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Sonita Simelus: New faculty Q&A



Assistant Teaching Professor, Public Health 

What classes are you teaching this semester?  

This semester I am teaching the following three classes: 

  • P_HLTH 3400 Global Public Health and Health Care Systems 
  • P_HLTH 3620 Public Health Promotion and Program Planning 
  • P_HLTH 8953 Evaluating Global Public Health Programs 

What do you love about teaching? What are you most looking forward to this semester?  

I love to be in a position where I can both share and learn. My students are diverse. They bring a wealth of knowledge, experiences and perspectives to the classroom. As an instructor, I embrace all of that because it makes the learning experience more enriching. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn together and see them grow.

The most important thing I am looking forward to is a successful academic year with my students coming out of the classroom with the knowledge and skills they need to go out there and be the change. I am also looking forward to meeting new faculty and building my network.  

Tell us a little about yourself! What is your background? 

I was born and raised in Haiti and Dominican Republic. I have three brothers. I am married and my husband and I have the privilege of raising two precious boys in this beautiful town of Columbia, Missouri.  

I am a former emergency room physician by training with experience in reducing health disparities in rural communities. My work in rural Dominican Republic led me to the amazing field of Public Health and I have not looked back. I will be honest, there are days when I wake up and miss the emergency room adrenaline, however, I have experienced more fulfillment focusing on the preventive aspect of health,  and I appreciate the platform Public Health has provided me to contribute to the advancement of health equity.  

I hold a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in health promotion and policy from the University of Missouri. I am also a Certified Health Education Specialist. I bring an interdisciplinary lens to the different health topics we discuss in the classroom, which hopefully helps my students address potential health problems they identify in their communities.  

What brought you to public health? 

I remember being 8 years old when I expressed my interest in becoming a doctor because I wanted to help those around me that were suffering. In my young mind, I could only help by being a doctor, a healer. However, [as a physician], I found myself in rural Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, seeing the same patients repeatedly during consultations. It bugged me that they were not feeling better. They were not healing. So, I decided to spend some time in the community to learn more about where and how they live, to discover what potential things could be in their environment preventing them from healing. That’s how I discovered what I know now as the Social Determinants of Health, which inform every aspect of our lives.  

With that new perspective, I approached the regional health department advocating for resources and ways to help address some of the barriers that needed to be addressed, enabling the communities I served to experience better health outcomes. Years later, I learned from a young mentor I met in the US that all this work I did was what Public Health is all about. That was the moment I knew I needed to explore the field more and decided to pursue my master’s degree in Public Health. Now I am able to use my work to impact communities of people rather than one single person at a time. 

When you are not teaching, what are you up to?  

I am an ambivert leaning more towards introversion than extroversion. So, when I am not teaching, you will find me either at home reading a good book while listening to some soothing music, or on the MKT trail on a family walk and enjoying the boys exploring the different creeks we find on the way. I love traveling, discovering new landscapes and enjoying new gastronomies. 

What is a fact about you that your students might not expect? 

I am multilingual. I can effectively communicate in my maternal language which is Haitian Creole, as well as French, Spanish and English. I also speak some Italian.


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Sonita Simelus

Sonita Simelus

Assistant Teaching Professor