March 5, 2020

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Population health, CAY, pediatrics add new faculty

Medical Center leadership is proud to announce the following additions to its faculty and leadership staff.

Kandis V. Backus, Pharm.D.

Portrait of Dr. Kandis V. Backus

Dr. Kandis V. Backus, an instructor in population health at UMMC, has joined the Medical Center faculty as an assistant professor of population health science in the John D. Bower School of Population Health.

After receiving her B.A. in chemistry at Arizona State University in 2007, Backus earned her Masters of Biomedical Sciences in 2010 at UMMC. She received her Pharm.D. in 2017 from the University of Mississippi and completed the UM School of Pharmacy’s Teaching and Learning Certificate Program in 2018 while completing her community practice PGY-1 residency with Walgreens and Open Arms Health Care Center.

Backus served as a clinical pharmacist in the Division of Infectious Diseases/Adult Specialty Care Clinic at UMMC from 2018-19 and as an instructor in the Department of Population Health in 2019. She is the author or coauthor of six articles in peer-reviewed publications.

She earned an HIV certification from the American Academy of Medicine in 2020. She is currently a fellow in the Clinical and Community Based HIV Research Program at Brown University and plans to focus on the health of cisgender and transgender women with an emphasis on HIV prevention and HIV treatment.


Gabrielle G. Banks, Ph.D.

Portrait of Dr. Gabrielle G. Banks

Dr. Gabrielle G. Banks has joined the Medical Center faculty as an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Center for Advancement of Youth.

A Jackson native, Banks completed her undergraduate study at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her M.S. in psychology and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Memphis. She completed a pre-doctoral internship and a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine.

Before joining CAY, Banks provided evidence-based and culturally tailored assessment and intervention to youth and families in outpatient and inpatient medical services. As a pediatric psychologist, Banks’ research and clinical work focuses on improving mental health and behavior outcomes in children with medical complexity and typically developing children. Banks provides diagnostic evaluations and intervention to youth ages 18 and under with specific focus on addressing disruptive behaviors in youth ages 2-6.


Jenna L. Dear, M.D.

Portrait of Dr. Jenna L. Dear

Dr. Jenna L. Dear, former chief of pediatrics on the Medical Executive Committee at Merit Health Madison and former medical director of St. Joseph Hospice, has joined the Medical Center faculty as an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Palliative and Complex Care.

After receiving her B.S. in biomedical sciences magna cum laude from Mississippi College in 2007, Dear earned her M.D. in 2012 at UMMC, where she had pediatrics residency training from 2012-15 and pediatric hospice and palliative medicine fellowship training from 2015-16.

She served as a general pediatrician at Batson Children’s Hospital from 2015-16 before becoming attending pediatrician at Sunshine Children’s Clinic, Canton, in 2016. She also has served as medical director of St. Joseph Hospice, Clinton, from 2017-19; adjunct clinical professor at the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Hattiesburg, and chief of pediatrics on the Medical Executive Committee for Merit Health Madison, Canton, from 2018-19; and a physician mentor at Merit Health Madison in 2019.

An active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Mississippi State Medical Association and the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, Dear has given three invited presentations at meetings in Mississippi.


Laura Tasan, M.D.

Portrait of Dr. Laura Tasan

Dr. Laura Tasan, recently a postdoctoral researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has joined the Medical Center faculty as an assistant professor of pediatrics.

Tasan attended Boston University for her undergraduate training in psychology and premedical studies. She attended Ross University for medical school, pediatric residency training at the University of Kentucky and pediatric rheumatology training at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2018.

She is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric rheumatology. She is an active member of several professional organizations, including the Childhood Arthritis Research and Rheumatology Alliance, the American College of Rheumatology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Tasan has a special interest in using musculoskeletal ultrasound in evaluating her patients during routine office visits. Her fellowship research, “Analyze Myositis with Ultrasound and Exercise,” focused on using advanced ultrasound modalities in assessing the degree of muscle dysfunction in children with Juvenile Myositis, which was funded by a $40,000 grant from the Cure JM Foundation. She completed ultrasound training through the Ultrasound School of North American Rheumatologist and is certified through the American College of Rheumatology.

Tasan will bring more pediatric specialist care to the Gulf Coast region.