Giselle Corbie-Smith, M.D., wasn’t drawn to medicine from the start. She jokes that when her mother urged her to consider medical school, she responded as any typical teenager would.
She ran in the opposite direction.
But after spending summers volunteering at the hospital where her mother worked as a nurse, she began to see medicine as an option and as an important way to give back.
“I was initially attracted to both the intellectual side of medicine and also the social contract that physicians have with society to help in a way that is intensely personal,” says Corbie-Smith. A professor of social medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, she also directs the Community Engagement Core at the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute, which helps move scientific discoveries to practical use. NC TraCS is one of 55 academic centers funded by the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards.
Corbie-Smith has spent the better part of her career upholding that social contract, by trying to understand and eliminate the health disparities that can exist between the haves and the have-nots.
Her primary focus while at UNC-Chapel Hill has been on how to engage communities of color appropriately in research.
One of her studies, Project GRACE, trains youth as lay health advisors to go into their communities and combat misinformation about HIV infection. Another study, Project LeARN, spearheaded with UNC geneticist Bob Sandler, examines the concerns of African Americans about participating in genetic research.
She has been honored for her efforts thus far with the Leadership in Health Disparities Research award from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities and at UNC with the James E. Bryan Award for Public Service and the Jefferson Pilot Fellowship in Academic Medicine. And she is not slowing down any time soon.
“It is incredibly rewarding to have an impact even on just one person in the clinic,” says Corbie-Smith, who also sees patients in a community health center in Carrboro, “and then to take your work on a larger scale to make a difference in an entire a community. I am so grateful to have this amazing job.”
Adapted from the NC TraCS Newsletter.