Tara Smith, PhD

Tara C. Smith, Ph.D.

College of Public Health
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Dr. Smith joined the faculty of Kent State University College of Public Health in August 2013. An Ohio native, she previously spent nine years in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, where she directed the College’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases and attained the rank of associate professor with tenure. She completed post-doctoral training in molecular epidemiology at the University of Michigan prior to beginning her professorship at the University of Iowa. She obtained a Ph.D. at the University of Toledo and a B.S. in biology from Yale University. 

Dr. Smith’s research generally focuses on zoonotic infections (infections which are transferred between animals and humans). She was the first to identify livestock-associated strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the United States, and has pioneered the investigation of this organism in the U.S. Dr. Smith has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. (Full publication list can be found at Google Scholar; a full CV including presentations can be found here). She has received over $3 million in funding from AHRQ, USDA, and NIOSH to carry out these studies. She has presented her research at numerous national and international platforms, including talks on Capitol Hill on the topic of agriculture and antibiotic resistance. Her work has been profiled in many major publications, including ScienceNature and The New York Times, as well as in "Superbug: the Fatal Menace of MRSA" by Maryn McKenna and "Pig Tales: an Omnivore's Quest for Sustainable Meat" by Barry Estabrook. 

Dr. Smith is also very active in science communication and outreach. She has maintained a science blog since 2005, and has written books on Group A StreptococcusGroup B Streptococcus, and Ebola. A second book on Ebola, "Ebola's Message," was published by MIT Press in 2016. She also writes about infectious disease for several national sites, pens a column for SELF.com, and serves as a member of the advisory board of the Zombie Research Society. She lives in rural Ohio with her partner and her three children.

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Selected Publications, of 81 to date (full list is available at Google Scholar):

Smith TC, Thapaliya D, Bhatta S, Mackey S, Engohang-Ndong J, Carrel M. Geographic distribution of livestock-associated Staphylococcus aureus in the United States. Microbes and Infection, 20(6):323-327, 2018.

Wardyn SE, Stegger M, Price LB, Smith TCWhole genome analysis of recurrent Staphylococcus aureust571/ST398 infection in an Iowa Farmer. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 24(1):153-154, 2018.

Smith TC. Vaccine rejection and hesitancy: a review and call to action. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 4(3):ofx146, 2017.

Thapaliya D, Dalman M, Kadariya J, Little K, Mansell V, Taha MY, Grenier D, Smith TCPrevalence and Characterization of Staphylococcus aureus in Geese Feces Collected from State Parks in Northeast Ohio. EcoHealth, 14(2):303-309, 2017.

Nair R, Wu J; Carrel M; O’Brien A; Quick M; Farina S; Wardyn S; Thapaliya D; Grenier D; Smith TCProspective multicenter surveillance identifies Staphylococcus aureus infections caused by livestock-associated strains in an agricultural state. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 85(3):360-366, 2016.

Smith TC. Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and preventionBMJ, 351:h6423 , 2015. 

Wardyn SE, Forshey BM, Farina S, Kates AE, Nair R, Quick M, Wu J, Hanson BM, O’Malley S, Shows H, Heywood E, Beane-Freeman LE, Lynch CF, Carrel M, Smith TCSwine farming is a risk factor for infection with and high prevalence of multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 61(1):59-66, 2015. 

McDanel JS, Perencevich EN, Diekema DJ, Herwaldt LA, Smith TC, Chrischilles EA, Dawson JD, Jiang L, Goto M, Schweizer ML. Comparative Effectiveness of Beta-lactams versus Vancomycin for Treatment of Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus aureus Bloodstream Infections among 122 Hospitals. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 61(3):361-7, 2015. 

Smith TCLivestock-Associated Staphylococcus aureus: The United States Experience. PLoS Pathogens, 11(2): e1004564, 2015.

Carrel M, Schweizer ML, Sarazin MV, Smith TC, Perencevich EN. Residential Proximity to Large Numbers of Swine in Feeding Operations Is Associated with Increased Risk of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Colonization at Time of Hospital Admission in Rural Iowa Veterans. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2014;35(2).

Nair R, Hanson BM, Kondratowicz K, Dorjpurev A, Davaadash B, Battumur E, Tundev O, Smith TCAntimicrobial resistance and molecular epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. PeerJ, 1:e176, 2013.

Price LB, Stegger M, Hasman H, Aziz M, Andersen PS, Pearson A, Waters AE, Foster JT, Schupp J, Gillece J, Driebe E, Liu CM, Larsen J, Springer B, Zdovc I, Battisti A, Franco A, Żmudzki J, Schwarz S, Butaye P, Jouy E, Pomba C, Porrero C, Smith TC, Robinson AD, Weese JS, Keim P, Skov R, Aarestrup FM. Staphylococcus aureus CC398: Host Adaptation and Emergence of Methicillin Resistance in Livestock. mBIO, 3(1):e00305-11, 2012.

Moritz ED, Smith TCLivestock-associated Staphylococcus aureus in a childcare worker. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17:742-3, 2011.

Smith TC, Harper A, Male M, Kroeger J, Tinkler G, Moritz-Korolev E, Herwaldt L, Diekema D. High prevalence of MRSA found in Midwestern US Swine and Swine workers.  PLoS ONE, 4(1):e4258, 2009.


Fall 2018

  • PH 10000 Exploring Careers in Public Health

  • PH 22001 Plagues and Pandemics

Spring 2019

  • EPI 63015 Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases
  • PH 10000 Exploring Careers in Public Health


Ph.D, Microbiology, University of Toledo, 2002. BS, Yale University, Biology, 1998


Emerging infectious diseases, Zoonotic diseases, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacterial ecology and antibiotic resistance, Zombies, Infectious Diseases, Antibiotic resistance, emerging diseases, rural communities, Global health, environmental contamination, bacterial contamination, bacterial evolution, bacterial epidemiology, vaccine hesitancy

Research Institutes and Initiatives

Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative, Global Understanding Research Initiative, Healthy Communities Research Initiative