Student Profiles

Caitlin Grow

Caitlin Grow will be graduating in May 2019 with a Master of Public Health in the Maternal and Child Health program, along with a minor in Health Equity. Prior to her graduate career at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, she completed her undergraduate career at St. Norbert College where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She currently works at the Minnesota Department of Health on the Child and Adolescent Health team where she works on two adolescent sexual health grant programs. She has created Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and Let’s Talk Month awareness materials as well as completed program evaluation and analyzed data for the grants she supports.

Caitlin participated in service trips during her time at St. Norbert College and on one of those trips she traveled to St. Lucia to work with those in extreme poverty. It was here that she was exposed to a small community with vast disparities, working with people who had no electricity or plumbing. Despite this, a mere few minutes away people were on the island for vacation and visiting the local market with their families. After this trip she knew that she wanted to get involved in public health, specifically focusing on health disparities and becoming a health equity champion. Caitlin has many public health areas she is passionate about including, but not limited to, childhood obesity, women’s reproductive health, management of chronic illnesses, nutrition, and global health.

For fun, Caitlin enjoys baking and cooking, reading, participating in outdoor activities and spending quality time with her fiancé and playful puppy, Finley.

After graduation Caitlin would love to work in advancing health equity, breaking down barriers currently present through program development and implementation.

Amelia Harju

Amelia Harju will be graduating in May 2019 with a Master of Public Health in the Public Health Administration and Policy program, with a minor in Health Equity. She received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of San Francisco, where she also minored in Neuroscience
and Health Studies. She currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) and at the UMN Institute for Health Informatics. Amelia is also the founding Co-Executive Editor of the Public Health Review, a graduate student-led, peer reviewed public health journal that advocates for interdisciplinary approaches to promoting health equity. Amelia is passionate about many issues and topics in public health, particularly those relating to mental health, rural health, telemedicine, and integrated health care delivery. Above all, Amelia is committed to promoting and advancing health equity. Public health, particularly when viewed through a health equity lens, recognizes that fields such as history, economics, sociology, and art
are just as connected to a person’s or a community’s health as biology and medicine. Most inequities that exist today are the result of a complex web of interconnected structural forces that cannot be broken down or changed by focusing on a single component in isolation.
Amelia strives to focus her public health career on advancing health equity and diminishing the structural barriers that allow inequities to persist. After graduation, she will be completing a two-year fellowship in Wisconsin at Marshfield Clinic and the Wood County Health Department through the The Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship Program. This position will focus on promoting access to telemental health services throughout Wisconsin, particularly for underserved populations.

In her free time, Amelia enjoys spending time with her dog, Olive, and her rabbit, Juniper; hiking; growing plants; creating art; and reading books about nature, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, intersectional feminism, and Nordic culture.

Ka Her

Ka Her is a Master of Public Health student at the University of Minnesota, expected to graduate in May 2019. Her concentration is in Community Health Promotion with a minor in Health Equity. She received her B.S. in General Science, Liberal Arts, and Social Science from Portland State University. While working towards her master’s degree Ka has worked on the Greenline Community Mapping Project with University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, as an evaluator with WellShare International, and interned with Minnesota’s Department of Health Female Genital Cutting work group.

As an immigrant daughter, her experience and upbringing has shaped her views and perspective of the world. Her previous experience working with youth challenged her to understand the barriers that prevents success for students, which sparked her interest in health equity. This motivated her to step outside the field of education and look at how social determinants impact people and communities. Through the health equity minor, Ka gained a deeper understanding of how social determinants impact communities and the importance of looking at social determinants in conjunction to using an upstream approach to target health inequalities faced by communities. She will continue to use the skills and knowledge gained towards promoting health equity in her future work.

In her free time, Ka enjoys cooking, baking, hanging out with her friends, and being surrounded by her family. Ka loves adventures and traveling, especially being able to learn and experience different cultures and of course the FOOD!

Sara Horton

Sara has always found conversations regarding social justice and health equity incredibly interesting. Understanding how institutions mold future outcomes, how systems deliberately disadvantage groups of people, and how individuals play into these injustices, has been an interest to her throughout her program in Maternal and Child Health. Critiquing the same institutions that have led to her own success is something that she feels is necessary for improving the health and wellbeing of everyone and the health equity minor has provided an opportunity to engage in courses and dialogue with other students who share that mindset. The skills gained in the health equity minor will not only play into the decisions she makes as a public health professional, but will enable her to be an advocate within her workplace for systematic change that promotes equity.

Cecely Hoyt

Cecely is a second year MPH Community Health Promotion Student graduating in May 2019. They are passionate about social justice and interested in mental health, adverse childhood experiences, and child welfare policy. They received their B.S. in Rehabilitation Science and Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They became interested in health equity and public health specifically because of an undergraduate class they took on health disparities and client diversity in the health professions. They see addressing the social determinants of health as a powerful way to influence health outcomes.

Throughout their time at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, they have worked with Minnesota Communities Caring for Children, a community organization committed to health equity and child maltreatment prevention through the Community Health Initiative. Currently, they are a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Urban & Regional Affairs. For their project, they are working with ResourceWest to do community-based research to examine the feasibility of starting an affordable childcare co-operative in the Hopkins/Minnetonka area.

Cecely hopes their future work in public health influences youth populations, particularly LGBTQIA+ youth, and youth affected by childhood traumas. They will use the knowledge they gleaned from the Health Equity Minor to develop programs and advocate for policies that will lead to equitable health outcomes.

Outside of school, Cecely is completing training to become a yoga teacher. They have also recently become interested in bouldering. They also enjoy cooking vegetarian dishes, snuggling with their cats, and spending time with friends.

Natasha Kataeva

Natasha Kataeva is an MPH student in Epidemiology and is expected to graduate in May 2019. Natasha was drawn to the Health Equity Minor following her personal experiences as a first-generation immigrant. Her public health interests include health equity, childhood cancer, vaccine hesitancy, and health communication. Before she was at the School of Public Health, Natasha completed her B.A. at the University of Minnesota majoring in Biology, Society, & Environment with a minor in Public Health. Natasha hopes to use her epidemiological training to pursue a career in Health Communications, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes by increasing trust and effective communication between health professionals and the public.

Murugi Mutiga

Murugi Mutiga is a Nutrition PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya and a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree from the University of Minnesota. Murugi is a Registered Dietitian and works with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities as a faculty member in one of the local community colleges where she teaches nutrition and health courses.
Murugi grew up in Kenya surrounded by varied cultures and rich traditions that have had a significant impact on her life. She moved to the United States 20 years ago. As an African immigrant woman, Murugi witnesses and experiences the effects of health inequities in her community. After reading the “Advancing Health Equity” report from the Minnesota Department of Health, she was inspired to dig deeper and get a better understanding of the inequities that different groups of people face in Minnesota and the United States as a whole. As a result, Murugi decided to pursue the doctoral health equity minor. Taking the HEM coursework, especially those she took through the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, helped Murugi better understand the effects of colonialism, structural racism, and poverty on health outcomes. It has also renewed her commitment to work to change policies and systems and improve health outcomes for all.
Murugi is passionate about advancing nutrition, health and wellness in the community. For her research project, Murugi is working with the growing African immigrant community in the Northwest suburbs of Hennepin County by partnering with a community-based organization, African Immigrant Services, along with other stakeholders to address nutrition, health and wellness in the area’s school district nutrition services.
Murugi loves spending time with her family and friends. She also loves travelling and visiting different parts of the world. When she graduates, she hopes to continue teaching and working as a consultant dietitian, improving access to affordable and culturally responsive foods and promoting healthy cultural food ways.

