Ayanna Zaron Smith is a junior Public Health student researcher at Xavier University of Louisiana. She is passionate about eradicating health disparities, specifically targeting the African American community. Ayanna's research focuses on uncovering the stigma behind low breastfeeding rates in the African American community and finding solutions to increase Black breastfeeding rates. She was led to pursue research in this field when she discovered that African American women have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country, which in turn causes several other child and maternal issues. Through her research, she has tied the low breastfeeding rates to factors like historical trauma faced by African American women, hyper-sexualization of breasts, the lack of knowledge and support in African American communities and the pressure to quickly return to work. Ayanna was allowed to express her passion for breastfeeding research by her professor and mentor, Dr. Tyra Gross. From there, her love for maternal and child health flourished.
In her free time, Ayanna enjoys traveling the world. She spends her summers teaching English at impoverished Costa Rican daycares, and her spring breaks jet skiing in Honduras. During her travels, she witnesses serious health care deficiencies, which fuels her to continue studying and researching ways to serve underrepresented communities.