Meet Regent Jessie Kimbrough Marshall: Community Activist

Regent Dr. Jessie Kimbrough Marshall at the podium at a commencement ceremony.
(EMU file photo)

As a young girl, Jessie Kimbrough Marshall [BS95] and her three siblings often joined their mother on community service projects and activism on Detroit’s east side.

“My mother, Lillie Mae Kimbrough, instilled a passion in me for making the world a better and more just place,” says Dr. Kimbrough Marshall, a member of the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents. “From an early age, she had us kids involved in various local campaigns. We routinely went with her, canvassing neighborhoods and knocking on doors.”

Later, as an EMU student, Dr. Kimbrough Marshall discovered a career-defining outlet for the passion her mother instilled.

“I took a freshman composition class in which we had to write a series of papers on a topic of interest,” says Dr. Kimbrough Marshall, who earned her undergraduate degree in Physiology. “I chose to write about the state of Black America. That’s when I gained a deeper understanding of health inequities affecting African Americans. Ultimately, that led me to go into health care and population health management.”

Dr. Kimbrough Marshall with group
EMU’s Family Empowerment Program (FEP) and EMU Regent and public health expert, Dr. Jessie Kimbrough Marshall, second from left, launched a vaccine education outreach effort to assist in helping residents living in the Ypsilanti Housing Commission (YHC) communities make informed decisions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Kimbrough Marshall earned an M.D. at Wayne State University School of Medicine, followed by a master’s in Public Health at Harvard. She also completed a General Internal Medicine Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University.

Now, she’s an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. In addition to her work there as a guest lecturer, Dr. Kimbrough Marshall researches population health and health care disparities.

“A passion for achieving health and racial equity inspires everything I do,” she says. “I think there’s a higher level of awareness and understanding of these issues today compared to when I entered the field, but there is still much more to accomplish.”

Dr. Kimbrough Marshall also cites EMU Professor Emeritus of Africology and African American Studies Dr. Clovis Semmes as a source of inspiration.

“Professor Semmes helped me better understand the origins and concepts of health and racial inequities, as well as the effects of the social determinants of health,” Dr. Kimbrough Marshall says. “He also exposed me to brilliant historical figures from the African diaspora.”

Dr. Kimbrough Marshall remains active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which she joined as an undergraduate. In early 2020, a sorority sister and longtime friend informed her of an intriguing professional opportunity.

“She told me there would be openings for two Regents at Eastern,” Dr. Kimbrough Marshall says. “Given my health care background, I was surprised that she thought of me for a university role. However, I thought that it might be helpful to have someone on the Board with a public Health background, given that we were in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Dr. Kimbrough Marshall to the Regents in December 2020. Her term expires in 2028.

“Although the Regents come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives on things affecting university policies, we ultimately want to see Eastern students, faculty and staff thrive. Having that shared goal helps the Regents work as a body of one.” 

Reflecting on her upbringing, Dr. Kimbrough Marshall is proud to carry her mother’s activist spirit forward. Lillie Mae Kimbrough passed away in 2017.

“After my father died when I was 9, my mother raised us four kids as a single parent,” says Dr. Kimbrough Marshall. “We experienced some financial hardships. But my mother taught us how to overcome barriers and achieve our dreams and goals. She taught us the value of education which resulted in my deep belief that education is fundamental to upward social mobility and moving out of poverty. As a first-generation college graduate, I am a living example.

“It’s an honor and joy to give back to the university that greatly impacted my transition from adolescence to adulthood. And I’m sure my mom would be very pleased to know that I’m serving Eastern as a Regent.”

When not working, Dr. Kimbrough Marshall enjoys spending time with family; playing with her family dog and recreational softball; and attending live concerts.

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

November 02, 2022

Written by:
Jeff Samoray

Media Contact:
Darcy Gifford