WBU Alum Receives National Award from Alpha Chi

Emily SmithAUSTIN – Wayland Baptist University alumnus Dr. Emily Smith, assistant professor of surgery and global health at the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University, received the distinguished alumna award from Alpha Chi, the national college honor society, on March 26 during the centennial convention held in Austin. She also gave a recorded keynote address to the students and faculty in attendance.

Dr. Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in science in 2003 from Wayland Baptist University and continued her education at the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina, earning a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in epidemiology, respectively. While at Wayland, she was inducted into the Texas Alpha Eta chapter of Alpha Chi in 2003.

Dr. Rebekah Crowe, a 2002 graduate of Wayland, assistant professor of history and the Alpha Chi advisor since 2013, nominated Dr. Smith on behalf of the Alpha Eta chapter after seeing Smith put her knowledge into action during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the things they look for is high-achieving individuals who can give a compelling talk that would be relatable. All the former winners are scholars who have used their scholarship for the betterment of humankind, and to me, that is Emily,” said Dr. Crowe, who also serves as president of Alpha Chi Region 1. “When she came to campus for the Willson Lectures (in March 2020), I decided she would be a great person to have this honor. That was right before the world fell apart. Watching her ability to take her brilliance and translate it into things the rest of the world would understand really impressed me.”

Dr. Smith became a social media phenomenon with her “Friendly Neighborhood Epidemiologist” page which she used to share information about the pandemic from her professional point of view, using common language to help people all over the world decipher the medical mysteries and facts about things like masking, vaccinations and distancing.

More recently, Dr. Smith was a finalist in the COVID-19 National Data Hero Awards contest under the category “The Specialists” for her Facebook page, which at one point had nearly 100,000 followers. She still leads research through the Duke Institute of Health in Somaliland, Guatemala, and elsewhere, focusing her work on global pediatric surgery. She has published more than 40 articles, presented at various state, national and international conferences, and spoken before the United Nations about how epidemiological studies can help nations best spend their limited resources on surgeries for pediatric patients.

Dr. Smith said she was thankful for the honor and dedicated it to students as she encouraged them to be who they are in her acceptance remarks read by Dr. Crowe.

“Thank you once again for this honor. I really am so grateful for it and appreciate my friend of nearly 20 years, Dr. Crowe, reading this for me. And to you students who feel unseen, gaslit, marginalized, unworthy, like an imposter, this award is for you. To you who feel like you have to fight or hustle for a seat at an unequal and antiquated table or need to earn your value, this is for you,” she said. “To you who are using your privilege of any kind to break down oppressive systems and say no to injustice, not through a savior-mentality but through humility and courage, this is for you. You, exactly as you are, are fully enough and deserving to take your space. Be courageous and bend your life toward equity, justice, and love of neighbor. Thank you for being you. You are seen and let’s build that table together.”

Dr. Smith continued that theme in her recorded keynote address to convention attendees, titled “Redefining Success: You Are Enough.” She explained that it came from her own struggles and revelations about getting ahead and what makes for success.

“I hope to impart to the students listening that they are enough just as they are. They do not have to prove anything and have nothing to lose if they take big risks,” Dr. Smith said. “I hope that my story of failure and success, imposter syndrome and courage, and margin and slowing down will inspire them to settle into the peace of being uniquely themselves, not hustling to be anything more. And, that is success.”

Wayland has taken students to the Alpha Chi national convention for eight years since Crowe became advisor, and she said it’s a great opportunity for students to present scholarly research in front of a national audience, network and earn scholarships. Part of Saturday’s activities included a presentation on arithmagic squares by Emily Franklin, a Wayland senior honors mathematics major from Plainview.


Above: Dr. Rebekah Crowe, Wayland’s Alpha Chi advisor, accepts the Distinguished Alumna Award for the national organization on behalf of WBU alumnus Dr. Emily Smith during the Saturday convention in Austin.

Inset: Dr. Emily Smith