Jacquetta always had a passion for science and medicine. Growing up in the southern community of Fayetteville, North Carolina, at an early age, she wondered why certain diseases were more prevalent in some communities than others. Her curiosity inspired her to attend Howard University where she majored in biology. “I wanted to be a part of an effort that works to decrease health disparities, and I wanted to get started working right away. That’s when I heard about the physician assistant program, and it aligned perfectly with my personal and professional goals,” Jacquetta said.
Upon completing her undergraduate degree, Jacquetta continued to pursue her dream by enrolling in the Public Health Master’s degree program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. During her time there, she became passionate about women’s health. She worked part time at Planned Parenthood and completed a summer internship with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. It was during this experience that Jacquetta learned about an opportunity to return to Fayetteville and serve in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) to help make a difference in her hometown.
It’s been one year since Jacquetta began working at the Cumberland County Public Health Department’s Family Planning Clinic, and she cannot imagine working anywhere else. Jacquetta performs breast and cervical cancer screenings and counsels her patients on family planning best practices. “I love working here, where I can directly contribute to making my hometown a better place,” she said. “But, my favorite part is working with the teens. I feel like I make a larger impact with this group, and I can really connect with them.”
Jacquetta knows firsthand about the important role her clinic has on the community – because she used to be a patient. “Actually, I came here when I was a teen. My current supervising physician was my primary care doctor when I was younger!” she said with a chuckle.
While Jacquetta loves working with teenagers, she continues to make a difference in the lives of all her patients, one of whom will never forget her. A few months into her service, a woman in her 50s came in for her first mammogram. The patient never experienced any major medical problems before and only came into the clinic because she was now eligible for a free breast and cervical cancer screening. However, during the examination, Jacquetta found a lump and referred her patient to a specialist. That lump turned out to be breast cancer. Luckily, the woman was able to get the medical treatment she needed with the costs covered by the clinic, but, had she not come in that day, it might have been too late. “She was so appreciative of my work,” Jacquetta said. “She still calls me to this day to thank me for being there.”
Jacquetta loves being back in Fayetteville which she describes it as an “all American town” with a community of over 200,000 residents, many of whom serve at the military base nearby. During her free time, Jacquetta likes to go bowling, skating, and to the movies. Through her service, she has become a leader in the community, taking the responsibility of being the Chair of the Physical and Mental Health Committee in her sorority, for which she organizes monthly health walks, blood drives, and World Aids Day events. “I love living here. I grew up here, my whole family is here, and I love my work. I don’t see myself leaving any time soon” she said.