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Sommer Scholars

Sandra Smiley

  • Country of Origin: Canada
  • MPH Student

A JOURNEY TO PUBLIC HEALTH

Sandra Smiley took a winding road on her academic and professional paths, switching colleges once and majors three times until she finished with a degree in environmental studies. She then interned for a human rights organization, did public advocacy work, and volunteered with women’s empowerment organizations.

In the fall of 2011, she joined the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders as a press officer in the U.K. She was dispatched to field hospitals around the world, where she met doctors doing critical work responding to disease epidemics, wars, and natural disasters.

It was in 2017, as a member of a Doctors Without Borders team running a hepatitis C care program in a settlement outside of Karachi, Pakistan, that she became serious about public health. Advocating for the program and influencing policy to expand hepatitis C care made a strong impression on her.

“I came to recognize just how powerful a vehicle public health is helping people.”

Earning her MPH before starting an MD program at the University of British Columbia in August 2021 will give her the skills, she says, to serve far greater numbers of patients than she could in an individual practice.

“There are so many different forms of activism, and they’re all important, but I’d like my own activism to be in science and medicine,” says Smiley. “Being a clinician with public health aptitude is a great position from which to make change.”