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Memphis’ First Lady, UT Health Science Center Nursing Alumna Encourages: “See the Good in Our City”

Jamila Smith-Young, who is married to Memphis Mayor Paul Young, is a graduate of the UT Health Science Center’s College of Nursing, an assistant professor in the college, and a nurse practitioner at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Memphis native and University of Tennessee Health Science Center alumna Jamila Smith-Young, DNP, MPH, CPNP-AC, was always involved in the community during her years growing up in the city’s Cherokee neighborhood.

“My parents instilled in me and my sibling to give back. Even in church, we were always involved in things community-wise with my pastor. That’s all I know — to serve and to help. I get a joy out of it,” Dr. Smith-Young said.

Married to Memphis Mayor Paul Young, whose term began January 1, she is the new First Lady of Memphis.

Her community involvement has grown through her commitment to the nursing profession, where she combined her passion for helping others with her interest in biology. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, Dr. Smith-Young holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Public Health, a Master of Science in Nursing, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

As a nurse practitioner at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Dr. Smith-Young specializes in endocrinology. She is also an assistant professor and mentor in the College of Nursing at UT Health Science Center and serves as the DNP faculty simulation co-coordinator for a $1.5 million grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The grant is titled “Training and Education to Advance Critical Health Equity Readiness Using Simulation.”

Dr. Smith-Young has a stack of professional honors and awards, including recognition as a Healthcare Hero from the Memphis Business Journal, a CGI Power 30 honoree, and a Memphis Top 40 under 40 Urban Elite Professional – all in 2021. Her volunteer commitments are also substantial and include serving as a board member for the Memphis Museum of Science and History, the Hutchison School Parent Association, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Blues City Chapter. She is also the Advanced Practice Provider Community Outreach Chair for Le Bonheur.

Add to that the role of First Lady of Memphis, and some might be overwhelmed, but Dr. Smith-Young is excited about the opportunities.

“It is exciting. I fully supported Paul from day one because I know he is a brilliant person who can do this job,” she said. “I also see opportunities on the health care side of things, trying to partner with people to bring awareness to that side. I am excited for the platform I see that I can have to advocate for the people I see daily through my work.”

“My parents instilled in me and my sibling to give back. Even in church, we were always involved in things community-wise with my pastor. That’s all I know — to serve and to help. I get a joy out of it.”

Dr. Jamila Smith-Young

She would like to increase a focus on childhood obesity and diabetes, which is a major issue in the Memphis area, she said. Making a difference is an aspect of nursing that she loves. “It’s just the joy of being able to help people — to see them in one physical state and then to progress to making them well.”

Dr. Smith-Young was the first graduate of the College of Nursing’s pediatric acute care concentration in the DNP program, and she has remained involved in and dedicated to the UT Health Science Center College of Nursing, said Assistant Professor Michelle Rickard, DNP, CPNP-AC. Dr. Rickard is the concentration coordinator for the pediatric acute care DNP.

“Jamila has always been a strong supporter of our nurse practitioner students,” Dr. Rickard said. After graduating, “she remained active in the pediatric program, not only precepting our students each semester, but assisting with skills and simulation training each year.”

During the pandemic, Dr. Smith-Young worked with UT Health Science Center’s team to deliver vaccinations to the community.

In her role as chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Mona Wicks, PhD, RN, FAAN, has gotten to know Dr. Smith-Young.

“One of the gifts of mentoring faculty is seeing them grow as leaders and change agents,” Dr. Wicks said. “Jamila enjoys the role of clinician educator, often seeking opportunities to extend her contributions to the college, whether to support students or faculty colleagues. She is a bright, thoughtful, unassuming, and focused leader who demonstrates authentic team spirit and caring. She is an asset to the community because of her commitment to transforming the health of children and families in the Memphis metropolitan area.”

Mayor Young and Dr. Smith-Young have two children, Zoe, 12, and Paxton, 8. “Our daughter was very involved and interested in the debates and things,” Dr. Smith-Young said. “The youngest is enjoying some of the perks of being the mayor’s son, such as going to a Grizzlies practice, where he got to play basketball with the team.”

Despite the demands of work and political office, Dr. Smith-Young said she and Mayor Young are committed to being present for their children, Paxton, 8, and Zoe, 12, right. Photo by Elizabeth Wiggs Photography.

Dr. Smith-Young recounted growing up with many cousins in her large extended family. “They would come up and spend the summers with us. We would sometimes have up to four cousins staying with us for the summer. My parents are all about family, and they instilled in me and my sister to be present with family and celebrate family. I married into a family that’s just like mine.”

Dr. Smith-Young has high hopes for Memphis.

“Memphis is a great place. I hope that Memphians can see the good in our city,” she said. “I think we can embrace each other as Memphians and work together to unify this city.”