Jayda Palmer

Jayda Palmer is an Epidemiology student pursing the Health Equity minor. During her time with the school of public health, she was the Student Senate President and also represented the school as an ambassador. Part of her interest in Health Equity stems from her undergraduate experiences as a first generation college student. Jayda believes that every student has the right to an education, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. She have taken part in advocacy efforts on campus related to student wellbeing and health. One event she is particularly proud of was the Campus Wellbeing Session that she helped facilitate last fall. It was the first of its kind, being that it was open to all professional students, and provided stress reduction and mindfulness techniques. She has seen firsthand how her involvement and the contributions of others at the University has led to positive health change for student. This has further driven her to conduct work within a health equity framework, and she hopes to continue to utilize this framework in her future. Jayda is interested in applying to law school to work on policies that directly impact health outcomes.

Thomas Rooney

Thomas Rooney is pursuing his Masters of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology. Prior to graduate school, Thomas earned a BA in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology with a concentration in Global and Comparative Public Health at Drake University in Des Moines Iowa.
His interests include anything related to infectious diseases and the way they affect populations. Diseases have a non-selective nature and impact people of all walks of life, and this is what drew him to this field. Thomas was drawn to health equity because of the importance of serving all members within a community and ensuring that everyone has the ability to receive proper care and treatment during emergency events. Seeing that many different factors play a part in receiving care is what compelled him to complete the Health Equity Minor.
Thomas hopes to find a career where he can play a role in closing the gap for those struggling to find help within their communities and make their voices heard to bring about genuine change and palpable results.
While not in school he can be found looking for the next video game or board game to show off to everyone he knows, quoting pop culture reference far too often, exploring the cities for a dark beer, or just wanting to spend time with his friends and family.

Debbie Schnur

Debbie Schnur is planning to graduate in May 2019 with a Master of Public Health in Community Health Promotion and a minor in Health Equity. She has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Prior to starting her second career in public health, she worked as an engineer and manager at Seagate Technology, supporting hard disc drive development and manufacturing. After graduation, she plans to move to Southern California to join her daughter, a filmmaker and screenwriter, and find employment with a non-profit organization or academic institution.

Debbie’s main career interests are food justice, nutrition, and global health. Her academic research with Professor Lisa Harnack focuses on the dietary preferences and challenges of older, lower socioeconomic status adults with heart failure. As a member of the Health Equity Work Group’s Community Engagement Subcommittee, she is helping to plan this year’s Health Disparities Round Table on immigration policy reform.

Debbie’s decision to pursue a Health Equity minor was sparked by two experiences during her MPH program. First, she attended the India: Global Health, Globalization, and Leadership course in Mysore, India, where she learned about women’s health inequities. While Indian women’s health is improving as the age of marriage increases and family size decreases, major gaps remain including high rates of maternal mortality, malnutrition, and anemia. For her field experience, Debbie spent a summer doing outreach work with Second Harvest Heartland, visiting local food shelves, produce distributions, and farmers markets to educate people about the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). After witnessing the effects of food insecurity firsthand, she is motivated to apply her health equity knowledge to develop interventions to end hunger in diverse, under-resourced communities.

In her free time, Debbie enjoys listening to true crime podcasts, traveling to far-flung places, learning new languages, cooking vegan gluten-free meals, and staying active by running, swimming, biking, and practicing yoga.

Daniel Schriemer

Daniel Schriemer is a Community Health Promotion MPH student minoring in Epidemiology and Health Equity. He holds a B.A. in International Studies and Philosophy from Hope College. Prior to pursuing an MPH, Daniel worked as a MNsure Navigator, assisting Minnesota residents with applications for publicly-subsidized health coverage. He was drawn to the health equity minor out of a desire to have a positive impact on public health through work seeking to change social policies. A health equity lens is essential for these efforts to be successful. Ever a fan of a liberal arts education, Daniel appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of public health, and is interested in the ways that research and evaluation can advance health equity. Using what he has learned through the health equity minor, he hopes to bring a public health perspective to policy change efforts around immigration and healthcare in the U.S. Apart from school and work, Daniel enjoys reading, running, and spending time outside.

Karl Schwinghamer

Karl Schwinghamer is a Community Health Promotion MPH student minoring in Health Equity and intending to graduate in May 2019. His B.A. is from Michigan State University at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, with an additional major in History. After graduating, he served in the AmeriCorps State program, managing a community kitchen in Lansing, MI, as a Healthy Food Access Coordinator at Cristo Rey Community Center. Through that position, he experienced the divide between hunger relief and the growing movement in healthy/local food systems and it set his trajectory into public health.
He was interested in the courses offered through the Health Equity program that educate on the inequalities in health stemming from discrimination and structural racism. These courses inform strategies for equitable approaches that should inform public health practice for marginalized communities, which Karl feels is crucial to the field. He is also interested in the role that community engaged public health has in identifying the unique characteristics of cultures and communities. He believes that strengthening culture, community, and intentional practice can further upstream approaches to his focus on healthy eating and food insecurity.
As a future public health practitioner, it is his intention to work to develop multilevel approaches to food insecurity and healthy food access. Upon graduation he is interested in working on these issues in the Twin Cities area. With his free time, he likes to bike, read, ferment stuff, play d&d with far away family/friends, and explore the outdoors.

Sarah Boneske

Sarah Boneske is pursuing an MPH degree in environmental health with a minor in health equity, expected May, 2018. She graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Minnesota, and currently works at the Minnesota Department of Health performing infectious disease surveillance on Team Diarrhea. Prior to MDH, Sarah worked as a research assistant and a teaching assistant for the University of Minnesota. She assisted in teaching an introductory laboratory biology course and assisted with plant pathology research on the St. Paul campus.

Sarah hopes to soon begin her career at MDH as an epidemiologist, environmental health specialist, research scientist, or health program representative. Eventually, she would like to focus more specifically on researching and preventing infectious diseases that disproportionately impact the LGBQTA+ community. Sarah is drawn to health equity as she considers herself a part of certain oppressed minorities: women, queer, and neurodivergent groups. She is passionate about using her racial and educational privilege to mitigate health disparities in Minnesota and is optimistic the health equity minor will provide her with the resources and skills to do so.  

Kari Carlson

Kari Carlson is an MPH student concentrating in Environmental Health with an emphasis on Health Equity.

Outside of school work, Kari is a member of the Health Equity Work Group’s Community Engagement and Student Subcommittees, where she gets to help plan events for students and community members to get involved in conversations on health equity. She is also the Community Health Initiative Program Coordinator, helping lead a program within the University of Minnesota that focuses on fighting health disparities in the Twin Cities through promoting healthcare workforce diversity, supporting nonprofits in the Twin Cities working for health equity, and funding health disparities research. Kari is also a passionate activist for healthcare equity, working for the nonprofit Physicians for a National Health Program MN, where she gets to work alongside thousands of physicians and other health professionals and activists on the movement for Single Payer healthcare reform.

For fun, Kari enjoys being an avid gardener, board gamer, baker/cook of vegan goodies, and enjoys playing with her gorgeous brindle colored pit bull Persephone.

After growing up in poverty and experiencing homelessness, abuse, and the poor health outcomes that often accompany those experiences, and witnessing the impact that healthcare and public health can have in serving as a safety net for people in disadvantaged positions, Kari decided to devote her career to health equity, focusing in healthcare. The health equity minor has helped Kari to understand structural determinants of health, and how to fight to change them. The health equity minor coursework has helped Kari develop a deeper understanding of the role of culture, systems, racialization, communities, poverty, and policy in health outcomes. She hopes to continue to work in healthcare advocacy until we see accessible and affordable healthcare for all. After graduation, she would like to work in nonprofit healthcare, hopefully someday in the role of a physician in a federally qualified health center, always with one foot in the world of policy fighting to break down health disparities.

Miko Gamban

Miko Gamban is a Master of Public Health (MPH) student expected to graduate on May 2018. He is obtaining his MPH in Public Health Administration and Policy with a minor in Health Equity. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Public Health from the University of California, Irvine. Miko’s educational and career interests are in global health, mental health, and healthcare access and quality. Above all, he places an importance on advancing health equity in these areas.

