Melissa Smith

Health Equity Initiatives


Melissa Smith, M.D., is a family medicine physician who has worked in primary care clinics in low-income communities in the US and Central America for three decades, including most recently in the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department clinic in Santa Maria, California. In all these settings, she has also been involved in health and social justice efforts to complement her clinical work.
Dr. Smith is the Director of Health Equity Initiatives at UC Santa Barbara, where she co-teaches a seminar on Community-based Participatory Research on health disparities. She also served as the interim coordinator of the Latinx and Indigenous Migrant COVID-19 Response Task Force in Santa Barbara County, from March through September, 2020, and continues to participate in this effort as a steering committee member. Dr. Smith has developed training programs for community health workers and midwives in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and has been engaged in a Participatory Action Research project focused on maternal health in Mexico. She has served as medical editor and writer for Hesperian Health Guides, widely used public health manuals on community health and empowerment. Dr. Smith is lead author of Hesperian's book, Health Actions for Women: Practical Strategies to Mobilize for Change, which is translated in seven languages, and available on Hesperian’s open source digital platform. Dr. Smith obtained a BA from Harvard University and an MD from the University of Washington.