2024 Tillman Scholar

Sarah Ingram

Texas A&M University
Doctorate, Genetics and Genomics

“The stigma surrounding mental health steals the lives of too many service members. I will leverage my lived experience and rigorous academic training to fight the military suicide epidemic.”

A first-generation immigrant, Sarah enlisted in the Navy as an aviation machinist’s mate in search of a connection stronger than she’d known growing up, and found it. She joined the Honor Support Team at her first duty station, where she provided funeral services to the military community. By nature, this exposed her to the military-related suicide epidemic. While serving at Search and Rescue commands during the remainder of her 9 years of service, she became hyper aware of how the stigma surrounding mental illness in the military contributed to this problem.

She watched her friends struggle in silence, many of which eventually committed suicide themselves. Sarah came close to joining them after deploying with the 2515th NAAD to Basra, Iraq in support of MEDEVAC operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, the support she received from her peers helped her continuously choose life. This inspired Sarah to combat the military mental health stigma by defining biological contributions to mental illness.

Now a PhD student in Genetics and Genomics at Texas A&M, Sarah is building the skills needed to discover biomarkers of mental illness. She hopes her work can one day assist in identifying service members at higher mental illness risk, guide early treatment interventions, and lower suicide rates in military and veteran communities. She continues to serve her peers as an advocate for the Brazos Valley Sexual Assault Resource Center, and brings awareness to the importance of genetics in research as a host of the Blue Genes and Boots podcast.