Epidemiologist to be honored with Distinguished Alumni Award

Emily SmithDr. Emily Smith, epidemiologist and research at Duke Global Health Institute, will be recognized as one of Wayland Baptist University’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award winners during a Feb. 18 banquet held as part of the WBU Homecoming celebration in Plainview.

Dr. Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2003 at Wayland, also recognized as the Citizenship Award winner as a senior. She then earned a Master of Science in Public Health degree from the University of South Carolina in epidemiology in 2006 and a doctorate in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina in 2016. She became a research scholar at the Duke Global Health Institute in 2015, then returned in late 2021 to become an assistant professor after a four-year stint on the epidemiology faculty at Baylor University.  

At Duke, Dr. Smith’s research interests include children’s global surgery, strengthening health systems in low-income countries, health economics and global health policy. As an epidemiologist, she has worked with her in-country partners at the Edna Adan Hospital in Somaliland for the past five years on projects related to children’s surgical care, including defining the epidemiologic burden, assessing poverty trajectories among families with a child’s surgical need, geospatial analyses and healthcare infrastructure.

Prior to DGHI, her work at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) involved utilizing epidemiological methods, mathematical modeling techniques and cost-effectiveness research to determine effectiveness of various testing strategies among HIV-exposed infants in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Smith also frequently talks about the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of “love-thy-neighbor” on social media and her Substack blog with a monthly reach of 2-4 million. Her work has been featured in TIME Magazine, NPR, the Washington Post, Christianity Today, and Baptist News Global.

“We have watched Dr. Smith’s career blossom and have been so proud of the impact she has had both on academia and on global public health,” said Teresa Young, director of alumni relations. “When she became a voice of research and reason during the COVID pandemic, we were even more proud to see her temper her experience with her faith and grace in the public forum. She is an excellent choice for a distinguished alumnus and we are beyond honored to recognize her in this way.”

The Blue and Gold Banquet is set for 6 p.m. on Friday on the Plainview campus. It is open to alumni and friends for $15 per person, which includes a barbecue dinner. Besides Smith, other honorees include Dr. Nelson Hayashida, professor and chaplain; Dr. Glenda Payas, retired dentist; Dr. Gabe Trujillo, superintendent; young alumni honoree Johnny Terra; and benefactor honoree Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Mattox.

The dinner is just one piece of the homecoming weekend lineup that can be found online at www.wbualumni.com/homecoming. Registration is available online at that site. For more information, contact Young at (806) 291-3600.