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Sommer Scholars

Shamelle Richards

  • Country of Origin: United States
  • MPH/JD Student

At the age of 30, Shamelle Richards’s life had come to a crossroads. By that time, she had lived in eight different cities and become a “jill-of-all-trades,” but had not come close to finding her life’s purpose. That would come in a surprising way – from working at a service station in a country village on the East Bank of the Demerara River in Guyana.

In 2006, a Mother’s Day phone call with her aunt turned into an unexpected offer to manage her aunt and uncle’s service station. As she has done much of her life, Shamelle followed what she sees as a combination of impulse and instinct – an inner guiding light in which she has developed a great deal of trust. Her decision to go to Guyana took her back to the place where her life began. When she was three years old, her family emigrated from Georgetown, Guyana and settled in a West Indian enclave in Brooklyn, New York. Returning to Guyana allowed her to reconnect with her roots, but she also became familiar with the many challenges of life in low-resource settings.

With an expanded awareness of global health disparities, Shamelle returned to the United States committed to doing work that would intervene in the processes that create structural inequalities. This led to another homecoming. This one a return to academia after a prolonged absence. Education was an arena where Shamelle excelled in her youth, but that she had drifted away from due to never quite feeling inspired. Having found that inspiration, she enrolled in college at the University of Washington in Seattle. There, she engaged in research investigating the reproductive health of women from the English-speaking Caribbean. This work led to an interest in the relationship between immigration laws and migrants’ ability to receive access to health care. She decided to combine a law degree and an MPH to be able to help influence policy in this area.

Shamelle comes to the Bloomberg School having completed the first year of her JD. She looks forward to exploring how the field of public health informs social policy, and how the language and tools of social justice, equity, and critical theory can further influence public health research.