His interest in health equity is due in part to working with diverse communities who experienced disparities in health as the result of socioeconomic conditions and government policies. He is encouraged by public health’s focus on upstream solutions and social determinants of health to drive health equity. Miko hopes to improve access to and quality of healthcare, as well as promote disease prevention in health care systems, specifically aimed to ensure underserved communities achieve optimal health. He is confident his health equity education will prepare him to accomplish this since it has strengthened his knowledge in inequities and has incorporated it in much of his work.

Outside of school, Miko enjoys travelling, cooking with friends, swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. Having grown up in California and the Philippines, he loves the ocean; but has since learned to appreciate Minnesota’s lakes.

Jia Mikuls

Jia Mikuls is a second-year Environmental Health MPH student with a Health Equity minor. Prior to her graduate studies, she studied Biology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and worked at the Washington County Public Health and Environment department. She currently works at Planned Parenthood as a Program Evaluation Intern in the education department and analyzes data from various community education classes serving adults, middle school and high school students. After graduation, she hopes to work in either the non-profit or government sectors in violence and/or mental health research and policy.

Jia’s interest in public health started in the Chicago suburbs, where she grew up at the intersection of many socioeconomically diverse towns. She saw that a few miles could make all the difference in quality of life and health outcomes and began to wonder how this came to be. She took an introductory public health course as a freshman and was immediately hooked. A study abroad trip to Kenya solidified her interest in public health and showed her how expansive the field is.

The health equity minor was an obvious choice for Jia because she wanted to learn how to analyze public health issues with an equity lens, as well as how to create interventions which center historically marginalized demographics. The minor has been able to provide tools and resources to ensure equity and justice are primary principles in any intervention.

Matthew Petcoff

Matthew Petcoff, RN, MN, MPH is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP, expected May 2019) degree focused on Nurse-Midwifery in the University of Minnesota School of Health, while also completing a Health Equity doctoral minor. Matthew previously earned a pre-licensure Master of Nursing (MN, 2015) degree and a Master of Public Health (MPH, 2016) degree in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. As an undergraduate at Macalester College, Matthew completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA, 2008) degree in Geography with a concentration in African Studies.

Concurrent with his DNP coursework, Matthew works as a labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum nurse at a Twin Cities hospital. Before becoming a nurse, Matthew worked for several years as a senior clinical research associate at Be The Match, a non-profit organization in Minneapolis dedicated to finding blood or marrow transplant donors for patients with blood, lymph, or other cancers or congenital disorders.

Matthew has enjoyed his time completing coursework in the health equity minor, because he sees inequities daily as a nurse and a provider-in-training. The social determinants of health are critically important as families grow; midwives and other maternal-child health professionals are on the front lines trying to dismantle the structures that make American maternal-child health statistics among the worst in high-resource economies. After graduation, Matthew hopes to continue learning about health equity issues in maternal health and to work toward a safer world for growing families.

Sabrina Roowala

Sabrina Roowala is a Master of Public Health (MPH) candidate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, pursuing her MPH in Community Health Promotion. Prior to graduate school, Sabrina obtained her BA in Sociology, with a minor in Biology, from The University of Texas at Austin. 

Post-graduation, Sabrina worked at LeadingAge Texas, which is a non-profit that strives to work for the aging community. While pursuing her master’s, Sabrina has worked at Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs (MACMHP), engaging in policy and advocacy, and Ramsey County Public Health Department, working on a community health assessment. Her interests include mental health, health equity, and actively being cognizant of social determinants of health within public health programming and policy. Her research particularly focuses on mental health in Muslim American adolescents and including a cultural lens in the continuum of mental health care. 

Sabrina was born and raised in Texas, but comes from a family of immigrants. Her background, upbringing, culture, and faith influence her paradigms and how she views the world, specifically health. She has witnessed how inequitable the health care system is, and the structural challenges in challenging the system. 

The health equity minor has enabled Sabrina to dive deeper, and engage in discussions surrounding health disparities and why they exist. The health equity minor has encouraged Sabrina to push herself and those around her to determine how they are going to change systemic inequities to improve the health of communities. Through the minor, she has engaged in self-assessment and recognizing patterns of inequity. She has also learned the value of community engagement and building on community assets.

In her free time, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her husband, and playing with her nephew and niece. Sabrina loves the outdoors, traveling, and everything coffee! After graduating, Sabrina hopes to continue her work in health equity and alleviating health disparities.

Anna Arkin CPAnna Arkin

Anna Arkin graduated with a Master of Public Health in community health promotion from the University of Minnesota, with concentrations in Health Equity and Public Health Policy. Anna received a B.A. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. After college, she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with MN GreenCorps. She then worked at the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program at the University of Minnesota, assisting organizations throughout the state with pollution prevention projects.

Anna grew up on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. in a household where politics was a frequent topic of conversation. She became politically active in high school and college, devoting time and energy to candidates who stood for social justice and progressive policies that would advance health and gender equity. She was trained in community organizing and became involved as a volunteer with Amnesty International and Planned Parenthood. This work, as well as her work in the environmental field, helped her gain a deeper understanding of health inequities and the social determinants of health and led her to pursue an MPH.

Through the health equity minor, Anna has gained a deeper understanding of the roots of health disparities, the systems that perpetuate them, the role of communities in addressing them, and potential programmatic and policy solutions for eliminating them. After graduation, Anna hopes to work on local and state public health policies that promote health equity in Minnesota.

Outside of work and school, Anna enjoys hanging out with her family and dog, eating ice cream, and walking around the lakes.

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Abbie Lee is a Master of Public Health (MPH) student at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.  She is concentrating in Community Health Promotion with an emphasis on Health Equity. She is the proud daughter of Hmong refugees who settled in rural Wisconsin during the 70’s.  Growing up Hmong gave her personal insight into how race, socioeconomic environment, and history all uniquely impact health.  She received her B.S. in Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After college, she continued work in nutrition research.  Her background in the largely homogeneous field of nutrition and dietetics lead her to pursue public health with an equity and diversity lens.

The Health Equity Minor (HEM) served as a helpful outlet for Abbie to explore her place in health equity work as well as allowed her to learn from her colleagues about specific health equity issues.

Abbie’s public health interests include youth violence prevention, workforce diversity, and public policy.  After completing her masters, she plans on continuing work influencing organizational/larger policy around health equity, as well as working with youth.

In her downtime, she enjoys film, stand-up comedy, practicing to be a chef, storytelling, creating music, and celebrating culture.

J’Mag KarbeahJmag IMG_5441

J’Mag Karbeah is pursuing her Master of Public Health in maternal and child health with a
concentration in Health Equity. J’Mag received a B.S. in Biology and History of Science, Medicine, and Technology as well as minor in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked for a pharmaceutical research company before starting her graduate studies.

As a first generation immigrant from Liberia, J’Mag grew up surrounded by conversation about global citizenship, politics and social justice. She grew up Milwaukee, WI with parents who worked in healthcare and served the city’s predominately black population. She learned first hand how health access and health outcomes were impacted by race in the US. Hearing her mother’s accounts of the disparate reproductive health outcomes and provider treatment experienced by black mothers in the hospital setting motivated J’Mag to pursue a career that would allow her address these specific needs. J’Mag remains committed to addressing racial disparities in sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

The health equity minor has deepened J’Mag’s understanding of how systematic mechanisms maintain and perpetuate health inequities. The health equity minor has also given J’Mag the tools necessary to conduct community-based health equity work. After graduation, J’Mag will pursue a PhD in Health Services Research Policy and Administration with an emphasis in Health Sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Amy Jones

MINNEAPOLIS, MN SEPTEMBER 2: 2015 University of Minnesota School of Public Health orientation day, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota © Tony Nelson

Amy Jones is completing her Master of Public Health Degree in Epidemiology with a minor in

Health Equity. After completing her BA in Biology and Sociology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA in 2012, she moved to Minnesota where she worked at in the nonprofit sector in various capacities, including promoting food access and navigating the health insurance and health care system. Currently, Amy works as an evaluator for the National Research Mentoring Network, whose goal is to diversify the biomedical workforce. Outside of work, she bikes wherever and whenever she can, volunteers at an open shop promoting safer spaces for women, trans, and femme cyclists, and is on the board for a cycling nonprofit.

