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Medical Student Searches for a Cure, Continues His Sister’s Fight


Jon Pat “JP” Ransom has been pursuing pediatrics since his younger sister passed away from neuroblastoma when she was two years old. Now in his second year of medical school, he has joined researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in studying a new treatment for the cancer.

“At an early age, I knew I wanted to work with children before I even became interested in medicine or any type of health science,” he said. “But as I was getting older, I realized there wasn’t any other pathway for me, and it was glaringly obvious that this is what I needed to do.”

Ransom, from Chattanooga, earned his undergraduate degree in biological sciences with a minor in sociology from Drexel University.

“With pursuing pediatrics, many people say, ‘how can you do that, that’s so sad’ and I think I am one of the few people that can because of what I have experienced.”

Emily Ransom is shown between her brothers Max, on the left, and JP, on the right.

In 2005, his younger sister, Emily Ransom, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that often affects children, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“When I was seven, as my sister was in the hospital often, I really looked up to the doctors and nurses,” Ransom said.

In February 2006, Emily passed away during surgery to remove her tumor. Their parents, Jonathan and Wendy Ransom, established Emily’s Power for a Cure, with a mission to “EmPower Families, Fund Research, and Fight Neuroblastoma.” The foundation aims to raise awareness and funds for finding a cure for neuroblastoma and meet the needs of families and children that are also fighting against the cancer.

At the close of his first year in the UTHSC College of Medicine, Ransom applied for a research internship in pediatric oncology with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I learned about St. Jude’s pediatric oncology education program through the UTHSC Pediatric Interest Group, which presented many research internships for the summer for first- and second-year medical students,” he said. “I knew St. Jude was an amazing institution and this one caught my eye.”

In his application he mentioned his sister’s diagnosis and his interest in neuroblastoma research. After a few months of anticipation, he was accepted for the internship. On his first day, he discovered he was matched with Jun Yang, PhD, a researcher at St. Jude, who studies a cure for neuroblastoma.

“It was a surreal moment, to see how far medicine has come since my sister was diagnosed and passed away,” he said. “I don’t want to say it fell in my lap, but it was obviously supposed to happen this way.”

Ransom said he was astonished as he began reading Dr. Yang’s neuroblastoma treatment research publications. “Reading about how well the trials were doing, and how this drug was obliterating cancer cells, was insane to me,” he said. “It was wild for me to see the actual research that is conducted every day at St. Jude.”

Immediately, he called his mother and said she was brought to tears as he shared the news of his acceptance.

As his internship proceeded, JP continued to discuss the research with his parents, and later held a video presentation to the Emily’s Power for a Cure foundation during their annual Pink Bandana Ball fundraiser in November 2022.

“I was able to announce the research I have been conducting, and after my presentation there was a $100,000 rise in donations to the foundation,” he said.

After the fundraiser, his parents decided to donate $100,000 to the research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

In the future, Ransom aims to serve in pediatrics in the hospital setting.

As he concludes his second year in the college, he looks forward to his upcoming rotations in Memphis and Chattanooga, gaining experience within the hospital setting.

Ransom said the faculty are very supportive towards students, and that UTHSC has a great sense of community. “Everyone likes to talk about how medicine is such a competitive field, but I have never felt that I was competing with any of my peers,” he said. “Everybody wants to see everyone succeed, and it’s really palpable, that feeling of hope.”

After he graduates in 2025, he hopes to match with a pediatrics residency.

“UTHSC really set me up for success. As I have gone through my M-2 year, going into my clinical rotations, everything has been amazing,” he said. “I am really thankful and looking forward to all of the opportunities that UTHSC has given and set me up for.”