prevention.
By LaTina Emerson
When Khayla McClinton was growing up, she always heard adults complain about how much it cost to go to the doctor. They would avoid going unless it was an emergency.
In college, she noticed that many students wouldn’t see a doctor or dentist unless they were near home or covered by their parents’ health insurance. She and her friends would joke about taking an Uber to the hospital, rather than riding in an ambulance, because they couldn’t pay the bill.
McClinton said her family in Atlanta and Louisiana and her college friends didn’t seek medical care because they couldn’t afford it. Lack of access to health care is a huge problem faced by many.
As a master’s degree student in the Biomedical Enterprise program in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), McClinton wants to not only help close the health-access gap, but also contribute to prevention beyond the clinical setting. She aspires to become either a biomedical scientist or biomedical engineer.
“One of my main goals is to bring the perspective and voice of underrepresented communities to the initial conversations surrounding research, discoveries and prevention,” McClinton said. “Research is the real first line.”
McClinton is the first in her family to attend college or enroll in a master’s degree program.
“I chose Georgia State because of the IBMS program,” McClinton said. “Georgia State is the only school in the state that had the type of biomedical sciences master’s program I was looking for.”
McClinton is interested in vaccine development, and she has been working in Dr. Sang-Moo Kang’s lab to develop a universal flu vaccine that will protect against any strain of the influenza virus. The virus mutates rapidly, and researchers must develop new seasonal vaccines every year. A universal flu vaccine would reduce the cost of vaccine production and make the vaccines more accessible and effective.
“I have learned how to perform experiments that I had not previously been exposed to,” McClinton said. “I have a deeper understanding of how the virus works and what all goes into the development of a vaccine. The hands-on experience has helped to solidify my decision to work in the biomedical or biotechnology field.”
Her hard work in the lab is paying off. This summer, McClinton will travel to San Francisco to participate in an internship at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a research center focused on disease cures, prevention and management. She will be working with a rapid response team that is looking to offer better surveillance and response to emerging infectious diseases in underserved communities globally. The Biohub works in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley.
She secured the internship by interviewing with a few of the scientists and the director of the team.
“I think my research experience in the IBMS program definitely helped me get selected for this internship,” McClinton said. “This specific team seems to be a combination of the research sciences and public health science, which are both areas that I am versed in and plan to grow in.”
The internship will help McClinton make important career decisions, whether to become a biomedical scientist, a biomedical engineer or both.
She’s working on the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) clinical research team at Emory University School of Medicine. She is a clinical research interviewer and assists with interventions for the study. The study’s purpose is to prevent serious falls in elderly adults by putting preventive measures in place and helping to strengthen mobility and balance through special exercises, physical therapy and dances.
“The goal is to keep the population that is 65 and over mobile and independent for as long as possible,” McClinton said.