Kim Smith – Smith a very common name. Kim would identify herself as an ordinary person, however this ordinary person has made extraordinary contributions to the health and well-being of the entire Rochester community with an intense focus on the most vulnerable and at risk populations.
Kim, a third generation western New York African American woman with four siblings and a son in college, was born and raised in Rochester, NY. Kim went to School #12 and graduated from Wilson Magnet High School. She went on to get a BS in Health Science and a Master’s in Public Administration from SUNY Brockport. She is among the first generation to survive poverty due to her family values of hard work, education and service. These values were instilled in Kim, service to others is in her bones and remains a driving force in the contributions Kim continues to make to the social, economic and political life of those most in need – the poor, disenfranchised, and the powerless.
In 1991, Kim began serving the Rochester community at the Monroe County Health Department in the Lead Control Program. She went door to door conducting environmental investigations of primary and secondary residences of children with venous lead levels >= 5 µg/dl. These investigations included a full educational intervention as well as the identification of conditions conducive to lead poisoning (lead hazards), issuance of a Notice and Demand to the property owner to eliminate the hazards by a specified time-frame, and re-investigation to verify compliance. Kim’s was in the field talking to and educating members of the community about health risks. She was making a difference in people’s lives.
In 1999, Kim began working in public health in the STD/HIV Prevention and Control Program of the Monroe County Health Dept. It soon became apparent that if you were going to prevent the spread of AIDS, you had to know who was infected with HIV. In June 2000 New York State made HIV a reportable disease statewide. Once HIV became reportable, Kim again took to the streets talking to those infected, finding who their contacts were, and providing those infected with resources to prevent the spread of HIV and maintain their own health. This task involved coordinating health, economic, social, and counseling services for those infected, their partners, families and friends.
In 2011, Kim became a member of The Public Health Works! Honor Roll which recognizes the local public health workforce as an essential component of Commissioner of Health Howard A. Zucker’s public health agenda to make New York one of the healthiest states in the nation. At the heart of all successful public health initiatives are the workers who promote and protect the public’s health and safety. Kim was recognized for her work as the Supervising Public Health Representative with Monroe County’s STD/HIV Control Program. In this position Kim was responsible for overseeing HIV/STD surveillance, contact investigations, and partner service activities. In order to carry out her responsibilities effectively, Kim had to be on the ground listening to the health care workers doing the work and the clients who were receiving the services. Kim quickly learned from her hands on involvement how policy impacted the lives of members of the community. She saw gaps in accountability, access to care, and the use of partner services and resources. Driven to fill these gaps and to meet the need they created, Kim developed policies for Monroe County based on already existing state policies on HIV/STD surveillance, contact investigations, and partner service activities to build bridges between HIV/STD positive community and local government. She utilized the influence of the Health Dept. to improve access to care by expanding partnership services to include clinical and non-clinical organizations. Kim has worked tirelessly at expanding access to care to be inclusive of all members of the LGBTQ and marginalized communities.
Catapulted by her work in public health, Kim became heavily involved in the HIV community inside and outside of work. She was on the Board of the Rochester Area Task Force On AIDS and received their Community Service Award. For a short time, Kim was a member of the University of Rochester HIV Clinical Trials Outreach Team.
In 2004, Kim joined the board of MOCHA (Men of Color Health Association) where she served as Board Secretary. MOCHA, founded in 1996 by Gary English, an AmeriCorp worker, began in response to the lack of attention and services for men of color living with HIV/AIDS in the Rochester community. While on the Board of MOCHA, Kim revised the Community Advisory Board to be more reflective and inclusive of the population MOCHA served. Kim was the recipient of the Heart of MOCHA Award twice.
From 1994 – 2017, Kim has been serving her community in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases and is well-known and well-respected in the community. She has worked to create a thriving environment for the 750,000 residents of Monroe County, and to create health policies that improved access, advocated for disenfranchised communities, and brought together diverse people to build coalitions and solve problems. Kim’s work in the area of Partner Services prevention is unparalleled, and was instrumental in creating “STD Road Shows” or visits to provider’s offices to discuss and promote HIV Reporting and Partner Service activities that have contributed to increased HIV reporting and awareness. Kim has a passion for STD/HIV prevention, and she has the history to understand and inform the public about the array of disparities that contribute to the disease burden in our community.
When Kim left the Monroe County Health Department to begin serving as a professional activist and advocate with VOCAL-NY, where she became the organization’s first statewide organizer focusing on Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, she brought with her all of her experience in building bridges, capitalizing on commonalities, negotiating and compromising to reach common goals and improve lives. In her new role, Kim brings the unique combination of experience developing and administering policy at the local level, and advocacy in Albany where she has helped to win more equitable statewide legislation in key areas including housing affordability. She continues to fight for equitable policies that will end HIV, opioid crisis, mass incarceration and homelessness.
In January 2020 Kim took another step, raising the bar of service to the community by announcing her candidacy and campaign for New York State’s 61st Senate District. Her campaign begins in the same place her work in public health began – being on the ground listening to the concerns of her constituents, and to bring their voices with her when she educates, advocates and acts in their behalf. Her past experience in writing and building on public health policy and as a professional activist provides the 61st Senate District with an advocate who knows how to bring people together so that no one is left out or left behind.
Personally, I have known Kim Smith for 16+ years. I have admired her ability to clearly identify the issues and to creatively find solutions. Kim has taught me a great deal about inclusion, never giving up, and finding kindred spirits to fight for equality and justice together. In my interview with Kim, she said she is most proud of her managing the Monroe County Partnering to End the Epidemic Program. I am most grateful for Kim’s community leadership, and her commitment to fighting for equality and justice for all the citizens of Monroe and Erie Counties.
Kim Smith is A Woman Who Never Stops Fighting To Change Lives and Systems