Volunteering, children’s hospital experience led Smallwood to medical school

Baseball brought Christian Smallwood from Melbourne, Florida, to ECU. Surgery to correct season-ending injuries brought a career in medicine into focus and he is on course to become a physician as the Brody Fellow in the 2027 class at the Brody School of Medicine.

Smallwood, the son of Greg and Lisa ’97 Smallwood of Cocoa Beach, Florida, played two years for the Pirates. He earned a bachelor’s in exercise physiology in 2020 and an additional bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2021. Smallwood was an American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team honoree and was on the ECU Athletics Academic Honor Roll.

He also holds an associate degree in health sciences from the College of Central Florida.

Smallwood was an Undergraduate Research Grant and MINI Award recipient and was awarded the Joseph N. Leconte Memorial Scholarship by the ECU chemistry department.

In his research, he assessed how various factors (relationships, support systems, time commitments, life stressors) affect the mental health of Division 1 student-athletes. He aimed to develop effective and long-term coping mechanisms for student athletes.

“It wasn’t until after I graduated in 2020 that I chose to pursue medicine,” Smallwood said. “Enduring multiple season-ending surgeries opened my eyes to the possibility of a career path in health care. I was encouraged by the impact the medical team had made on my life, and I desired to make a similar impact on others.”

Through volunteer experiences in a children’s hospital and leading the COVID-19 clinical services team at the Kinston Clinic, Smallwood said he saw the life-changing potential a career in medicine could provide.

Smallwood signs autographs during his time as an ECU baseball player. (Contributed photo)

Smallwood considers it a privilege to represent ECU as a Brody Scholar and looks forward to serving the community and promoting innovative strategies that will continue to improve health care in eastern North Carolina.

“In a single word, being selected as a Brody Scholar is quite surreal. I’m incredibly grateful God has blessed me with an abundance of gifts, opportunities and people that have made this honor possible,” Smallwood said. “Besides the life-changing financial benefit of this scholarship, being named a Brody Scholar provides me with a strong leadership platform in a community that I now call home.”

As a first-year medical student, Smallwood has a broad array of career interests that include trauma surgery, pediatric oncology, family medicine and physician research.

“I’m excited to explore these different opportunities, and I’m very fortunate to have the financial freedom, resources and mentorship to do so as a Brody Scholar,” he said.

During his time at Brody, Smallwood hopes to continue his research with Dr. Mark Mannie, developing a potential therapeutic strategy to treat various autoimmune diseases. He also wants to implement novel ideas and projects that will improve the health care in the community, with the help of his Brody Scholars cohort. Smallwood also hopes to start a club or organization for Christian medical students.

Smallwood is passionate about promoting a “disease prevention” approach instead of a “disease treatment” approach to medicine by emphasizing lifestyle factors that affect health outcomes, such as exercise, nutrition and social connection.

He lives the example of having a healthy lifestyle. Smallwood enjoys bench-pressing and exercising; and as often as he can, he goes to the beach to go surfing. He also enjoys reading and listening to music.