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Spring 2023 Edwards Law Firm Community First Scholarship Winner

Jasmine Smith

Jasmine Smith attends Simmons University and currently maintains a 3.8 grade point average. She aspires to pursue a career in social work and has a passion for improving the health and wellbeing of Black women and young girls. Read Jasmine’s essay to learn more about the research she has conducted and how she hopes to use her education to better her community.

Jasmine Smith

Read Jasmine's Essay:

Black women experience disparities within the medical and mental health field at disproportionate rates, and as a result they are more likely to experience shorter life expectancies and higher rates of maternal mortality. Moreover, according to the National Institute of Health (Leigh & Li, 2014), Black women are disproportionately burdened by chronic conditions, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, breast and cervical cancer, HIV, maternal mortality, and obesity. Epidemiologist and professor researcher Nancy Krieger (Krieger, N. et al., 2013) found that early-life exposure to Jim Crow laws, the legalization of racial discrimination from the late 1870s through the mid-1960s, can lead to negative health effects decades later. Krieger reported that her research connected the lack of access to health care, exposure to environmental hazards, and economic deprivation for example, are linked to Jim Crow laws and are manifested in the chronic illness, conditions and diseases faced by Black women. When focusing on the quality of life for Black Women, the discussion must include the protection of their bodies. The American Psychological Association acknowledged that a major focus of the civil rights movement was also for the protection of the bodies’ of Black Women (Barlow, 2020). Additionally, it acknowledged how intersectionality, institutionalized practices and policies prevent Black Women from being protected due to their race, gender, and the archetype known as the "Strong Black Woman".

As a social justice-informed clinician, I am impassioned to upend oppression within healing spaces for clients and to promote inclusive environments to effectively increase client outcomes. I have always valued service, recognizing the importance of human relationships and the dignity and worth of individuals and as a result, to mitigate these issues, I became involved in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) development. As a DEIB leader, I facilitate dialogue and strategic planning centered on culture and policy reform as the chair of California’s National Association of Social Workers Diversity and Inclusion committee. Prior to that role, I also assisted the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health with restructuring their organization to drive empowerment initiatives to promote equitable outcomes by utilizing diversity as an asset. I currently serve on the DEIB and Anti-Black racism committees for Keck School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences to increase understanding of racism, specifically Anti-Black racism, equity in recruitment and retention, and community amongst faculty and staff. I desire to leverage advanced understanding of leadership theory, and practical tools for promoting inclusivity at all levels of an organization. I aspire to develop and evaluate programming and improve client systems through collaboration, to build and sustain organizations incorporating core values of social work and the values of the communities served. I aspire to utilize learning theory and evidence-based pedagogy to create an inclusive educational environment. I plan to spearhead systemic change while maximizing growth and development through evidence-based recommendations. My goal is to create a nonprofit to illuminate and eradicate the challenges impacting Black Women’s quality of life. The nonprofit will improve the experience of Black women in three areas: relationship and sexual violence and crime, eating patterns and body image, and health, primarily breast cancer. As a survivor of relationship and sexual violence myself, I wanted to use my voice to improve the experience and ultimately the quality of life for Black women. I currently would like to complete this work in with three program areas: education and awareness, mental health support and medical resources from a holistic approach, and community connection and engagement. In response to the recent surge of relationship and sexual violence during the pandemic, I aim to increase access to services and support to prevent violence. This will include forming safe spaces to heal multifaceted traumatic experiences by offering trauma and gender-responsive care with cultural humility, building connections to local agencies and providers who can share resources such as free Mammograms.

Additionally, I plan to also incorporate my findings into clinical scholarship and training of mental health and medical professionals as a professor. Valuing the importance of education and training from a lens of justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, I desire to build future mental health professionals as equity-minded practitioners with an embedded curriculum of conscious research, tools, and practices.

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