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Student Who Came to LA for Kidney Transplant Makes History Earning PhD at USC

A 22-year-old USC student will make history Friday as the first Black graduate of the school’s PhD program in biokinesiology, and the journey started with a kidney transplant in LA.

Malcolm Jones wishes his graduation wasn’t so historic, and that there were other Black PhDs to come out of USC’s bio-kinesiology program, but he says it is progress.

“I’m happy that it’s happening, but I’m happy that it won’t be so unique in the coming years,” he said.

But his story is unique. Jones is a child of immigrants from Liberia, who grew up in Atlanta, and had to come to Los Angeles for a kidney transplant because of an auto-immune disease called lupus nephritis. In patients with lupus, the body’s own immune system attacks cells and organs. Kidney damage is one of the more common health problems associated with lupus, according to the Mayo Clinic.

After spending much of his young life in the hospital, Jones says he wanted to help people avoid hospitals.

“My passion is helping people live as healthy as they can for as long as they can,” he said.

His specialty now is research into exercise and other ways we can protect our bodies against disease and injury. He was the first in his family to graduate from college as well as the first Black student to earn a master’s in his program.

“My dream is that the world is a place that no matter where you’re from, no matter what your background, or what you look like you, don’t get sick — you don’t get hurt,” he said.

After graduation, he’ll start a post-doc program as a director of health innovation at USC in a city he doesn’t plan to leave, and wished he had moved to earlier.

“I’d be a better surfer a better snowboarder,” he said, laughing.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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