Morehouse School of Medicine Student Kiandra Smith Awarded Gilliam Fellowship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Ms. Smith is the first student in MSM history to receive prestigious honor, which recognizes
outstanding research and a commitment to advance equity and inclusion in science.

Kiandra Smith Kiandra Smith
Master of Science in Clinical Research and Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences Student at MSM.

ATLANTA – August 4, 2023 – Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is proud to announce that graduate student Kiandra Smith has been named a Gilliam Fellow by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Among the 50 new Gilliam Fellows, Ms. Smith is being honored along with her thesis advisor, MSM Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology Jason DeBruyne, PhD. She is the first student in MSM history to receive a Gilliam Fellowship.

Ms. Smith is currently pursuing both a Master of Science in Clinical Research degree and a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine. She is expected to complete both degree programs in 2024 and also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of Wooster. Ms. Smith's research interests include neuroscience, the circadian clock system, and the female metabolic system.

"As a Gilliam Fellow, I am most excited about networking with others with the same passions for underrepresented communities in research, and I look forward to using this funding to propel my research knowledge in female health disparities related to the circadian clock within neuroscience, metabolism, and genetics," Ms. Smith said. "I hope to use this opportunity as a stepping stone for many amazing scientific accomplishments in the future."

Each July, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute welcomes dozens of graduate students and their advisers into a close-knit community of scientists committed to advancing equity and inclusion. Known as “Gilliam Day,” this annual celebration follows HHMI’s announcement of the newest cohort supported by the Gilliam Fellows Program. This year, HHMI is honoring 50 graduate students and their advisers for outstanding research in their respective scientific fields and their commitment to building a more inclusive scientific ecosystem. Each student-adviser pair will receive an annual award totaling $53,000 for up to three years.

“The Gilliam Fellowship not only supports incredibly talented graduate students who are poised to become future leaders in science,” said Joshua Hall, senior program officer for the Gilliam Fellows Program, “but it also engages thesis advisers and institutions in the work of creating training environments in which all students can thrive.”

The Gilliam community now totals 451 outstanding scientists, tracing back to the program’s launch in 2004. This year’s cohort hails from 37 institutions across the country, including eight institutions receiving their first-ever Gilliam Fellowship award. At these first-time awardee institutions, Gilliam Fellows are working to address key questions in science and human health, including how health disparities impact cancer outcomes and how air pollutants affect the health of high school-aged children.

HHMI’s Gilliam Fellows Program recognizes that advisers play an integral role in helping their students realize their high potential. For this reason, Gilliam advisers participate in a year-long mentorship development course led by Facilitator-Scholars from HHMI’s Scientific Mentorship Initiative. This learning experience includes monthly online interactive webinars and two in-person workshops at HHMI headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland – all of which are designed to teach advisers how to listen and engage across cultures.

“By offering professional development to mentors and supporting the growing Gilliam community, HHMI is working to create lasting change across campuses and throughout the wider scientific community,” said Blanton Tolbert, vice president of HHMI’s Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture (CASLC), which was established last year.

CASLC houses the Gilliam Fellows Program as well as other HHMI undergraduate- and graduate-level programs designed to bring together academic faculty, administrators, and students working to transform the experience of science education.

“Gilliam Fellows join a diverse and supportive community of scientific leaders who are working to forge new pathways to empower others to achieve personal success,” Tolbert said. “In this way, the program reflects what should be the norm across all of science: today’s students should expect to see leaders from all different backgrounds and experiences, reflecting true equity and inclusion in science.”

HHMI created the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study, now called the Gilliam Fellows Program, in honor of the late James H. Gilliam, Jr. A charter Trustee of HHMI, Gilliam was a respected business and civic leader who spent his life nurturing excellence and diversity in science and education.

To see a complete list of the 2023 Gilliam Fellows, click here.

For more information about Morehouse School of Medicine, please visit

About Morehouse School of Medicine

Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation’s number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission — the creation and advancement of health equity. MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master’s degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit or call 404-752-1500.


Jamille Bradfield
Morehouse School of Medicine