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Public Health Faculty Named Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award Recipient

October 26, 2021
A view of a sunny day on the Kent State campus mall. A brick arch reads Kent State University. Students walk on brick paths among grassy grounds.

Tara Smith, Ph.D., professor in the College of Public Health at Kent State University was named as a recipient of Kent State’s 2021 Faculty Outstanding Research and Scholarship Awards (ORSAs). The ORSAs recognize the hard work and dedication of faculty members who have been with Kent State for more than 10 years.

Dr. Smith has spent the last fifteen years focused on Staphylococcus aureus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). While her research generally focuses on zoonotic infections in agricultural settings, Dr. Smith and her work have been an asset to the university and nation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Her research has kept a close eye on the COVID-19 pandemic as it has largely affected every aspect of life but also as it relates to her research in the evolution of antibiotic resistance.

“The ORSAs are the top research awards at Kent State, with recipients displaying the highest levels of scholarship,” Doug Delahanty, interim vice president for Research and Economic Development, said. “[This] outstanding work [represents] the quality of research produced at Kent State regularly.”

Smith’s research also focuses on the use of effective communication between the scientific community and general public, another topic that’s received a lot of attention with the rapidly growing and changing information regarding the virus and vaccines throughout the last two years.

“Rumors and misinformation are the only thing that may spread faster than an infectious disease,” Smith said. “It is important to identify how the public makes sense of the science and how it impacts their willingness to cooperate in the medical setting.”

Her relevant and timely research has become a critical resource for the university while navigating COVID-19 protocols and maintaining the safety of students and faculty. While there are many factors that may play a role in the resistance against vaccinations, Smith continuously works to convey science-backed information in a trustworthy manner.

“It is important to seek out accurate information and, of course, get vaccinated to protect yourself and your community,” Smith said

Dr. Smith was the first to identify livestock-associated strains of MRSA in the United States, and she pioneered the investigation of this organism in this country. In addition to teaching and writing several books and a blog focused on etiology, Dr. Smith is an authority often cited in the news media. The New York Times has profiled her work, and she was recently quoted in Detroit Free Press and Washington Post articles addressing COVID-19.

Eager to learn from some of the top public health experts like Dr. Smith?

Dr. Smith is just one of the expert faculty members you could study under with Kent State’s online Master of Public Health and online Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology programs. Through the integration of theory and practice, you’ll graduate equipped to address and solve the health challenges of the 21st century. Apply today or speak with an advisor to determine which program suits your career goals.

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