Amy’s passion for health equity stems from her study of place and the impact that place has on health access and outcomes. After her work in nonprofits and seeing the depth of barriers to accessing food and healthcare assistance programs that many in her community face, Amy is particularly interested in utilizing a health equity lens in program evaluation. She believes that creating more equitable public health programs that consider historical oppression, discrimination and racism is necessary to create real equity in our communities. After graduating, she hopes to continue her work in program evaluation utilizing a broader understanding of health equity in order to help create and transform public health programs that focus on eliminating health disparities.

Sam BurtHeadshot Picture

Sam Burt is a second year Master of Public Health student in the Community Health Promotion
program. Sam also attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate, where he earned his B.A. in psychology with a minor in public health. Before pursing his Master’s degree, he spent time with the American Red Cross teaching CPR and first aid skills, and volunteering with a physical education class at an elementary school.

Sam currently works at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in the Hepatitis Unit. His interest in health equity was sparked while working on his field experience at MDH. The project involved creating educational materials targeted toward a variety of ethnic and racial groups. In his search for existing materials he was disappointed in the lack of important health information in some of the community members’ native languages. This led to Sam’s interest in reducing health communication inequities stemming from language, educational attainment, and health literacy level.

The health equity minor has taught Sam about the nature of health disparities, the causes of these disparities, and possible solutions to reduce health disparities. He hopes to apply what he has learned in his future career and advocate for health equity.

When he is away from class Sam spends his time running, landscaping in his yard, and canoeing Minnesota’s many lakes.

Mikow HangMikow Hang3

Mikow Hang is a currently a second year student in the Community Health Promotion MPH program. She received her bachelor of art degree in sociology with a sub-concentration in social inequality from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her research interests include community-based participatory research, women’s health, minority health, health disparities, mental health, and cancer prevention.

She currently the Administrative Director of the Powell Center for Women’s Health at the University of Minnesota. Mikow is also a founding member of SoLaHmo (Somali, Latino, and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness), a community-led research program of West Side Community Health Services, and has served as a community researcher since 2009. She has been involved in community-based participatory research projects on positive youth development, healthy eating and exercise, cultural assets, and domestic violence.

Kathryn HiolskiIMG_5375 (3)

Kathryn Hiolski is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Community Health Promotion with a minor in Health Equity. Kathryn earned a B.S. in Psychology and Human Physiology from the University of Iowa and worked at a small substance abuse clinic in Iowa City between undergraduate and graduate school. She is currently a predoctoral fellow in the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health program through the Department of Pediatrics and also works on several research projects through the School of Public Health.

Kathryn’s interests in health disparities came from her research on children and families affected by incarceration and the criminal justice system. Seeing how mass incarceration disproportionately affects different populations motivated Kathryn to focus her coursework on social justice and health equity. Through the health equity minor, Kathryn has learned to see health inequities through an interdisciplinary lens and how to address them through multi-level approaches. After graduation, she plans on continuing her work with the child/adolescent population and improving health equity through community-level interventions. Outside of school, Kathryn enjoys camping, hiking, and hanging out with her friends’ dogs.

Alison Ross20170328_110559

Alison Ross is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in Community Health Promotion with a concentration in Health Equity.  Prior to her graduate studies, Alison earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA.  It was there that she learned how inequities in the food system have led to disparities in health outcomes. To further explore this interest, Alison served as an AmeriCorps member in Montana where she promoted local and sustainable food systems and developed a school gardening program.  She then served another year in Louisiana where she directed a service learning program for high school students that focused on individual and community health.

In her studies, Alison has continued to pursue her interest in nutrition and food systems.  For her field experience she worked on a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project in Tacoma, WA that examined gaps in food access for the South Tacoma community.  Alison hopes to use the skills developed through her coursework to advocate for local policies and programs that will make healthy foods more accessible and affordable.  She believes that the most effective way to do this is through community mobilization and engagement.  Her other passions include gardening, baking, and backpacking with her dog, Jynx.

Aldona Martinkaaldona headshot

Aldona Martinka is pursuing a Master of Public Health in Community Health Promotion, with minors in Health Equity and Urban Planning. Aldona received her BSPH in Public Health, as well as a BS in Anthropology, from Tulane University in New Orleans. After graduating in 2013, she was the Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellow at AIDS United in Washington, D.C. before becoming a program associate at Washington AIDS Partnership, a regional funder.
Aldona grew up just north of Chicago, and has lived in four other cities in the last five years (New Orleans, New Delhi, D.C., and now Minneapolis. Having lived in so many cities, Aldona is acutely aware of and intensely interested in the unique health issues that face urban communities, particularly with a lens of racial and economic justice. With what she has learned through the health equity minor, Aldona hopes to work in the Twin Cities in community organizing and development to address the structural injustices in society that lead to health disparities.
After school and work, Aldona enjoys playing with her dog and being active in local politics, and is currently teaching herself to sew.

OBrien PicBrenna O’Brien

Brenna O’Brien is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in community health promotion with a concentration in health equity. Influenced by her past experiences as an inpatient oncology nurse, she saw firsthand the economic, social and structural forces that lead to differences in individual health outcomes. This motivated her to pursue public health, where she believes she can positively impact wellbeing at a population level by advocating for institutional change. Through her studies within the health equity minor, she is exploring how one’s environment and socioeconomic status are determinants that continue to persist as reliable predictors of health.

Brenna earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in nursing. During her time as a graduate student, she has had positions working for the American Indian Cancer Foundation as well as Washington County Public Health and Environment. Her current work at the county health department is focused on food equity through the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership to increase access to nutritious foods by implementing community-based strategies. After graduation, Brenna hopes to continue to explore root causes for health inequities. In addition, she would like to increase access to health promoting resources through community mobilization and use her clinical knowledge to serve as a health advocate for both individuals and communities alike.

Anna SchulteAnna

Anna Schulte is a Master of Public Health student at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in the Community Health Promotion program. She received her B.S. in Business and Marketing Education from the University of Minnesota in 2015. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Anna became involved in a childhood obesity study, where she discovered her passion for health promotion and health equity.
The Health Equity Minor was a perfect fit for her research interests because her work focuses on the racial and ethnic health disparities in childhood weight status. The Minor expanded her understanding of how to work with communities, how to design effective interventions, and the importance of keeping intersectionality at the forefront of health equity programs and policies.
When she’s not studying, Anna enjoys cooking, volunteering for a food justice organization, and walking along the Mississippi River.

Kristen Werner

Kristen WernerMy name is Kristen Werner and I am a second year Community Health Promotion student with a concentration in Health Disparities. I moved to Minneapolis from Greensboro, North Carolina in the summer of 2014 prior to starting the master’s program. I completed my undergraduate degree in History and Sociology at Furman University in 2012. Outside of school, I spend time volunteering for Planned Parenthood and taking full advantage of the walking and biking paths in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I have run 6 marathons with my Dad and we will be running another this spring!

My interest in health disparities came from a project that I worked on my senior year of college for a sociology class. We were studying food deserts in Greenville, South Carolina and I continuously felt frustrated at the major differences I was seeing between wealthy neighborhoods and low income neighborhoods. I wanted to pursue how I could make a difference and following graduation I joined the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative, a community organization in Greensboro, North Carolina addressing structural and systematic racism through the voice of the community.

When starting school, the Health Disparities concentration seemed like an obvious choice. All the classes that I wanted to take were a part of the concentration. These courses have pushed me to think beyond the differences in health outcomes and focus on how strengths and assets within communities can be the basis for creating a world where all people can be healthy, regardless of race or income. The health disparities concentration has taught me about constant self –reflection and taking the time to understand people and their unique history. I plan to use the skills and resources introduced to me through this concentration well into my career.

