WVU Public Health student puts passion to work through research and advocacy

WVU School of Public Health student Brittany Smith is following her passion. And that path recently led her to Capitol Hill.

Earlier this month, Smith traveled to Washington, DC, for the Save the Children Action Network’s 17th Annual Advocacy Summit, which brought together nearly 300 voices from across the United States to speak up for children.

Brittany Smith with group in DC
Smith, second from the right, in Washington, DC.

Save the Children Action Network’s Advocacy Summit provides an opportunity for attendees to participate in trainings, hear from experts and meet with elected officials to discuss the importance of investing in early childhood education in the U.S. and protecting children living in conflict zones around the world.

Studies have shown that early childhood education is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty.

“One of the highlights of the conference was speaking with Senator Manchin about a bill that would provide more funding for high-quality early education,” said Smith. “Early childhood education is a protective factor that reduces the chance of substance use later in life, as well as many other negative outcomes, such as dropping out of high school and engaging in criminal activity. It is a great investment for a state like West Virginia. Our kids deserve it.”

A native of Cannelton, WV – a rural coalmining community in the heart of Appalachia – Smith enrolled in the Public Health undergraduate program at West Virginia University to make a difference in her home state.

Smith, second from the right, with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in Washington, DC.

While at the School of Public Health, Smith has had the opportunity to dive deeply into her passions by focusing her research on childhood adversity and trauma.

One of Smith’s research projects focuses specifically on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs include abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, such as substance abuse. As an undergraduate student, Smith was able to develop a research project with faculty members in the School and the WVU Injury Control Research Center, exploring ACEs in women who use substances and the ACEs score in their children.

After discovering her love of research, Smith wants to continue her education. She plans to earn her PhD in Public Health Sciences and become an early adversity researcher who develops interventions for children whose parents misuse substances.

Smith also plans to return to Capitol Hill to attend the Advocacy Summit in the future.

“Advocacy is an important part of public health, and our small state needs a voice at the national level,” Smith said. “My work will not end here.”

CONTACT: Kimberly Becker
WVU School of Public Health
304.293.1699; Kimberly.Becker@hsc.wvu.edu