By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C, Thurs. Jan. 21, 2021: A Caribbean-born US citizen has been appointed by President Joe Biden to head the administration’s task force on health equity. Here are five things you should know about her:
1: She is US Virgin Islands-born associate professor of internal medicine and public health and management at Yale University, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, 45. She was born in St. Thomas and attended All Saints Cathedral School and obtained her Bachelor of Arts in biological anthropology and psychology from Swarthmore College in 1996. She attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College, where she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society and graduated in 2001. Nunez-Smith was a resident in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She completed her Master of Health Science at Yale University in 2006.
2: Dr. Nunez-Smith will address the terrible reality of American medicine: persistent racial and ethnic disparities in access and care after co-chairing the Biden-Harris transition team’s COVID advisory.
3: She has an expansive vision for the job, with plans to target medical resources and relief funds to vulnerable communities but also to tackle the underlying social and economic inequalities that put them at risk. “Health is determined 20% by what we do in the clinical setting and over 60% by societal realities,” she says. “What I aspire to is to use my voice for the folks who aren’t in the room. That’s my responsibility and obligation — to make the invisible visible.”
4: Dr. Nunez-Smith’s studies have been focused on health and healthcare equity for structurally marginalized communities. In particular, she has studied adverse health and healthcare outcomes for those living in the Caribbean U.S. territories, including studies that show U.S. territory residents have a 17% greater risk of dying after a heart attack compared to those living on the U.S. mainland. She has established the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network to study early risk and protective factors for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes in the eastern Caribbean. Dr. Nunez-Smith also developed a tool to assess patient reported experiences of discrimination in healthcare.
5: She is also the founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center, who made InStyle’s Badass 50 list this month. In August 2020, Nunez-Smith was named Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at Yale.