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Navy blue background has diamonds and starbursts. A spotlight icon shines on a circular image of Jonathan Smith. A label reads "In the spotlight." Below the label is the text "Jonathan Smith."

by Abby Arcuri

New members of CHER come in with various backgrounds. One new member is Jonathan Smith, an MPH student at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Smith is open to new experiences. He hopes to learn ways of applying health equity in clinical practice, and he recently tried out a new water sport.

Read this staff spotlight to learn more about Smith and his path to CHER.

Tell us about your role at CHER. What’s your position and focus?

I am an MPH Student at Gillings, and I will be completing my practicum with CHER. I will be joining the CRx-CKD [Community Rx-Chronic Kidney Disease] team as they formulate a plan to connect individuals with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) to community resources in Eastern North Carolina.

What is the path that brought you to CHER?

As a Population Health for Clinicians Concentration student, I hoped to find a practicum experience that would not only fulfill requirements but would also help me feel fulfilled.

I am passionate about advancing health equity and want to learn more about how I will be able to do this in clinical practice, and my advisor in Gillings recommended I attempt to connect with Dr. Dave.

Through a meeting with him [Dr. Dave], I learned more about CHER and learned about a few of the current projects, including CRx-CKD, which was extremely appealing to me.

I believed that I had found an ideal opportunity for completing my practicum, and the CRx-CKD project is one that I hope to continue being a part of in the years to come.

What are the goals you have for yourself while being at CHER?

One goal for my time at CHER is feeling more equipped to engage community members in order to make informed decisions when developing initiatives that could potentially impact them greatly.

I hope to observe staff and also practice speaking with community members and elevating their voices in meaningful ways as the CRx-CKD team develops its protocol and uses its funding.

There will be growth personally and professionally through a variety of project-related and CHER opportunities, so I will strive to attend different types of meetings, network and learn more about the daily work of those who have dedicated themselves to advancing public health in a variety of forms.

What are some challenges you have faced in your field of work?

In medicine, I have faced challenges remaining true to myself and my values at times when the rigor of the schooling and demands of the work have limited my time and energy.

A lack of sense of belongingness has also presented challenges, but serving patients, especially those from underrepresented communities, has often helped remind me of the importance of diversity in the healthcare workforce.

I have also experienced challenges overcoming social determinants of health when caring for patients, and this has motivated me to learn more about overcoming inequities and using my position as a student doctor to do what I can to improve outcomes.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I drove a jet ski for the first time in December when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Antigua. She was on the jet ski with me, and we were able to see “Mount Obama” (named after President Obama), which is the highest point on the island.