Kinks, Curls and Swirls

Celebrating Breast Cancer Warriors

I couldn’t let October pass by without acknowledging Breast Cancer Awareness Month. When I first ventured into the world of biomedical research, my focus was anti-cancer and cancer chemoprevention. Working with cancer cell lines is a bit removed from the human experiences of cancer and how it effects families and communities. I know many beautiful women who have survived breast cancer and I truly admire their resilience and their drive to live. Let me share the story of few of these SHEROS.

Jubie Banks was my Zumba instructor at Gold’s Gym in Poughkeepse/Fishkill in New York. She was THE most fun and energetic instructor, and I always burned 600+ calories in her class. Yes, I listed two cities because I followed her to both towns for Zumba! Exercise requires a deep commitment and internal motivation to stay active and healthy. There were plenty of nights where I didn’t want to go, especially when it freezing and snowy outside! As the instructor, it’s not so easy to “skip a class”! Jubie would be in an out of class because of chemo or surgery, but would always come back as soon as she felt strong enough to dance! She would have just had a surgery and I would push her way to TEACH us – and still have more energy than we did! Jubie is a breast cancer warrior – I salute you, Jubie!

Jubie and Jubie’s Zumbies – Zumba dancing for LIFE!

Another warrior is my college mom, Mrs. Vinson! We had a beautiful surprise reunion when we crossed paths at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Indianapolis in 2018. She brought an amazing group of students from the University of Mississippi to the conference. The UM basketball team just so happened to be playing Butler in Indy, so of course we went to support our team! I believe her passion for serving students and others was a motivation for her to beat cancer! Mrs. Vinson a breast cancer warrior – I salute you, Mrs. V!

My college mom, Ms. Vinson, and her IMAGE students at the UM-BUTLER game in Indianapolis

More recently a dear church member kicked cancer’s tail and she continues to recover and heal. Donnika keeps a beautiful smile on her face and sends ME positive messages every morning – talk about a STRONG WOMAN. Her faith in God’s healing power drives her to remain positive and to keep fighting. Donnika is a breast cancer warrior – I salute you, Sis Donnika!

A few ladies from church supporting Donnika at a local Breast Cancer Awareness walk

I may not get to speak with these women on a regular basis, but each of them has is a true SHERO in my book. It is an honor to see their stories of victory unfold. These women advocate for taking care of our health through prevention. Now that I am in the age bracket for mammograms, I am scheduling to get “my girls” checked. I am also taking care of myself through regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Each of these women have a STRONG mind and STRONG faith – they are warriors. I salute these women and all of the many breast cancer warriors in my circle. Let their stories remind us that a strong mind and spirit help are key ingredients for the win. We celebrate you, WARRIORS!

Susie Strong. Fighter for Life. Custom Ink Fundraising
Isaiah 41:10

Written by Ja’Wanda S. Grant, PhD

Healthy Girls Alliance

The Healthy Girls Alliance is recruiting the inaugural cohort!

The Healthy Girls Alliance is for girls who:

Want TOTAL health
Have big dreams
Are motivated and driven to be their best
Respect themselves and others
Show up on time and ready to participate
Are willing to learn and try new things


Who Can Apply?
Girls from the MS Gulf Coast in grades 6 through 12 are welcome to apply. Limited spaces are available for girls outside of the MS Gulf Coast region.

What Will You Do?
Girls will participate in group mentoring sessions led by the founders, Dr. Ja’Wanda and Dr. Ja’Larna.
This semester’s focus is on TOTAL HEALTH: friendships, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and intellectual. Girls will join fun discussions and activities with very special guest speakers!
Girls will be invited to college tours. *Note: Some of these may be virtual as we monitor covid-19
Girls will participate in community service and outreach activities.

What Will You Gain?
Girls will connect with other motivated young ladies and professional women who will help build confidence and sisterhood.
Girls will network with professionals and public figures and learn about different career paths.

How To Apply

Click here to complete the online application form. The application deadline is August 25!

