Health science graduate is driven to eradicate health disparities

Photo courtesy of Cachay Byrd
By Ashley A. Williams

Photo courtesy of Cachay Byrd

Health science graduate is driven to eradicate health disparities

By Ashley A. Williams
Cachay Byrd, Iron Arrow Honor Society’s next chief, combines her passion for service and science to expand her career path.

After two years of majoring in Africana studies while on the pre-medical track at the University of Miami, Cachay Byrd found herself on an unexpected detour that proved to be her destination.

Long before stepping foot on the Coral Gables campus, her future was basically planned out. The Miami native who will become chief of the University’s Iron Arrow Honor Society this fall, was going to be a doctor.

“Coming from a low-income family, people always said to me, ‘Be a doctor, be a lawyer,’ ” said Byrd, the daughter of teenaged parents who pushed her to study Chinese in high school. “It was all about finding a career field that came with the dollar signs and zeros.”

However, as time passed, the more she questioned if money should be her motivation. But she still wanted to make her mark in health care, and when she switched her major from Africana studies in the College of Arts and Sciences to health science in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, she took a required course that narrowed her path. It was lecturer Olivia Ceaver’s introduction to public health.

“That class was really the missing piece,” Byrd said. “The idea of becoming a nurse midwife just stuck with me.”

She made the change and excelled and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science this spring. During her time at the University, she has been active on campus and involved in numerous student and service organizations. She was vice chair of the Committee of Student Organizations and the Homecoming Executive Committee, a member of the Freshman Leadership Council, and service chair  of United Black Students. She earned her spot in Iron Arrow, becoming the organization’s medicine woman this past academic year. She was elected to be its chief, beginning in the fall.

In 2018, she also had the opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai, China, where she improved the Chinese she had been studying since attending Miami’s Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls Catholic school. “That semester was by far something that I’ll never forget,” she said of her spring abroad. “I still look at the pictures and am just like ‘wow!’ ”

Byrd, who attends the University on a Ronald A. Hammond Scholarship and Gates Millennium Scholarship, credits the Butler Center for Service and Leadership for instilling her with a sense of purpose to help others and her parents for being such inspirational role models.

“My dad was a high school dropout who earned his GED and works in maintenance. And my mom, thankfully, finished high school and went on to get her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees and is an educator,” she said. “So, education has always been a very strong component in my household. In my home, there is literally nothing that you can’t do. There is no such thing as an obstacle. There is no excuse.”

She still plans to get that “doctor” before her name, too. This summer, she begins the School of Nursing and Health Studies Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing Program—which will be her second bachelor’s degree and enable her to earn her nursing degree in a year. Then, she hopes to embark on a career in research, and, of course, service.

“Since I’ve always wanted to be Dr. Byrd, I still want to get my doctorate,” she said. “I want to go into some kind of research centered on health disparities and related to reproductive health for minority women—particularly black women.”