Akimi Smith


Hometown: Salisbury, NC

Name of Undergraduate Institution: East Carolina University

Major(s)/Minor(s) in College: Public Health Studies with a Concentration in Community Health

Name of Graduate School: Emory University Rollins School of Public Health

Favorite Quote: “Good things come to those who wait. Better things come to those who go out and get them.”

Contact Infoakimi.d.smith@gmail.com

Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?

I’m currently a first-year Master of Public Health student in the Behavioral Sciences and Health Education Department at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. I always knew I wanted to pursue a health career but I wasn’t sure what area I wanted to go into. When I started undergrad, I was a nursing major but I then quickly realized I didn’t want to only focus on treatment. I wanted to focus on research and prevention but I didn’t know the public health field existed. After talking to my advisor, I found out about the Public Health Studies degree at my school and changed my major. Ever since my first public health class, I’ve been in love with the field and I found my career and passion!

If you could go back and have a chat with your naïve college freshman self, what would you tell her?

Gain hands-on experience and NETWORK!! As a first-generation college student, I didn’t realize the importance of networking and gaining relevant experience in your field until my last semester of undergrad. Luckily, during my internship at UNC, I worked with an amazing research team who also became my mentors and helped me prepare for graduate school.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?

I would suggest working or volunteering in public health to see if it’s a field you can see yourself in. If you’re currently enrolled in school, you could also consider taking a public health elective. There are so many different areas in public health (e.g. health education, global health, epidemiology, health policy and management, environmental health, biostatistics, maternal and child health, etc.).

What is a major challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do so?

A major challenge for me was trying to gain practical experience in maternal and child health. Opportunities I previously applied to went to people with more experience. I overcame this by continuing to apply for maternal and child health opportunities and reaching out to professionals in the field to get their advice. These professionals were very helpful and provided me with resources and other people to connect with. My advice is to seek out mentors and network with people in your desired field.

What is your favorite thing about your graduate school?

My favorite thing about my school is being surrounded by other like-minded individuals with similar goals. I love talking to my classmates about their interests in public health. It’s also nice to vent to classmates, who understand the struggle of biostatistics and epidemiology haha. My school is also located in Atlanta, the public health capital of the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is literally RIGHT BESIDE my school! Furthermore, I love the scenery around my school. You can see the Atlanta skyline when you’re coming to and from class every day.

Also, I like that I can explore my interests in maternal and child health at Rollins. I'm enrolled in the Maternal and Child Health Certificate program at Emory and I will begin my classes next semester. Right now, I’m interested in how health disparities, such as barriers to healthcare access, impact reproductive health, maternal health, and birth outcomes, especially in underserved and minority populations. My career goal is to work in the maternal and child health field as an epidemiologist, researcher, or data analyst.

What advice would you give to someone getting ready to start their application process to graduate schools?

I would suggest applying early and REALLY researching schools to make sure they’re a good fit for you. A lot of people only look at rankings when they’re researching schools. That’s great, but you should also consider other factors that are important to you (e.g. concentrations offered, research opportunities, location, price, etc.). For me, I knew I wanted to work in maternal and child health epidemiology, so I only applied to schools that had concentrations or faculty conducting research in epidemiology or maternal and child health. Also, location was a big deal for me. I didn’t want to be too far from family and I didn’t want to be anywhere cold so I applied to schools in NC, GA, and VA. Obviously, this will vary depending on which professional schools you’re applying to but you should still consider factors important to you because you will be spending 2 or more years at this school.

What do you feel is the most challenging part of graduate school? The easiest part?

The most challenging part of graduate school for me was getting adjusted to the coursework. I had to learn how to prioritize my assignments based on how long it would take and when it was due. For example, I had to complete my assigned readings over the weekend because I learned that I could not complete them during my breaks in-between classes. Surprisingly, the easiest part for me is going through this graduate school journey with friends in my cohort. I did not expect to make friends as quickly as I did but I’m glad I did because they have become my support system in Georgia as we continue working on our MPH degrees.

What extra-curricular activities are you involved in at your school?

Currently, I’m a graduate mentor for the 1915 Scholars Program, a mentoring program for first-generation college freshmen. I’m also a member of the Emory Reproductive Health Association, Association of Black Public Health Students, and the Rollins Health collaboration.

What is it like attending school in your city?

I love attending school in Atlanta! There are so many public health and networking opportunities. Also, it’s always something going on in Atlanta. School takes up the majority of my time but it’s nice to know there’s something for me to do when I’m not busy.

Who are some of your favorite musicians? Favorite books? Shows? Movies?

My favorite shows are Law and Order SVU, Power, Orange is the New Black, and Criminal Minds.

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective of healthcare with us Akimi, you are greatly appreciated! I’m glad that you were able to find your passion in Public Health; it is such a necessary and vital part of the healthcare system. Your experiences and advice will surely help to influence many of those who will come across this feature! Best of luck to you as you continue to advance on your career path!

Health Career Spotlights Home Page

Posted on February 7th, 2018