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month


As women, we dread our yearly exam with our gynecologist. We know it is very important to go, but we try to avoid if possible. I can understand, because it’s not the most comfortable nor modest experience. For some, the last pap smear they had may correlate to the age of their last child (who may now be 30, LOL) or it may have been last year. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, we all need to be aware of the importance of this test. As your friendly OBGYN, I would like to encourage and educate you all on the value of that dreaded pap smear.

Why should I be concerned?

Approximately 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. However, with widespread screening the incidence of cervical cancer has decreased more than 50% in the past 30 years.

How can I reduce/prevent my risk of cervical cancer?

GET TESTED!!! This involves having a screening pap smear with or without HPV testing.
A Pap smear test is the cervical cancer screening test that involves collecting cells from your cervix. These cells are examined using cytology by looking under a microscope for evaluation. The results will note if there are normal cells or any abnormal cells. If any abnormalities are detected, your gynecologist will discuss with you managment and treatment options to eradicate the abnormal cells.

When should I be tested?

I’m glad you asked!

Here are a few guidelines from the American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP)

AGES 21-29: Cytology testing alone every 3 years
AGES 30-65: HPV and cytology “Cotesting” every 5 years (Preferred)
Cytology alone every 3 years (Acceptable)
Ages 65 and over: No screening following adequate negative prior screening.

What if I have had a hysterectomy?

Total hysterectomy (removal of uterus and cervix): ou do not need additional cervical cancer screening as long as there is no history of cervical cancer or high grade dysplasia

Supracervical hysterectomy (removal of uterus only with cervix still intact): You will still need to receive cervical cancer screening per age appropriate guidelines

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations
HPV is a very common sexaully transmitted disease in the United States. Almost everyone who is sexually active will get an HPV infection at some point in life. Diseases caused by HPV are genital warts and cancer. At least 13 types of HPV are linked to cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, vagina, and mouth. That’s where the HPV vaccine comes in. This vaccine is proven to reduce risk of HPV related cancers by 99% especially if received before sexual activity. It is recommended starting at age 9 and approved up to age 45. This is not a mandatory vaccine, but does provide excellent benefit to reducing your risk of cervical cancer.

So, what should i do?

Duh, go see your gynecologist tomorrow… No just kidding. But I strongly urge you to adhere to the guidelines and stay compliant with your doctor. An abnormal pap smear or HPV positive testing does not mean you have cancer. Your doctor will explain everything to you and how to treat these abnormalities. Early detection and prevention is key. We have come so far in decreasing cervical cancer by the screening modalities and that by itself is amazing. Take charge of your health and your body.

Take care,
Dr. Jalarna J. Grant, MD

With a new year brings resolutions toward better health, new attitudes and new beginnings.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist PB#168

What’s Your Why?


I am fortunate to have worked in spaces that allow me to mentor and support the amazing journeys of youth scholars, activists, thought leaders, and seekers.

Last week I spent a few days sharing career advice with undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs.  In one of the sessions, I shared a small vignett of my educational journey. I realized that in preparing to do so (as in times past), it brought up uncomfortable memories. I could be angry and point fingers, but what I have chosen to do is to help those coming behind me. I also realized I didn’t use some of the power I had out of fear, lack of confidence, and lack of guidance.  I can’t save them from all of the racism, gender  bias, microaggressions, setbacks, or failures. But I can share my experiences and lessons learned, while also being a part of the solution through providing equitable and accessible education.

The organizations and grant initiatives that I am affiliated with are focused on diversifying our STEM and biomedical workforce and the academy.

When I was a child, I always asked “Why is this?”, or “Why is that?”  I have always been inquisitive and curious about the way things are, and the reasoning behind actions or decisions.  Now, I ask those questions about the representation of women and people of color in decision making spaces and in our institutions of higher education. As a chemical engineering undergraduate, I had zero professors who were women or persons of color in my department. I was blessed to have two black men professors for one semester of calculus and one semester of chemistry; however, that was in my entire 5 years of college. (Yes, I changed my major a few times but I finally made it out – Thank You Laude!)

