CLIENT FEATURE: DR. KIZZMEKIA CORBETT
Client, friend, and public health scientist Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her research colleagues have been named TIME’s 2021 “Heroes of the Year” for their innovative work in developing the mRNA-based platform for the COVID-19 vaccines. New to Boston, Dr. Corbett has also been dubbed “The People’s Scientist” as a 2021 Bostonian of the Year, alongside Mayor Michelle Wu.
This summer—after the work of Dr. Corbett and her team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provided the first COVID vaccines to the U.S. public—she and her fiance Dr. Lumas Helaire moved to Boston to join the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The Good Boston Living team was honored to help them choose Boston.
We were first introduced to Kizzmekia in December 2020, while she was considering moving her career from Maryland to Massachusetts. Harvard wasn’t the only university competing for her talents, and Boston—a city with an unfortunate reputation for being unwelcoming to Black folks—presented weighty questions. (It’s also notably colder and pricier than Kizzmekia’s home state of North Carolina.) The couple expressly would not want to settle in a suburb near Harvard’s main campus, a typical offering for university recruits.
The School of Public Health was looking for a real estate agent who understands the nuances of navigating the markets in Boston’s neighborhoods, and could speak to the Black experience of living in the city. They found our team lead and founder, Realtor Melony Swasey.
After Harvard contacted Melony, she reached out to Sheena Collier, founder of Boston While Black, and together they curated a community tour for Drs. Corbett and Helaire. Their frigid February visit included stops and introductions in historically Black neighborhoods such as Roxbury’s Fort Hill. They dined with prominent Black Bostonians, including soon-to-be Acting Mayor Kim Janey, and were introduced to beloved Black-owned establishments such as MIDA in the South End.
Kizzmekia and Lumas specifically wanted to understand the scene for civic as well as social life––what could they envision both for joyfully raising a Black family and making an impact?
They appreciated the context Melony and Sheena provided: “The School of Public Health sits [adjacent to] historic Roxbury, a community that’s currently under-vaccinated, particularly among Black women,” noted Dr. Corbett. That irony revealed a “micro-bubble of the work to be done.”
SELLING A CITY
Dr. Corbett and Dr. Helaire began to see the potential for building a life in Boston. “You all really sold this city in a way that spoke to Lumas’ and my heart,” Dr. Corbett said. “[You] showed us so many rich historical aspects of Boston that we knew we wanted to be a part of its future.”
They said yes to Harvard.
In early summer 2021, Melony and our team member Maya Gaul identified a Victorian home in Dorchester, on a street where generations of Black families continue to own houses. After exploring the neighborhood for the afternoon, with a tour of the house beforehand and afterward, they knew this was it. “We were fairly specific about our wants, and Melony delivered with the house that fit perfectly into all of our checkboxes––with one offer submitted, in this crazy market,” Dr. Corbett said.
Since then, Kizzmekia and Lumas have been busy settling into their new life and roles. “We are so proud to call this city home and to do our part to make it better for everyone,” Kizzmekia shared on her much-followed Instagram account.
COMMUNITY HEALTH IN BOSTON (AND BEYOND)
Alongside her role as Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Corbett’s newly built lab at Harvard is pushing the forefront of pandemic preparedness and community health education. (As part of our annual year-end donations, the Good Boston Living team was honored to make a $5,000 donation to the Corbett lab—a gift that our brokerage, Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty, joined us in making.)
Dr. Helaire is Assistant Dean for Population Health Management and Health Equity Education at Harvard. Together, they intend that their efforts will promote public health equity, particularly so that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities are centered in “preparing the public for what’s to come.”
“When we moved to Boston, we insisted that we be introduced to the city through our capacity to serve, both in our roles at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and beyond,” Dr. Corbett said on Instagram.
They are wasting no time. Dr. Corbett was recently appointed to Mayor Michelle Wu’s Covid 19 Advisory Committee. “I’m honored to serve alongside many doctors, activists, and public health practitioners to advise Mayor Wu on how we Bostonians can rise out of the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and healthy way.”
Melony and the Good Boston Living team are so proud to call Dr. Corbett and Dr. Helaire clients and friends, and we’re grateful they chose our city for their vital work.
We’re here for all that they will contribute—as Bostonians.
Top feature image by Vania Arroyo