Bridget Roby

Bridget RobyBridget Roby is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health with an interdisciplinary concentration in health disparities. Outside of class, Bridget works as a program assistant for the Resilient Communities Project (RCP), a University-community program working to advance local sustainability. Prior to joining the RCP team, Bridget worked as a health educator for the Minnesota Department of Health while pursuing her degree part-time.

Bridget’s passion for community development and social justice led her to serve in the Peace Corps for two years in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where she worked on issues such as malaria prevention, reproductive health, and women’s empowerment. Her experiences in the Peace Corps helped her understand how the social determinants of health can lead to wicked health disparities—both on a local and international scale—and ultimately led her to pursue her Master in Public Health with a concentration in health disparities. Through the interdisciplinary concentration, Bridget has gained a deeper understanding of both the extent and the causes of health inequity in her home community of Minnesota. She is passionate about exploring solutions to these disparities and advocating for health equity, especially through social policy and community-rooted solutions.

Bridget earned her bachelor of arts from the University of Wisconsin­–Madison in Journalism and Mass Communication and International Studies, with a minor in African Studies. After graduation, she hopes to work to promote health equity in Minnesota through state and local policy and through community-led, culture-based initiatives.

Emily Regan

Emily Regan is a second Emily Reganyear student in the Community Health Promotion MPH Program with a concentration in Health Disparities. She is interested in adolescent and sexual health as well as community-engaged research and community building. Additionally, Emily is an avid Ultimate Frisbee player and coach. She sees the potential for this self-officiated sport to build and practice communication skills and relationship building amongst all populations. As an undergraduate, she studied Biology, Society and the Environment at the University of Minnesota. After taking a public health course, she was drawn to pursue a career in the field due to the interesting combination of science and advocacy.

During her time as a graduate student, Emily has worked at the Minnesota Department of Health in the infectious disease unit. It was soon revealed to her how young people in Minnesota are disproportionately affected by STIs. This peaked her interest in health equity, particularly as it pertains to adolescents. The concentration has allowed Emily to engage in coursework that explores root causes for health inequities and explore potential strategies for combating them. Her work has driven her to critically question what structural forces shape health outcomes particularly among adolescent, minority and low-income populations. She hopes the lenses and partnerships that have shaped her graduate learning continue to hold her accountable to work for health equity.

Serena Xiong

Serena XiongSerena Xiong is a Master of Public Health (MPH) student in the Community Health Promotion program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research interests are in minority health, health disparities, and community-based participatory research. She is passionate about advancing health equity through community engagement and mobilization, in challenging health institutions to reshape their policies, infrastructures, and cultures to represent that of predominantly underrepresented communities.

As a Hmong-American, Serena grew up experiencing and witnessing many health inequities in her community. Her constant exposure to unfair and unequal treatment in predominantly white institutions and settings has emboldened her to tackle health inequities upstream – through policy/structural changes and community engagement. The information and coursework she has completed through the Health Disparities Interdisciplinary concentration has prepared her well for the rigors of health equity work. She has gained many valuable knowledge and skills on how to address health disparities in various levels of the socioecological model. Following the completion of her MPH degree, Serena plans to continue working in academia to foster more cross-sectoral and cross-community collaboration between students, community members and policy makers.

Gina Allen

Gina AllenMy name is Gina Allen and I am a second year MPH student in the Public Health Administration and Policy program in the School of Public Health. I earned my undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in economics and developed a strong appreciation for recycling. I am a native of Minneapolis and have a deep love for the city. I love animals and enjoy volunteering in the mammal nursery at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. During my time between Carleton and starting the MPH program, I worked on multiple research studies here at the U and in the mortgage industry.

My interest in health disparities sparked long before I learned about the social determinants of health. Growing up, I saw how black and brown people are systematically exposed to conditions that breed health disparities, the majority of which are preventable. Going forward, I want to do work that improves these conditions and enhances the quality of life for people of color. The Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration is helping me to develop the skills I need to make meaningful contributions to the field.

In pursuit of the concentration, I have had the opportunity to learn from professors at the School of Public Health and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. This coursework expanded the toolset that I use to analyze how health disparities arise and are perpetuated. Also, my hope is that the lens used in the Health Disparities courses will be engrained in the core MPH coursework so that all MPH students are exposed to this critical and inescapable aspect of public health.

Shruthi Murali

Shruthi Murali

My name is Shruthi Murali and I am a soon to be graduate from the MPH Administration and Policy track. What first drew me to public health is the same thing that drew me to the Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration. My first exposure to public health occurred during an internship I did after completing my bachelor’s degree. The internship took place in a remote county in northern Wisconsin, where I learned about and created senior-friendly communities. I witnessed a lot of disparities that exist in communities and the positive effects of community-based programs. Because of this experience, I decided to enter the master’s program in public health and the health disparities interdisciplinary concentration.

Since entering grad school, I’ve been part of another community based project with an SPH faculty member called the Minnesota Oral Health Project (MOHP). The objective of the MOHP is to improve oral health for high-risk children in seven Minnesota counties. Having an understanding of disparities and community based programming has been invaluable for this project and I know it will continue to be so.

I entered public health, always, with the intention of attending medical school after. I wanted to see patients clinically but also work with communities. I wanted to understand the gaps, needs and disparities that exist for them and work on those in parallel. I think the HDIC gives me an extra lens through which to consider projects. It’s a useful tool to have if you ever want to work with communities or populations. I think the HDIC has given me an opportunity to better understand communities and people, and it’s a skill I will be utilizing in my career for a long time to come.

Katherine Rehorst

Katherine RehorstKatherine Rehorst is a second year student in the Community Health Promotion MPH program with a concentration in Health Disparities. She earned her undergraduate degree from Grand Valley State University, where she majored in Behavioral Science and Applied Statistics. She is a self-professed data geek and loves to help the non-data inclined collect and visualize data in meaningful and impactful ways. With a background in program evaluation, Katherine hopes to bring her data collection and analysis skills to community organizations who need help showing the power of their programs through numbers.

Her passion for health disparity reduction was sparked early in her life. As a child, she lived in close proximity to reservations across the nation and witnessed firsthand the inequity experienced by American Indian populations at the hand of the U.S. government. After learning about social determinants of health in her first sociology class, Katherine’s desire to tackle inequity began. Her passion, born from her early childhood experiences, is improving minority health through health policy reform. Through this work she hopes to challenge systems of oppression and move our nation to a place of equity.

Within the Health Disparities concentration, Katherine focused on the origins of racial inequity in our nation and the policies that continue to grow from those early roots. She became acutely aware of the importance of cultural influences on our health and how culture can be used as a leverage point to motivate change within our society. The coursework prepared Katherine to address health inequity through multi-level community collaboration. She recognizes the power of community wisdom and is excited to continue her journey of growth and development through community engagement. After graduation she hopes to continue as a community advocate lobbying for policy reform and health-in-all approaches to policy development.

Katy Murphy

Katy Murphy

I am a second year MPH student in the Public Health Administration and Policy (PHAP) Program in the School of Public Health. My educational background is in nursing: I earned my BSN from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2008. Before returning to school in 2014 to earn my MPH, I worked in a variety of community and public health settings as a public health nurse. Most of my work was in maternal and child health, working in and then administering long-term intensive home visiting programs in Wisconsin. I also has the opportunity to work in tuberculosis nursing and do consulting work regarding quality assurance, accreditation and continuous quality improvement.

In my work as a home visitor and as an infectious disease nurse I was able to learn with and from my clients about the deep complexities of poverty, structural racism, educational disparities and the challenge of change at the local and community level. I felt well equipped to do this kind of one-to-one work and valued the opportunity to hear people’s stories and listen to their hopes and concerns but felt called to advance my education to make change in our institutions that could make a lasting difference. My interest in policy and equity brought me to the UMN School of Public Health to pursue my MPH and to the Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration.