Now I ask the question, “Why haven’t things changed over the past 20 years since I graduated from college?”

It’s not easy being the only one in: the room, a class, a meeting, a lab, a deparment, a program, or any space. It is particularly difficult when your otherness is a threat or unwelcomed in the space.

There are those soldiers who are called to kick down those doors and fight on the frontlines for change. I have realized that I am the general.  An army general is responsible for combat readiness or troops as well as strategic decision making during and after war. Because I have been on the battlefield, I can detect land mines and I also know some of common threat tactics.

This leads me to My Why (well, at least one of them).  I help young girl scientists strategize on the battlefield as they fight to pursue their dreams of becoming engineers, mathematicians, astronauts, physicists, health professionals, environmentalists, and the list goes on. Why? Because I know the struggle perosnally and now I’m in a position to help open doors, create doors, and shatter ceilings! Of course, I support girls on other pathways. In all cases, I remember my journey and realize everything I’ve learned is a step ahead for them.

I have other passions and interests, but this is one that fueled the launch of Celebrate Sisters Foundation with my sister.  We are here to share our knowledge, experiences and networks to girls interested in and pursuing STEM fields.

On this #FreedomFriday I am honored t help girls freely express their big dreams and aspirations with strategy and insight from my experiences. That’s My Why!

What’s Your Why?

Ja’Wanda S. Grant, PhD

(l) With Xavier students and faculty at the  Leadership Alliance National Symposium.

(r) With Leadership Alliance Doctoral Scholars at the closing ceremony


Celebrate Freedom – A New Beginning

It’s #ThankfulThursday and I want to share a snippet of my testimony.

Please know this wasn’t easy to do or share.  Some called it brave, some called it bold – it all started with me being plain tired!  I am liberating myself and I welcome others to join me. Not by doing exactly what I did, but in finding your own way to be free, whatever that means for you!

And so it begins…


Hair and skin issues have been my worst nightmare since I was a child. A combination of hereditary hair loss patterns and tension styling landed me in a position of seriously exploring hair transplantation. After years of being picked on as a child, I always sought beauticians who understood something about hair loss/prevention and hair care. As a teenager I had a lot of skin issues, which I finally got under control with Accutane (now isotretinoin). There is no worse feeling than to be going through puberty and adolescence dealing with visible skin/hair issues. I got stares and questions. And kids can be just plain mean. I always saw hairstyles I wanted to wear, but because of my alopecia, I couldn’t wear any of them. And of course, folks would ask questions like, “Why do you always wear your hair the same way?”

I was still getting relaxers when a dermatologist explained that I had seborrheic dermatitis. My skin would form dry patches on my face (resulting in discoloration) and scalp (as really bad dandruff). Dermatologist prescribed all types of creams and shampoos. I found a beautician who focuses on scalp and hair treatment who I visited weekly. Things started to get better, but my temple area wasn’t really growing. I finally found a trichologist who made her own products and customized hair oils based on the clients’ needs. We even tried electrical pulse treatment (yes, like Jack Nicholson in Anger Management!)

The honest truth is that I stopped some of these efforts because they were soooo expensive and I could not maintain them. (We won’t talk about all the money spent in hair products with claims of regrowing hair!) When I moved to NY for my post-doc and had challenges finding a beautician out in the middle of the forrest (where I was living and working), I had a moment like Sanaa Lathan in the movie Nappily Ever After,  and cut it all off in tears in my bathroom with some scissors.  But with my hair loss on the sides, I wasn’t comfortable rocking it.  So I wore head wraps – every….day.  Finally, I got tired of that and found someone to help me with the natural transition, and I graduated to headbands. Headbands brought on HEADACHES 🤕! I realized I couldn’t go on torturing myself with the headaches so we used a texturizer to loosen my 4f pattern to attempt to cover the sides (yes, my natural hair is super tight and coily I have self-proclaimed 4f).

