May 11, 2022

USM Graduate Student Chosen for Prestigious Internship Program

Nicole McCardle

University of Southern Mississippi (USM) graduate student Daquan Smith has been selected to participate in the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) Internship Program this summer.

Daquan Smith (Photo credit: USM)

Out of more than 850 applicants, Smith was chosen for one of only 22 fully funded, coveted spots. He will spend 10 weeks working alongside a SAMSHA mentor with the Office of Behavioral Health Equity in Rockfield, Md. Smith is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Health Policy and Administration.

A native of the Bronx in New York, Smith spent his formative years in Gulfport, Miss. He graduated from Long Beach High School and earned his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice/Pre-Law & Military Science from Alcorn State University. Being selected for the internship from such a vast field caught Smith a bit off-guard.

“It was a very surreal moment due to knowing I would be working directly with key leaders in health policy that I view on television,” he said. “I was very excited and humbled to know I was admitted to the internship, especially after exposing myself to the world of public health from law within the span of one year.”

The SAMHSA Internship Program introduces students to the important role SAMHSA plays in ensuring a productive life in the community for everyone. Interns gain practical experience through projects, special assignments, or research that supports federal, state, and community-based programs, policies, and best practices in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and mental illness.

Dr. Lachel Story, Dean of USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, expressed pride and admiration in Smith’s selection.

“For him to be selected for one of 22 spots out of 850 applicants is quite the honor. It speaks to his hard work and the preparation he received from our Masters of Public Health Program,” said Story. “Through this internship, he will receive quality mentoring that will further prepare him to impact healthcare in Mississippi and beyond.”

Added Dr. Charkarra Anderson-Lewis, Director of the School of Health Professions: “I am extremely excited that Daquan was selected for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Internship Program. This opportunity will be a great experience for him and will also bring great value to his career in the healthcare field. Daquan has excelled in the Master of Public Health Program, and I know that he will continue to excel in this internship program.”

Smith points out that mental health and substance abuse issues are what drove him to pursue a graduate degree in public health.

“The effects of these issues can create a host of generational disparities directly and indirectly, which I have witnessed in communities, college campuses and among veterans,” he said. “There is a high prevalence of behavioral health disparities in our nation that affects every single household. I feel that advocating, reforming, and improving the way we view and implement behavioral health treatment and policies would be a true service to all those who seek it and make it more accessible to those who are discouraged to pursue it.”

To learn more about graduate programs within USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, call 601.266.5445 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/nursing-health-professions/index.php

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