Allison Mathews is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Social Medicine within the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. Her research focuses on the use of crowdsourcing to learn how to better engage communities about the social and ethical implications of HIV cure clinical trials, HIV testing, and other health services.
February 21st, 2018
When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Describe your research in five words.
“Collective wisdom solves health problems.”
For a long time, I wanted to be an opera singer. I grew up in a musical family — my mother and brother are classically trained, professional pianists and my father and I sing. I was involved in church and city choirs, in addition to acting in musicals and singing jazz.
Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.
My sophomore year in high school, we had just finished a convocation ceremony and were returning to our classes when my friends and I saw flyers posted throughout the school threatening the lives of students of color and telling us to go back to where we came from or die. To say the least, I was devastated and scared — but, most of all, disappointed because the school administration was choosing to keep the incident silent rather than address it directly. My friends and I staged a sit-in outside the principal’s office and demanded she address this blatant act of racism and threat of safety to students of color in the school.
A few days later, I was asked to speak at an assembly to the entire school. I told them how my parents rushed to the school, wiped away my tears, and insisted that, “like Rosa Parks, you go back to class and show everyone that you deserve to be in this school like everyone else.” I was shaking. I was angry. I was scared. But more than anything, I was empowered as the school gave me a standing ovation for my speech. At that point, I knew that my life’s work would be dedicated to fighting discrimination and injustice.