In the end, I wasn’t feeling comfortable OR confident  because it still pretty much exposed my thinning. What better next step to avoid going back to the relaxer than a full on wig?! I bought wigs from the store, ordered some online, and then finally found someone to make a custom unit for me! I’m sure those of you who have done any of this know this is $$$$$$$! So I wore those until I encountered my first windy storm where I was concerned about the security of this unit on my head!!!! I couldn’t have my hair flying off in public (we’ve seen enough videos of that!) So I started getting them sewn on, and then only to be reminded that my scalp needs regular shampooing to prevent extreme irritation and dandruff.  It seemed that I kept running into dead ends where my hair was concerned (no pun intended 😬).

When I moved to hot and humid New Orleans, I knew I couldn’t go on this way much longer. The units were soooo hot!  But I really didn’t want the relaxer again. Guess what I did next?  I got a relaxer, despite my deepest desire to stay away from the chemicals on my scalp. At that time, it felt like the only way I could be free! And for I while, I felt much more free wearing my own hair (similarly to the women who visit Razor Chic in ATL!)

But eventually, the reality of my skin and scalp condition resurfaced with flare ups and really REALLY bad dry scalp. Once again, I found someone to do the scalp and hair treatments while I was getting the relaxer, but deep down I was so tired of this cycle. Fast forward, I had a biopsy and my new dermatologist diagnosed me with Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (talk about a tongue twister). We talked about my journey and my options and decided on a new treatment, Platelet Rich Plasma injections. This was a formal way to determine how likely it would be for the hair to ever regrow in my thinning spots. After several months of these painful prickly injections, we decided to stop. We talked about hair transplant options and I decided to let that option sit for a while.

When my grandmother passed unexpectedly, I needed to go back to SC for her funeral. Days prior I had just gotten a relaxer and my scalp was so dry and scabbed. I was back on the cycle in my mind plotting my next step (going back to wigs was the latest thought).   I decided on a temporary fix – quick weave (if you have NO clue what I’m talking about, just Google!)  I met this new stylist and she is very familiar with women struggling with various types of alopecia (hereditary, traction, chemotherapy-induced, etc).  We talked about getting a wig, but I told her I was contemplating just taking it all off!  The second time I went to her and we were reevaluated my hair condition, I told her I was seriously ready to be free of this burden. I had text her a wild style (for me, at least) – but she didn’t think I would really do it.  At that moment at the shampoo bowl, I said “I’m ready.”  She said, “Let’s Do it!”

We revamped our entire original plan for the appointment and I got my freedom! The women in the salon that day were amazing cheerleaders.  My stylist even had Alexa to play “I am not my hair” by India Aria featuring Akon!  There was a healing happening in that chair as that music played and she released those chains!

I am not looking for affirmations (although I am so touched by what I have received so far.)  I did this for ME and all the women out here struggling to keep a certain look while torturing their skin and hair and their minds! As Minnie Ripperton said, “I just want to be free!”  I know I may get questions, but now I get to share a little more of my story with the world.

What I do ask is that you all be mindful of the jokes you make about people and hair loss/thinning.  It is a traumatizing thing to go through, particularly for women who have so much pressure on our physical appearance.  What woman doesn’t want to feel beautiful and be told that we are as well?  Well, sisters, let me tell you.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL HONEY!  Your truest beauty starts with YOU, the inner you – and how YOU feel about YOU.  I started affirming daily who I am and who God says I am.  I am a daughter of the most High King!  What God sees is all that matters.  Don’t get me wrong, I prayed and prayed and PRAYED for a miracle.   What ended up happening was that I became consumed by the weight of my issue and that weight carried into every area of my life.   No, I haven’t given up on a miracle. I still believe in miracles!  I am using this step as a reset – I will be more regimented with the treatments my dermatologist has prescribed, and also making some dietary changes that I believe are good for my overall skin condition.


Your issue may not be external like mine, but I know you have something. Everybody has SOMETHING!   Some may say I’m brave. Some may call me crazy. But the reality is, I am ME, and SHE is FREE!


Dr. Jay’s New Do (inspired by this amazing model – unknown)



Transformation Lab: Makeover Beauty Salon

Hair: Sherell Randle

MUA: Nysha Carter