As a part of the concentration, I have been able to take highly relevant and valuable coursework from the School of Public Health, the Sociology Department and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. This coursework has increased my ability to analyze and understand how structural racism impacts health and to bring a racial analysis lens to the work that I do. My master’s project is a literature review to understand how the concept of ‘structural racism’ is used, discussed, understood and measured in the published public health literature. I am passionate about critical public health approaches that work to meaningfully change structures to advance health equity.

Jasmine Leonard

Jasmine LeonardJasmine Leonard is currently completing a Master of Public Health in Public Health Informatics, with an interdisciplinary concentration in Health Disparities. Outside of school, Jasmine works as a Senior Research Analyst for NORC, a research and development non-profit organization, and is an owner of a small tutoring company. Prior to working at NORC, Jasmine was a Health Equity Intern for Commonhealth ACTION.

Jasmine has been interested in the social determinants of health and health equity most of her life as she has experienced health inequities on a personal and familial level. As a resident of the Washington DC metropolitan area, she has seen the injustices that surround healthcare as a result of residential segregation, low educational attainment, and low socioeconomic status. While working in an affluent pediatric office, Jasmine saw the other side of medicine and how those resources could be utilized in underserved communities. Being a self-proclaimed “tech geek,” Jasmine became interested in the power of health informatics and its ability to bring more attention and education to isolated and historically underrepresented communities.

Jasmine receive a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies and Human Biology from Brown University. After graduation, she will continue working to promote health equity and establishing programs and initiatives that will blend technology and education for health promotion and literacy.

Manami Bhattacharya

Manami Bhattacharya

My name is Manami Bhattacharya, and I am a graduate student in the division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health. I have a background in biology, also from the University of Minnesota, a field that gave me a background in research. From a young age, I was attracted to the fields of health and medicine, and I have always had a strong sense of fairness and justice.

My journey in public health began as a survey interviewer for the 2006 SHAPE study, as a casual job during my undergraduate years. As I became more passionate about my interest in public health, I began studying and working in this field. Currently, I have several years of experience with the division of epidemiology, working for several projects, including the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and LookAHEAD, a longitudinal diabetes study.

My current interests include issues surrounding health equity, especially in health care access, such as health insurance coverage and health literacy, and disparities surrounding chronic disease outcomes. I am also interested in health equity issues internationally, especially in the country where I was born, India, where deep inequalities in opportunities exist by geography, gender, and class.

The courses in the concentration were helpful for me to understand the scope and depth of inequality issues in health. They have also helped me understand what skills and mindsets I carry with me, the culture that I have both been born and trained into, and to be aware of who and what I represent, and have encouraged me to explore different methods and solutions surrounding health equity.

Anna BartholomayAnna Bartholomay

Anna Bartholomay is a second year student in the Community Health Promotion MPH program. She earned her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Post-graduation she worked with a diverse population, including many recent immigrants, as a literacy tutor in a Saint Paul public elementary school as an AmeriCorps member. In the summer of 2010 Anna participated in WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and worked on an organic vegetable farm in Northern California. This experience resulted in Anna’s keen interest in food, and sparked her passion for justice and equity around food access in the Twin Cities. Anna spent a few years working at Birchwood Café in Minneapolis, a restaurant heavily involved in community and supports locally and organically grown food. During this time she volunteered as a Resource Counselor with Tubman, an organization that offers safe shelter, legal services, counseling, elder care resources, youth programming, and community education for families in crisis. She also worked with Cooking Matters to provide cooking and nutrition lessons to children. Additionally, she spent a summer as an intern with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) promoting Market bucks, a new program accepting EBT at farmer’s markets and evaluating a pilot mini-market program.

As a graduate student Anna has enjoyed being involved in two research projects aimed at decreasing health disparities around food. The STORE Study, lead by Melissa Laska PhD, RD, is an evaluation of a Minneapolis staple food ordinance aimed at increasing access to healthy foods. Project BreakFAST, lead by Susie Nanney PhD, MS, uses evidence-based interventions in increase participation in the School Breakfast Program for rural high school students. Most recently, Anna worked with UROC (Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center) and MESI (Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute) to conduct an evaluation of Nice Ride Neighborhood program, a pilot bike-lending program developed by Nice Ride and Blue Cross Blue Shield aimed at changing perceptions of biking in neighborhoods with low-ridership. She will use the qualitative data to further explore the role of community building in health promotion strategies. As her field experience Anna had the opportunity to work with Allina Health’s Community Benefit & Engagement Department on two community-based programs.

The health disparities interdisciplinary concentration has given her the knowledge and skills to work towards health equity and to build relationships with community as a public health professional. She has learned how to engage people in conversations about health equity and is aware of successful policies and intervention strategies aimed at addressing the gaps in health among social and cultural groups.

In the future Anna hopes to work closely with communities to assist in defining what their community’s health priorities are and to evaluate programs to ensure effectiveness. She has recently been introduced to the policy world and would like to continue to be an advocate for policy change promoting equity in food access, housing, economic justice, and health.

Indie LewisIndie Lewis

Indie Lewis is originally from Alexandria, Virginia, though she grew up largely in California. She is currently pursuing an MPH degree in Public Health Administration and Policy with an interdisciplinary concentration in Health Disparities. Indie completed her undergraduate degree in Animal Science at the University of Minnesota in 2014. Outside of class, Indie volunteers with Boynton Health Service as Co-Chair of the Student Health Advisory Committee, and also works as a volunteer researcher with Dr. Alex Iantaffi on health issues in the queer community.

Indie first gained interest in addressing health disparity issues in her undergraduate career, as they worked with the Queer Student Cultural Center combating stigma on campus while upholding safe space policies. She has also had the benefit of studying abroad, where she examined holistic healing alongside traditional biomedical methods. Indie has a vested interest in health programs and policy in both the LGBTQIA+ and military communities, especially around mental and sexual health. These interests are directly influenced by the volunteer and internship work she experienced throughout her collegiate career. The health disparities concentration has built her understanding of public health and how to grow community discourse and engagement. The intersectional aspect of the health disparities concentration also appealed to Indie, as it expands the context through which health is examined and improved.

In the future, Indie is interested in either working for the US government or for a non-profit agency with a focus on community health programs and policy. She hopes to spend time experiencing and continually learning more about community based programs, and how to best create and implement policy changes based off of current needs.

Lauren O'BrienLauren O’Brien

My name is Lauren O’Brien and I am Master’s of Public Health student in the Community Health Promotion program with a concentration in Health Disparities. My primary interest is working to eliminate health disparities through non-profit programming (program implementation, organizational and state policies, and evaluation.) I also love collaboration and am passionate about seeing various groups work together in order to benefit the larger community. I hope to be a person who can be a bridge for networks and resources for research opportunities or programs. In general, I tend to always find myself working with communities that are underserved or overlooked.

I was drawn to the Health Disparities Concentration because the classes required by the concentration were in line with my interests – they were the courses that I planned to take! Taking these courses has expanded my view of health disparities and how they are really a part of any work we do in public health practice and research. I feel I have developed a heightened sensitivity to identify disparities in health systems and programs. The concentration has also helped me understand the roots of disparities and to explore strategic solutions for eliminating them in research and practice. I know these skills will be valuable in future work in public health.

I have worked in both small and large non-profits and hope to be involved in work in community organizations after graduation, either in a program development, policy/advocacy, or evaluation capacity. My skills are really in qualitative research and analysis and I hope to use those to share the voice of the community in an effective way.                                                     

Michelle Gin

Michelle Gin

Michelle Gin is a second year MPH Maternal and Child Health student with Interdisciplinary Concentrations in (1) Public Health Policy and (2) Health Disparities. She earned her BA in International Studies with a Minor in Global Health from The University of Iowa.

Since 2013, Michelle serves as the National Student Coordinator of the nonprofit Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). Michelle empowers medical and allied health professional students with advocacy skills to effectively influence policymakers to prevent the greatest threats to humanity that cannot be cured, such as climate change and nuclear weapons. Through this work, she has seen how social justice and environmental justice are closely tied together.

