Why We Do What We Do: Marcella Nunez-Smith

Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS researcher at the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute, always knew that she was destined for medical school. However, global health was not always her goal. As a premed student at Swarthmore College, her introduction to global health began when she organized a group for students of Caribbean ancestry. “The organization was an opportunity to highlight the political, economic, and health challenges facing that part of the world,” said Marcella. “But, when I was an undergrad, the interdisciplinary field of global health was at its infancy and just not part of my world.”

However, Marcella watched – with great interest – the emergence and broadening of the global health field. With the expansion of global health, there were an increasing number of global health prospects overseas. “At the residency level, more mechanisms were put in place for people to travel internationally,” she explains. “I chose not to go abroad because I really felt very strongly that there were so many things that could be done domestically. Now more than ever, the lines between ‘domestic’ and ‘global’ are blurring.”

After completing a research fellowship at Yale, Marcella stayed on as a faculty member at the School of Medicine. It was her interest in health care equity that ultimately led her to GHLI, where she leads research on health equity and noncommunicable diseases in low- and medium-resource settings. Her research projects take place in the Caribbean, a region to which she is personally-connected, as well as in the U.S. Connecticut-based projects focus on discrimination in health care settings and she works on several national projects related to healthcare workforce diversity. Marcella’s work through GHLI emphasizes the importance of both domestic and overseas work. In her words, work in global health can mean “traveling two blocks to downtown New Haven or to Nepal.”

Shatreen Masshoor, Yale College, 2012 
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