Jessica N. Snowden M.D.
NHLBI Celebrates Women Scientists

Jessica N. Snowden M.D.


When Jessica N. Snowden, M.D., was in medical school, she was fascinated by tickborne illnesses like murine typhus, which is transmitted by sandfleas. So, it’s no surprise she created a career around studying and helping people with infectious diseases. “The infectious disease doctor comes in and puts all the pieces of the story together, asks all the weird questions, and thinks of all the things that are going on,” Snowden explained.

Snowden is now vice dean for research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she is also the division chief for pediatric infectious disease. There she works with young patients, including those recovering from COVID-19, and uses that same love for asking questions that first propelled her into the field.

Early in the pandemic, Snowden had plenty of questions, and so did parents. They wanted to know when their children would feel normal again. Snowden's determination to the find the answer to these and other questions, such as why some children have had problems learning, sleeping, and eating, or why their chest feels funny, is what led to her current work with the NIH Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative. Through a four-year pediatric research trial, she and other scientists are focusing their lens on research that supports the long-term recovery of infants and children.

Snowden is also a co-principal investigator of the IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trial Network’s Data Coordinating and Operations Center, an NIH-supported study to learn more about how environmental factors, like air pollution, sleep, and stress, can influence a child’s health.

“I’m an accidental scientist,” Snowden admitted. The way she saw it, she’d become a doctor and use her natural teaching skills to talk to families, explain what’s happening in the body, and connect with others in the community. Then one day a physician-researcher encouraged her to give research a try.

Snowden started with a research fellowship and soon realized that research complemented medicine in a way that made her feel complete. “It makes me a better doctor because I’m a scientist, and it makes me a better scientist because I’m a doctor,” she said. She now encourages others in the field to try new things. “There are more possibilities out there than I realized in terms of what a career could look like.”