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Blair Smith wears a blazer at the bell tower


Blair Smith had her first look at the field of sports medicine in high school during a research opportunity at the Duke Sports Medicine 

“The experience opened my eyes to an entirely new field I could explore as a career,” said Smith, a former national club volleyball player and avid sports fan.  

Now in her senior year at Carolina, Smith has taken full advantage of the opportunities in her exercise and sport science major. 

One of her favorite courses has been “Physiological Basis of Human Performance” with Claudio Battaglini, professor of exercise physiology. He connected Smith to her volunteer work with “Get Real & Heel,” a program that serves patients through individualized prescriptive exercise at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also Smith’s honors thesis advisor. 

“Dr. Battaglini has been a tremendous mentor,” said Smith. Her thesis studies “the feasibility of an eight-week exercise intervention for pediatric oncology patients, specifically analyzing the effects on depression, anxiety and health-related quality of life.” 

“This project is important to me personally as my family has a higher predisposition to cancer,” she said, adding that her grandmother’s recent recurrence has continued to fuel her drive to advance oncological care. 

Smith has left a legacy at Carolina by starting UNC’s chapter of Phi Epsilon Kappa, a national honorary fraternity for EXSS students. 

With the help of Tar Heels Mimi Tra and Noah Jordan, the chapter was established in January 2022 and welcomed its inaugural 137 members in April. 

“Our mission was to create a space for students to meet and network and to provide support to members to accomplish their goals,” said Smith, who serves as president. 

Outside EXSS, Smith has a minor in medicine, literature and culture, is part of Honors Carolina, serves as a senior marshal and is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, where she was vice president of philanthropy. Her favorite Tar Heel memory was traveling to New Orleans for the National Championship in 2022. 

“I am a lifelong Carolina fan and a third generation UNC student,” said Smith, who is originally from Fuquay-Varina, “so being in NOLA to watch UNC beat Duke in the Final Four was amazing.” 

After she graduates, Smith will work as a medical assistant during her gap year while applying to graduate programs. She plans to pursue a career as a physician assistant in underserved communities in North Carolina. 

“Many experiences at UNC have influenced me, but volunteering at “Get Real & Heel” and my honors thesis have drawn me toward a career in oncology to help fight a disease that has affected so many, including my family.” 

By Jess Abel, College of Arts and Sciences

Tar Heels of the Week are nominated by professors in their department. Follow us on Instagram to explore more College Up Close.