Lacey Marie Smith ‘12 understood that her life would be different in Haiti, but she didn’t appreciate how true that was until she was there.
Immediately after college, Smith began work as a Global Health Fellow, which took her the Haitian Central Plateau for a year. There, she worked in numerous capacities including acting as a birth assistant, coordinating public health programming, supervising community health workers, and aiding in clinic management. Meanwhile, she discovered the joys of Haitian culture, including the community-based living and the storytelling traditions, while she slowly became fluent in Creole.
The challenges were extreme. “We struggled with lack of supplies, and occasionally, not even having running water,” said Lacey. “Few other interventions are as important as clean water.”
Among the most difficult aspects of the job was how frustrating Lacey found it to not be able to contribute effectively right away. “I had to be really patient with myself,” Lacey said. “I had to trust that I was learning and that the process would eventually lead me to success.”
By the end of her time in Haiti, Lacey was working as a translator and doctor’s assistant during surgery, which because of lack of supplies, is frequently performed with only local anesthesia.
Following her time in Haiti, Smith entered a Masters of Science in Immunology and Global Health program with the U.S.-Ireland Alliance Mitchell Scholarship at National University of Ireland, Maynooth. In addition to her classes and field work, Smith wrote her Master’s thesis, which explored challenges with structural and preventative health in relationship to the current opioid crisis in America.
Today, Smith is bringing her experience in public health to Harvard, where she has recently begun her medical degree. She is keeping her options open, but is currently interested in exploring infectious disease, which she likens to detective work, or surgery, which she experienced assisting with in Haiti.
She also intends to put her fluency in Haitian Creole to good use, through weekend clinics and through research that focuses on improving the care of the large Haitian population in Boston.
Lacey credits her time at La Reina with giving her a sisterhood of people who supported her during the most challenging days in Haiti and Ireland. “La Reina gave me the best friends I could ever imagine. It really is a sisterhood,” said Lacey.
She also appreciates the value her La Reina education placed on service. “La Reina teaches girls to be confident, compassionate, and intelligent. It truly encourages girls to become connected to the communities we were born into and the ones we come to call our own, around the world. La Reina girls are women with, and for, others.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 edition of La Reina Today magazine. The entire magazine is available in print and online.
- community service