At the School of Public Health, the Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration has allowed Michelle to delve further in discussion about how to address social and environmental justice. She is able to discuss with fellow students how to effectively make systemic change to bridge the health disparity gap.

Currently, Michelle is a pre-doctoral fellow through the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) grant through the University of Minnesota Medical School. Her research is focused on risk and protective factors of adolescents abstaining from sexual intercourse. Further, she is a Reach the Decision Makers Fellow through the University of California San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. She promotes science‐based health standards and policy in the United States Environmental Protection Agency regarding radiation regulations that adequately protect the reproductive phase of the human life cycle.

Michelle has two major interest areas: (1) development of school-based intervention programs to promote healthy choices around adolescent reproductive health and (2) the humanitarian and environmental health consequences from nuclear weapons and radiation. For several years, she has worked in the U.S. and abroad to strengthen nuclear radiation regulations and abolish nuclear weapons through national and international policy.

In the future, she intends to translate data into policy that will effectively prevent what medicine cannot cure, global climate change and nuclear weapons. Further, Michelle plans to continue adolescent reproductive health research to better promote the healthy development of young people.


Beatriz Torres is a second year MPH Community Health Promotion Beatriz Torresstudent. She has BA in journalism from Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Argentina), and Master’s and Ph.D. in Communication from Ohio University.

From 1990-1992 Beatriz received a scholarship from the National Science and Technology Council in Mexico to specialize in educative television and a Fulbright award in 1999-2001 to complete graduate studies in the United States. A significant part of her scholarship work has focused on intercultural conflict and health care looking in particular at doctors and patients as cohorts in different countries. In the past few years, Beatriz developed 3 seasons of the radio soap opera “Tests of Destiny: Stories of love, pain and healing” with the support of La Mano (a non-profit organization in Mankato), and KMSU radio. This entertainment education health project consisted of a soap opera (based on a real story) and a space for dialogue about the health issues presented in the episodes led by credible professionals from the community and the radio hosts.

This health promotion project also sparked the interest of an investigator from the School of Public Health (University of Minnesota) and SoLaHmo (Somali, Latino & Hmong) Partnership for Health & Wellness (West Side Clinic), inviting Beatriz to participate in the design of a community-based participatory action research project. The aim of this study was to evaluate the program effectiveness and acceptability of radio stories, a health communication intervention that addresses family eating behaviors and physical activity among immigrant Somali, Latino, and Hmong families with children ages 3-12 years in St Paul, MN. Beatriz Torres acted as the health communication consultant.

She is currently involved in a cross-cultural study of college students’ experiences of bullying throughout their lifetime. This project is led by Prof. Maili Pörhölä and is being conducted with colleagues in United States, Finland, Estonia, Australia and Argentina. The project brings together researchers from five disciplines and countries.

Interests: health disparities; program evaluation; program development

Torres, M. B. (2012). Health promotion from the grass-roots: Piloting a radio soap opera for Latinos in the US. In R. Obregon & S. Waisbord (Eds.), Handbook of global health communication, development and social change (pp. 522-538). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Torres, M. B. & Rao, N. (2007). Disclosure and truth in physician-patient communication: An exploration of Argentina, Brazil, India and the U.S. Journal of Creative Communications, 2(3), 279-305.

Beck, C. S., Benitez, J. L., Edwards, A., Olson, A., Pai, A. & Torres, M.B. (2004). “Enacting ‘Health Communication’: The Field of Health Communication as Constructed Through Publication in Scholarly Journals”. Health Communication, 16(4), 475-492.

Torres, M. B. (2003). Gendered acculturation: A comparison of Latin American and Asian Sojourners. The Journal of Intergroup Relations, XXX (2), 64-94.

Ekland AbdiwahabEkland Abdiwahab is a second year Community Health Promotion MPH major with an Interdisciplinary Concentration in Health Disparities. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology at the University of California, Davis.

Before moving out to the Midwest to complete her MPH, she worked as a Program Coordinator for a Susan G. Komen funded breast cancer education and outreach program in Sacramento; a program through the UC Davis School of Medicine designed to reduce breast cancer disparities in the African American population by increasing breast screening and awareness. In the summer of 2013 she completed an international field experience in Kumasi, Ghana. She helped design and implement a peer-nurse navigation program; a pilot program to address the high breast cancer mortality rates in Ghanaian women.

Ekland currently works as a graduate research assistant in the department of Family Medicine/Community Health, Program in Health Disparities Research working on a project to ascertain cancer-screening behaviors in the Somali community. She is also a student ambassador for the school of public health.

Her academic and research interests include health equity, social determinants of health specifically neighborhood effects on health outcomes and social capital, and cancer disparities. After completing her MPH she plans on pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology with a specific focus on social epidemiology. The concentration in Health Disparities has helped her further explore her interest in health equity and to help her focus her research area of interest.

Amanda Krentz

Amanda KrentzMy name is Amanda Krentz, and I am a second year MPH student in the Community Health Promotion program. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Wellness from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Before entering graduate school, I was one of the coordinators for Wisconsin’s youth tobacco and prevention program. I learned valuable lessons in community organizing and creating relationships with different communities across Wisconsin. This experience exposed me to health disparities related to tobacco but more importantly how to work with communities of color to make policy and community change. Also, I grew up on a farm in rural Wisconsin where many of my community members did not have the best access to healthcare and had little access to preventative services.

My personal and professional experiences have motivated me to continue my education in public health and pursue a concentration in health disparities. My primary interests are obesity prevention, women’s health, rural health, and environmental health. I believe our health care system and environment perpetuates health disparities and there is tremendous work to be done in our county to eliminate these inequalities. I would like to use the skills I have gained through my academic, professional and personal experiences to help educate and collaborate with communities and agencies to work towards eliminating health disparities.

When I graduate, I would like to work towards creating healthier communities/environments, community organizing around specific change, or working in the college health setting to encourage young adults to engage in positive health behaviors.

Sarah Eichberger

The right to nutritious food is a fundamental human right, and as a dietitian, I believe that my profession has a role in re-shaping our food system. My work experience paired with growing up in a rural community along the shores of Lake Michigan has undoubtedly shaped my desire to be a leader in supporting a healthy and equitable food system that respects the workers and farmers that grow our food, but also the natural resources that are needed for its growth.

My name is Sarah Eichberger and I will graduate in May with a MPH in Nutrition with an Interdisciplinary Concentration in Health Disparities. After completing my degree in dietetics from Michigan State University and obtaining my RD credential, I worked with a number of low-income, ethnically diverse communities to provide individual nutrition counseling and group education. After hundreds of hours of personal interviews and educational sessions, it became clear that education alone would not be enough to improve the nutritional status and food security of the communities I respected and learned from. After seven years of work experience, I returned to school to gain skills that would allow me to develop policy, systems and environmental change and better understand the inequities in food and health that I observed in the immigrant and refugee communities in which I worked.

I continue to be impressed by School of Public Health and have found mentors among the nutrition faculty and within the Twin Cities community. I have taken advantage of local model programs and policies by completing my field experiences with Gardening Matters, a garden-based non-profit, and the St. Paul/Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Commission. As a student, I have been fortunate to work as a graduate assistant with Mary Story PhD, RD and Jamie Stang PhD, MPH, RD on a number of different projects ranging from legislative advocacy to serving as a teaching assistant.

My experiences within the community and classroom have allowed me an opportunity to acknowledge and study my privilege. Recognizing and reflecting upon this and my cultural traditions has better prepared me to be an advocate for food and health equity for all. The health disparities curriculum has allowed me to further appreciate how my cultural values shape who I am and my future professional endeavors. Throughout this process, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the knowledge that communities hold and interest in community-engaged scholarship. Going forward, I plan to advance public health by promoting ecological sustainability, social justice, and economic viability.

