As Women’s History Month is celebrated, Edward Waters College faculty and students conduct research that could help change lives

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Seven Edward Waters College female students hope a breast cancer research project they worked on will serve as a catalyst for women, particularly African American women, to start being more proactive about their health.

And they thought Women’s History Month was the perfect time to spread the word about their research and get women focused on breast cancer.

“A lot of young women don’t understand breast cancer, but I think more important than why you get it is how you respond,” said sophomore biology major Aniah Jackman from Jacksonville. “If a young woman or woman of any age finds out she has breast cancer, she should do research and provide input on her treatment plan to her doctor versus simply going along with whatever the doctor says.”

Jackman knows Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate her gender and accomplishments that women have made worldwide, which is why she considers March the best time to inform her campus community and others about the research that she, six other female students and a male student worked on under the leadership of Dr. Prabir Mandal and his wife, Dr. Anita Mandal.

Ms. Aniah Jackman, sophomore biology student at Edward Waters College

The students performed the research last semester and had a paper published in Cancer Pages in December.

“I can’t think of a better way to pay homage to my gender than to give them tools to empower themselves with respect to their health,” said Jackman, an aspiring anesthesiologist. “Breast cancer has devastated millions of women’s lives, and if our research can help save even one woman, then it’ll be well worth the time we put into it.”                       

Prabir, chair of the Department of Mathematics & Sciences, said the students in his African American Health class performed online research for two months. “I gave them a lot of good websites and places to go for information, and they completed their research two weeks before finals and presented their findings to me in front of the class,” he said.

Joining Jackman were Alexander Brown, Asiah Cheek, Kasey Hubbard, Valeria Johnson, Adrianna Jones, Jeannette Mack and Brianna Pendergrass. Jackman, Johnson, Jones and Pendergrass are honors students.

Edward Waters College President and CEO Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr. said Jackman and her research colleagues are indicative of the caliber of students EWC produces.

“Jackman and her colleagues exemplify the qualities we strive to instill in our students,” Faison said. “They are steadfast, tenacious and outstanding students who understand the importance of being proactive about their health. I am grateful to Dr. Prabir Mandal and Dr. Anita Mandal for working with them on such important research, and I am particularly pleased that we are promoting it during Women’s History Month.”

EWC Student-Researchers and Faculty – (L to R) Ms. Brianna Pendergrass, Dr. Anita Mandal and Ms. Emily van Leeuwen (L to R) discuss the basic histological differences between the normal and cancerous breast tissues under a compound microscope. Photo credit: Amari Leath

Anita Mandal, chair of the Department of General Studies, agrees with Faison and Jackman that Women’s History Month is a great time to spread breast cancer awareness.

“Self-examinations are the primary way for women to monitor whether anything suspicious is going on with their breasts,” she said. “The students’ study showed that while breast cancer is devastating to all races, African American women tend to be affected by it more. Breast cancer is the predominant health issue among women, and the work the students did can help to increase awareness about it.”

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About Edward Waters College

Edward Waters College (EWC), accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and member of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), is a private, historically black, urban college which offers a liberal arts education with a strong emphasis on the Christian principles of high moral and spiritual values. EWC was established in 1866 and is an African Methodist Episcopal Church-related institution of learning. It is the first private institution of higher education in the State of Florida.