Getting to Know You: Dr. Jessica Smith

The College of Public Health has welcomed nine new faculty this fall who we want to introduce to the wider CPH community. Up this week is Jessica Smith, Ph.D., who has joined the Department of Health Policy and Management as a clinical assistant professor and co-coordinator for the Master of Health Administration program.

What brought you to the field of public health?

Public health, specifically health services research, connects my personal, professional, and academic passions. As a young child and adolescent, I had severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. I was fortunate to have a family that was able to access and afford my treatment once they recognized I was struggling. With the right mix of care, I am grateful to say my OCD has been mild and manageable for many years now. However, I recognized countless others were not as fortunate. Everyone, regardless of circumstance or background, deserves access to high-quality health care. From this foundational belief came direction, and I decided to pursue a degree in public health to play my part in improving the availability and quality of care for others.

What excites you or motivates you about being in the classroom (and your research, if you’re conducting any research)?

I like the challenge of breaking down complex ideas and concepts and presenting them in a way that is accessible and engaging to a range of audiences. To be candid, I think many of the research methods and theories I learned in graduate school did not fully click until I understood their application in a real-world setting. This insight makes me appreciate UGA’s emphasis on active learning and the MHA program’s focus on connecting what students are learning in the classroom to their future careers. I am grateful to be a part of this community and hope my excitement for learning translates to a successful year in the classroom.

How have you partnered with communities to improve health? Is there service or outreach work you’d like to do in Athens or Georgia? 

In my previous position, I had the opportunity to promote evidence-based health policy and strategic initiatives in Georgia. I worked directly with Georgia’s Medicaid program to research and evaluate policies and quality improvement initiatives.  In addition, I provided technical assistance to the Georgia Department of Public Health to support the implementation of Georgia’s Multi-Stakeholder Opioid and Substance Use Response Plan. From my experience, I have learned that public insurance and safety net programs are complex and often difficult to navigate. I would welcome any opportunities to help promote health insurance literacy and enrollment among individuals and communities in need.

What are you looking forward to this Fall semester? 

I am looking forward to getting to know the students in the MHA program and my colleagues in HPAM and CPH. I am also excited to attend some UGA football and basketball games with my family.

Last one – what do you do for fun?

Baseball is big in my household. My husband and I are both lifelong Atlanta Braves fans and have two boys that play little league ball. We love watching games together and practicing in the backyard. I also enjoy listening to podcasts, seeing live music, and playing trivia when I get the chance!

Learn more about Dr. Smith’s background, areas of expertise, and research interests in her faculty profile.

Posted on August 15, 2022.