The Specialists Cohort (Texas)
Dr. Emily Smith, who also goes by moniker “Your Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist,” is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Baylor University. Her research focuses on pediatric epidemiology and global health, particularly in developing nations.
The project quickly bloomed from its humble origins, and Dr. Smith became a celebrated science communicator across Texas, with 71,420 followers on Facebook as of March 2, 20201.
She works on the principals of “Love thy neighbor,” and makes communicating pandemic data and risks about communities. She works to reach out to faith-based organizations and open dialogues about social responsibility, from the church where her husband is a pastor to more conservative-leaning religious organizations.
Like many of our nominees, Dr. Smith endures harassment for her efforts to bring data to the public. Last August, she remarked on the shift in tone.
“At the beginning, people just said thank you and by and large were appreciative of trying to figure out what the pandemic was,” Dr. Smith said in an interview with Baptist News. “The further we’ve gotten into it, there is a significant divide on people who are posting. I have to delete or hide most of them, because that is not the battle we are facing.”
The author also captured her personable and collaborative attitude, noting “…she wants to talk to anyone who will listen in her naturally friendly tone, like talking to a really smart neighbor who just might be the nicest person you ever met.”
A few words from those who nominated Dr. Emily Smith:
“Emily Smith has made epidemiology relevant and applicable to the “average Joe/Jane” with her moniker as “your friendly local epidemiologist” in an area of Texas with many Covid deniers. She accidentally garnered a large following of people who want to learn more and of people who are simply curious. Her style is kind, yet informative, and she has filled a needed communication gap during the pandemic. Hats off to Dr. Smith for reaching out to common folk on Facebook and figuring out how to engage and act on important ideas.”
“Dr. Smith has been teaching the public about COVID-19 and related issues through posts on Facebook and her website. She has been guiding her community of followers through the pandemic with science-based information stated clearly enough for laymen to follow. She has been able to be encouraging yet realistic without fail. People have learned to depend upon her to deliver accurate information which they can use in their personal health decision making. Dr. Smith has demonstrated devotion to humankind and dedication to the field of epidemiology. The countless hours which she has spent serving the public on these forums has been without compensation. She deserves to be recognized for her exemplary work.”
“Dr. Smith has become one of my favorite resources for info about COVID-19 and the vaccines. She does a wonderful job of explaining data to non-experts in ways that are easy to understand and relatable, and always includes links to original data sources and articles. While Facebook has been her primary platform, she shares most of her posts on her website to increase accessibility. I’ve appreciate that she also sometimes speaks not only as an epidemiologist, but also as part of a religious community who has struggled with people not believing in/following the science; she has clearly addressed many myths, has endured personal criticism and threats, and has worked to support religious leaders that are seeking to serve their communities who may have opposing views. Though all of this, she has lived up to her nickname of Friendly Neighbor Epidemiologist!”