When Dr. Keisa Mathis opened an e-mail from the American Heart Association in May, she was disappointed that she hadn't received a medical research fellowship she applied for. But she had accidentally overlooked the good news: Just one year after starting her post-doctorate fellow at the University Of Mississippi Medical Center, the American Heart Association awarded Mathis a two-year grant to continue her research on the connections between lupus, renal injury and hypertension.
"I was pretty stunned, but then I was excited," she says.
Last July, Mathis, 31, came to Jackson to work with doctors at UMMC's lab of Physiology and Biophysics. The Port Allen, La., native earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Southern University, a master's degree in physics from Purdue University and her doctorate in physiology from Louisiana State University. She now describes herself as a refugee from physics.
"I chose physiology because it is a science that enables you to study the human body," Mathis says.
Having family and friends with lupus and hypertension motivated her to study the diseases. While in graduate school at LSU, Mathis witnessed one of her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters struggle with lupus and kidney failure. Her sorority sister eventually received a kidney transplant.
"If we can better understand the mechanism, it would help with treatment options," she says. In the UMMC lab, she hopes to understand more about why mice with lupus have hypertension and why they develop renal injury.
Mathis lives in Ridgeland with her husband, Joseph, and daughter, Amaya Rose, who was born in February. She describes motherhood as "the best feeling ever."
Keep up the good work. My younger sister has lupus. My younger cousin passed from complications with lupus several years ago. Glad you want to study this disorder.