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PhD Candidate Martez Smith Receives UR Presidential Diversity Award

  By Gianluca D'Elia
  Friday, March 17, 2023

Martez Smith

Nursing and Health Science PhD candidate Martez D.R. Smith, LMSW was recognized at the University of Rochester’s annual Presidential Stronger As One Diversity Awards.

Smith is a recipient of the Change Maker Award, which recognizes a student who aims to cultivate a fair and just climate, culture, and community at the University and surrounding communities.

“He has all the hallmarks of an exceptional researcher: curiosity, rigor, resourcefulness, and persistence,” said Associate Professor James McMahon, PhD, who served as Smith’s dissertation advisor. “Most importantly, he has a deep passion for improving the health and quality of life of those he serves, especially members of marginalized communities.”

Smith is a licensed social worker, sexual health researcher and activist who has dedicated his life to educating and caring for individuals affected by AIDS and other health disparities. His research focuses on addressing racial, sexual and gender minority health disparities through community-driven, asset-based interventions.

For his dissertation, Smith examined associations between sexual health communication and motivations for sexual health behaviors among Black and Latino men who have sex with men and who participate in New York City's House Ball Community. His work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and UR’s Interdisciplinary Sexual Health and HIV Research Group (INSHHR).

A member of the ballroom community himself since age 18, Smith has experienced the direct impact of HIV/AIDS on fellow house members first-hand. Personal experience has motivated Smith to raise awareness, promote education, support advocacy efforts, and implement impactful strategies to end the HIV epidemic.

Smith will continue to focus on HIV and sexual health after he completes his PhD here. He was offered a postdoctoral fellowship with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, focusing on behavioral sciences training in HIV infection.

“Martez embodies excellence as a doctoral student and emerging researcher. He entered the program with experience in social work and extensive exposure in community advocacy,” said Assistant Professor Natalie Leblanc, PhD, MPH, RN, BSN, one of Smith’s mentors and a member of his dissertation committee. “This has allowed him to have a clear area of interest and to pursue an important line of inquiry.”

“As evidenced in his commitment to his program of research, openness to learning, and a keen understanding of social and health policy, he has and will continue to make strong contributions as a health equity researcher,” she said.

Read more about the 2023 award recipients.

Categories: Research, PhD, Diversity

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