Featured Scholar: Jada Aikman

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Featured Scholar: Jada Aikman
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:


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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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Featured Scholar:
Jada ,4ikman

2004-2005 University Scholar
Mentor: Jose Pineda

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car head-on, causing her neck to snap, Jada should
have been killed or paralyzed. Instead, she was
released from the hospital after just one night of

"I broke my second cervical vertebra-they call it a Hangman's Fracture because it is
similar to the injury suffered in death by hanging-and the emergency room nurse said
'honey, you are either going to cure cancer or become the first woman president because
there is no reason you should be walking or breathing right now'."

Actor Christopher Reeve suffered the same injury in 1995 during an equestrian
competition and has since been paralyzed from the neck down. Jada walked out of the ER
in a neck brace the day following her accident and took her good fortune as a sign. "After
I healed, I shadowed the doctor who was supposed to be my neurosurgeon, though I
didn't end up needing surgery," she says. "He let me come into the operating room and
scrub out with him. It was at that point that I realized that was where I belonged, and
this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

Jada has decided she wants to become a pediatric critical care doctor, helping children
with traumatic brain injuries like the one she suffered as a teen. As a USP scholar, Jada
worked with Dr. Jose Pineda at the McKnight Brain Institute searching for biomarkers
that will help doctors better diagnose and treat brain injuries.

"The best way to look at it is when you have a chest pain and you go to the hospital,
they can tell you whether it is a heart attack or indigestion from simply taking a blood
sample," Jada says. "What we are hoping is that something like that can be created for a
brain injury, so when you come in to the emergency room they can take a blood sample
and run some diagnostic tests and decide the severity of the injury and what to do next."

Right now, physicians have to do a spinal tap or take an invasive cortical sample to
diagnose brain injury. Researchers at UF and geneticists from around the world are
hoping to isolate biomarkers that would enable doctors to diagnose brain injury and
decide the best course of treatment from a blood sample within the next 5-10 years.

Jada graduated from UF in May 2004 with a BS in psychology and has been hired on full-
time by her mentor as a biological scientist, continuing her USP research, while waiting to
begin medical school at Florida State University in the fall of 2005. She interned during
the summer of 2004 for the Office of Naval Research in Panama City, Florida, proposing
different relationships between biomarker technology and Type II neurologic
decompression sickness.

Jada's USP paper tied for Best Quantitative Paper in the program's annual Best Paper
Competition, and she presented a poster of her work at the World Congress on Pediatric
Care in Boston in 2003. As an undergraduate, Jada was a member of Alpha Delta Pi
sorority and Golden Key International Honors Society. She also helped set up a pet
therapy program between the local Hospice and Alachua County animal rescue
organizations. When she is not working on her research, Jada enjoys fishing and going to
the dog park with her black Labrador Layla and golden retriever Beau.

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