Honoring Black History Month: Q&A With Dr. Jermaine Jones

February 22, 2021

We spoke to Jermaine Jones, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurobiology (in psychiatry), about his current work in substance use disorders, diversity in medical and psychiatric training, and what Black History Month evokes for him. 

Tell us about your current work?

My current research focuses on two areas. The first is clinical trials seeking to find new medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder. As a result of working with people with opioid use disorder in the lab, I developed an interest in harm reduction for drug use. This area of my research focuses on various ways to lessen the negative health consequences associated with using drugs. Overdose prevention has been the emphasis of much of this work, but HIV prevention and treatment is also a growing focus.

What does Black History Month evoke for you?

For me, Black history evokes a sense of gratitude for all the work that Black people have done to overcome the barriers to our success. I’m inspired by their struggles and motivated by their achievements.

Why did you choose medicine? And why psychiatry? Did culture (or race) play a factor in your decision? 

I’ve always had an interest in psychology and biology. I chose to study substance use disorders because I felt it was a disorder equally driven by both. The psychopharmacology of drugs, and psychological factors are both very important to the development and maintenance of substance use disorders. 

What would you change about medical and psychiatric training that could help Columbia Psychiatry ensure that diversity is intentional and that systemic advantages are equally distributed? 

Partnering with HBCU, and other types of minority-serving institutions would be a great way for Columbia to increase diversity in its trainees. Especially for clinicians who are interested in research. 

Should we in our department initiate discussions about racism and try to pinpoint how racism plays out in our research and clinical practices? And if yes, what are venues for these discussions? 

The events happening in our country right now have been really eye-opening for a lot of Americans. A better understanding of racism and social determinants of health is critical to improving health equity. More seminars and discussions are needed to help our CUIMC community integrate the knowledge of these factors into their research and clinical practice. Commitment to this type of education also needs to be long-term and not just a flash-in-the-pan, knee-jerk response.


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