Brandie Buckless

Brandie Buckless

Hello, my name is Brandie Buckless and I’m from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwestern Montana. I received my bachelor’s degree from Montana State University in Community Health and I am currently an MPH graduate student in the Community Health Promotion program at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health. I will graduate in December 2012 with a Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration. I chose Health Disparities as a complimentary concentration to my MPH, because I am passionate about reducing the health disparities that exist in American Indian communities.

I have spent most of my life on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, where health problems exist due to suppression of culture, lack of jobs, poverty, and geographic isolation. I have seen first-hand the devastation that lack of healthcare and inadequate services create for children and families affected by poverty. Too often, people in my community did not have the proper resources to access services they needed, and did not always have the means to go to outlying healthcare providers. I decided to pursue a career in public health, because it is overwhelmingly important that our American Indian communities start receiving better health programs and services.

Throughout my time as an MPH student, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as a graduate research assistant on various projects. Through the School of Public Health’s Epidemiology and Community Health Division, I’ve been able to work on a project that engages American Indian elders from the Twin Cities in effectively addressing tobacco addiction in the community, by increasing awareness of the harm of cigarette smoke and de-normalizing recreational tobacco use. My master’s project will be an evaluation of this project, using in-depth interviews with a cohort of participating elders. I have also worked for the American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF), a non-profit organization that was established to address the tremendous cancer inequities faced by American Indian communities. I have assisted the AICAF staff in recruitment and data collection for a research project called Improving Northern Plains American Indian Colorectal Cancer Screening (INPACS), as well as conducting a community assessment process with the Minnesota/Wisconsin Inter-Tribal Colorectal Cancer Coalition (MWICCC).

In the future, I hope to develop and build the growing body of evidence-based interventions that are community-driven and encourage Native populations to discover their own best practices. I plan on focusing my work and research on addressing the health disparities that impact my community and others.

Melanie Plucinski

Melanie PlucinskiMy name is Melanie Plucinski, and I am a second year MPH student in the Public Health Administration and Policy program at the School of Public Health. I am completing the Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration (HDIC) as a part of my MPH.

I earned my bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Minnesota, and I also completed minors in social justice and Spanish studies. In the summer of 2010, I completed an international field experience at the Peace House Secondary School in Tanzania, where my colleague and I taught social business and nutrition concepts. I currently hold a graduate assistantship at the SPH and volunteer for the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic in south Minneapolis.

I am an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Northern Wisconsin, which is where I am from. Growing up on and near the reservation allowed me to become aware of the health inequalities suffered by American Indians compared to the general population. This realization first sparked my interest in studying health disparities as an integral part of my career, which ultimately led me to public health. My interest in pursuing the HDIC is also based on my experience with social justice work and community engagement surrounding increasing health in the Twin Cities area. As an undergraduate, I volunteered for the Indian Health Board in Minneapolis and the experience framed my future aspirations to work on prevention of Type 2 diabetes in American Indian communities. My current interests include Community Based Participatory Research, health promotion, wellness, and diabetes prevention and care. I am specifically interested prevention/lifestyle intervention program development for Type 2 diabetes, which is the focus of my master’s project.

I hope that by completing the HDIC, I will not only gain highly valuable skills for conducting meaningful work in the field of public health, but it will show that I am passionate about reducing and eliminating health disparities.

LaMesha Melton

LaMesha MeltonHi my name is LaMesha Melton and I am graduating in May 2011 with a MPH in Maternal and Child Health with an Interdisciplinary Concentration in Health Disparities. I have an undergraduate degree in Africana Women’s Studies from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I chose health disparities as a concentration, because I would like every mother to have the opportunity to have a safe delivery, care for her children, and see them into adulthood. I do not consider that a privilege, but a basic human right owed to all women. My own son Jacob, who is almost five, and who breastfed for over 3 years, fuels my passion and together we live and breathe the statistics and beat the odds daily.

My primary research focus is on young mothers of color, stigma and the resulting effects on their health and that of their children. I am also passionate about sex workers’ rights and health concerns, improving rates of breastfeeding and breastfeeding duration in African American women of all ages, and adolescent reproductive health. I completed my field experience at Neighborhood House in St. Paul, MN and am currently working on my Master’s Project– a program evaluation of their Baby Talks program which is geared towards young mothers and strives to improve parenting skills, educational attainment, and access to basic needs. In May, I will be part of a panel at the Motherhood Initiative on Research and Community Involvement’s Young Mother’s Forum and attending (and possibly presenting) at the International Conference on Motherhood, both in Toronto.

Alicia Earnest

Alicia EarnestMy name is Alicia Earnest, and I am originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana. I am currently in my second year of the Maternal and Child Health MPH program and have a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. When not in class, I work part time at the Minnesota Department of Health in the Refugee Health Program on several projects, including a pilot project to identify and offer a health screening to secondary refugees who move to Minnesota after initially arriving in another state. I also am a research assistant on a study that is looking at trends in the nutritional content of fast food menus over the past several years.

Before entering graduate school, I spent a year as an Americorps volunteer, working at a small non-profit in South Minneapolis that provided a variety of social services for the primarily immigrant community. I tutored children in an after school program and also provided referral services for free furniture to families living in poverty. Many of my clients worked long hours and lived in substandard housing, and I could see the toll it took on the family’s health. That experience illustrated to me the power of the social and environmental context in shaping health outcomes and peaked my interest in pursuing the health disparities concentration.

My educational and career interests center primarily around the social determinants of health, and I feel that the health disparities concentration has kindled that interest.   In particular, I am interested in how culture, poverty, and racism affect relationships and health behaviors. Upon graduation I hope to find work advocating for better policies and programs to address health disparities among children and adolescents.

Nicole Kast

Nicole KastNicole Kast is a Community Health Promotion MPH student.  Before returning to graduate school Nicole lived in Oaxaca, Mexico for four years where she collaborated with a number of community-based organizations and worked for two years in disability policy and services in rural and indigenous communities. Nicole was drawn to the University of Minnesota SPH because of its focus on health disparities and community-based practice and its opportunities for interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Nicole’s geographic focus is Latin America with a thematic interest in disability studies and the intersection of community health promotion and the arts.

Hannah GaryII4A1591-XL

Hannah completed her MPH with a focus on Community Health Promotion in 2016. Her MPH culminating experience examined whether or not Health Impact Assessments in Minnesota consider the mental health impacts of built environment projects. She is currently completing a Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a focus on equitable urban design through participatory processes. Much of this work centers around arts-based and creative engagement strategies. She was drawn to this intersection of public health and urban planning because of the impact the built environment has on population health.

Sundal Hashwani

Sundal Hashwani is the current graduate assistant for the the Health Equity Work Group, starting August 2016. She is in her second year of herMPH with a focus in Public Health Administration and Policy. She is interested in the intersection of emergency preparedness, health equity, and policy. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, Sundal completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Neuroscience at Loyola University Chicago in 2016. After interning at a NGO for the Syrian refugee crisis, she became drawn to how policy change may impact diverse populations and emergency preparedness.

Rachel Hardeman PhD, MPH

Rachel R. Hardeman received her Ph.D. in Health Services Research Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Division of Health Policy and Management.

Dr. Hardeman is a health inequities researcher whose work focuses on the provider contribution to equity and quality of health care delivery and the ways in which race impacts health care delivery and the clinician-patient encounter (e.g. implicit bias, explicit bias, stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination institutional racism and the white racial frame). She has a particular interest and focus on prenatal care delivery and persistent disparate birth outcomes for African American women. Dr. Hardeman is also a leading expert in medical education research focusing on the experiences of under-represented minority physician trainees and how physicians are trained to provide equitable and bias-free care. Her training at the intersection of health services research and sociology allows her to use a Critical Race Theory framework as a lens by which to examine health inequities. She is passionate about moving the conversation around racism in public health and health services research forward. To that end, the overarching goal of her work is to contribute to a new body of knowledge that enriches how we understand the ways that structural racism plays out in healthcare encounters.

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