About Dr. Dawn K. Smith

Dawn K. Smith, MD, MS, MPH, was a champion of health equity and HIV prevention. Dr. Smith played an integral role in the development and implementation of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and studied the disproportionate affect HIV has on underrepresented communities. Throughout her career, she worked to eliminate health disparities and was committed to ensuring that all people had PrEP access.

The AAHIVM Dr. Dawn K. Smith HIV Prevention Clinical Fellowship pays tribute to Dr. Smith’s extraordinary contributions to HIV prevention by training a new generation of clinicians in PrEP and HIV prevention.

A Groundbreaking PrEP Researcher

Dr. Smith was at the forefront of PrEP research, which was instrumental in ensuring PrEP use and access. She was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lead investigator for the first PrEP safety study and she helped develop the CDC’s PrEP guidelines for clinical use.

A dedicated researcher, Dr. Smith published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles throughout her career. Much of this research delved into public health issues, health equity, HIV prevention, and women’s health and HIV. She was the principal investigator of a foundational study that examined real-world PrEP prescribing, use and adherence in community health centers. As well, in her research she uncovered gaps in PrEP access and use; analyzed racial, ethnic and economic disparities in the use of PrEP; and, through mathematical modelling, increased our understanding of PrEP implementation needs.

A Lifetime of Public Health Service

At the time of her passing in 2022, Dr. Smith was a medical officer for the CDC’s Department of HIV Prevention. She began her career at the CDC in 1993 as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer. During her tenure at the CDC, she spent four years at their field station in Botswana, where she conducted PrEP trials.

She received her MD at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and went on to complete her residency at the Indian Health Service Hospital in Fort Defiance, Arizona. She then earned dual master’s degrees in public health and statistics from the University of Michigan. She coupled her background in medicine, public health, and statistics with her passion for equity, education, and scientific inquiry to make a lasting impact on the lives of innumerable people. She is truly the “mother of PrEP.”