The University of Massachusetts Amherst

DNP Profile: Renia Smith

Jun 14, 2019

DNP specialization area and graduation year:

Doctor of Nursing Practice - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialization.

Graduated May 2019

Where are you located?

Austin, Texas

What is your current role?

Dr. Smith works with underserved, primarily Medicaid children and adolescents in the pediatric primary care setting. She believes in health care as a human right and that every person deserves quality medical and mental-health treatment regardless of race, gender, culture, religion, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status.


What inspired you to earn a DNP?

Dr. Smith was born into poverty on the Philippine island of Luzon and moved to the United States at the age of two. She feels that growing up with little to nothing has made her resourceful, resilient, and grateful. She knew she wanted to help others since she was a young child when her first desire was to help and heal animals (primarily marine life). With time, this compassion grew into helping human beings and she found nursing allowed her to fill that need. Dr. Smith was working as a Family Nurse Practitioner when she decided that adding skills in psychiatric mental health would allow her to better help her patients who were suffering from mental illness. Obtaining a doctorate has also placed her in a position for greater patient advocacy through the creation and implementation of research as well as having the ability to influence policy change at local, state, and national levels.

“I think it’s important to remember that if one is fortunate enough to have opportunities that allow for leadership or influence, that position includes a responsibility to help the less fortunate in some capacity, so I try to do that. I feel grateful to work with marginalized populations in both primary care and psychiatric mental health. Although it can sometimes be frustrating knowing that much larger problems such as income inequality and social dysfunction exist within the United States that contribute to many of the issues within the lives of my patients, I’m still full of hope for the future.”


Please describe your experience in the DNP program at UMass Amherst.

“I think that the DNP program at UMASS is a great way for nurses to gain more skills and knowledge in their field. This program allows nurses to step-up and become leaders in research implementation and patient advocacy. I found the online option to be efficient as far as time management and needing to balance work, personal life, and studies. We need more leaders in advanced practice nursing in both primary care and specialty care such as mental health. I would urge other nurses to obtain their doctorate and I do recommend the UMASS DNP program to other nurses.”


Please describe your DNP project or another aspect of the program (perhaps your upcoming conference?).

Dr. Smith believes that healthcare should continue to move in the direction of prevention rather than treating symptoms in patients when it is too late, and they are already ill. “As a nation, we spend outrageous amounts of money, resources, and time on treating the sick instead of preventing illness. It’s much like pulling endless, floating corpses out of a river and trying to save them instead of walking up the river to seek the cause of the disaster. It makes no sense. We should continue to focus on prevention and screening instead of treating sick people.”

With prevention and the current high suicide rates in mind, Dr. Smith has helped to improve rates in treatment for depression in adolescents through implementation of depression screening at the primary care level in Texas. She recently presented her project outcomes at the Texas DNP conference in Austin, Texas.


What are your hopes and plans for the future?  

My hopes for the future are huge and daunting, but doable under the correct leadership. It is my wish that all people are allowed the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives as much as they’re able, without the worry of needing to choose between paying for the essentials of living or paying the medical bill that they surely cannot afford here in the United States. If we want a healthy, happy population, we need to focus on prevention in healthcare, higher education, affordable real food and housing, livable wages, and clean, safe environments where people trust and rely upon each other. Implementing these improvements would decrease chronic stress and help improve mental health for people. We need a major upgrade in our society that includes the basics for everyone, not just some. These ideals will remain only wishes until we place leaders in control of our future that understand these ideals and care more about people than profit. I want to see practical, real changes in policy and regulations that lead to less suffering and brighter futures for upcoming generations. Everyone needs to do their part, however large or small.”

Dr. Smith plans to continue to work in mental-health and primary care using telepsychiatry to increase access and face-to-face service. She believes in utilizing a combined approach of therapy, lifestyle changes such as incorporating nutrient-dense food/supplements, appropriate sleep, physical activity, and medication when needed. She plans to work in education and hopes to influence policy change.