2019 Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award Recipients

The Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award recognizes exceptional CDC Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (CUPS) program student projects that advance health disparity science and minority health. The projects feature the best work from CUPS students’ summer experiences working in public health. The award honors the outstanding public health careers of Walter W. Williams, MD, MPH, FACPM and Sonja S. Hutchins, MD, MPH, DrPH, FACPM.

Columbia University, Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP)

Jenesis Merriman

1st Place: Jenesis Merriman

Project Title: Informed Initiatives: Drivers of HIV Among Transgender Women in the United States

Mentor: Sharon Mannheimer, MD

Project Placement: Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), Harlem Prevention Center

Project Details: The Harlem Prevention Center (HPC) conducts clinical research trials relating to HIV prevention among at risk populations in the community. In Harlem, these populations include men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW). Jenesis participated in the implementation of an HIV Prevention Clinical Trial studies at Harlem Prevention Center at CUIMC in New York. He collaborated with outreach, education, and screening efforts for clinical trial recruitment and gained exposure to other aspects of the clinical trials as part of the study team.

Significant data have identified MSM and trans people as two of the groups most at risk of HIV infection, however, transgender men (TGM) continue to be left out of the conversation. Although TGW are being increasingly included in research, TGM are still being excluded resulting in research gaps and unmet health needs. Jenesis hopes to further investigate HIV risk among TGM, particularly those who have sex with cisgender men (TGMSM), who exist at the intersection of multiple high-risk identities. His goal is to explain the gaps that currently exist surrounding the sexual health of TGMSM and the unique co-occurring factors that place this population at risk.

Honorable Mention: Shakira Halloway and Darian Thompson

Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Maternal Child Health Careers/Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement - Undergraduate Program (MCHC/RISE-UP)
Rhea Jain

1st Place: Rhea Jain

Project Title: Bullying Among California Youth with Disabilities

Mentor: Heather Thompson, SLP, Ph.D.

Project Placement: California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

Project Details: Rhea travelled across California with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) to assess their youth-led anti-bullying campaign. The campaign is designed to connect, organize, and educate youth with disabilities. She created and disseminated a survey to youth with disabilities about the incidence and prevalence of bullying to better understand the efforts in place to prevent bullying, particularly bullying within the youth with disabilities population.

CFILC started as a peer support mechanism for executive directors of the fledgling Independent Living Centers in California (ILC) in 1976 to increase access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. CILCs are non-profits that are run and supported by people with disabilities. CFILC coordinates training, capacity building, and technical assistance efforts across the state. These efforts increase access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities to effectively create positive change in their local communities. Rhea’s training through CFILC allows her to better assess bullying prevention and intervention strategies to help kids with disabilities who are bullied or who bully others.

Rhea’s mentor, Heather Thompson, SLP, PhD, believes her project will inspire more research on bullying against students with disabilities. Rhea was a dedicated worker at her community site and worked on multiple assignments. As a result of her transformative learning experiences with CFILC, Rhea has now become an advocate for the cause.

Honorable Mention: Mariamawit Loulseged and Alexa Kort

Morehouse College, Project Imhotep

DeJuana Coleman

1st Place: DeJuana Coleman

Project Title: Evaluation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Prevention Including the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Needs of Black Women

Mentor: Leisha McKinley-Beach, MPH

Project Placement: SisterLove, Inc.

Project Details: DeJuana’s project involved a study to evaluate the HIV prevention needs of Black women and their knowledge of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). DeJuana conducted the qualitative data analysis of the perspectives of Black women within the Atlanta community and those in leadership roles related to HIV preventive care (n=3). She scheduled and conducted the interviews with the Black female HIV prevention leaders, transcribed the interviews, and analyzed the transcripts. She also attended several events and conferences on HIV to ensure that her research was well informed.

Honorable Mention: Ariel Williams and Alicia Fontenot

University of Michigan School of Public Health-Future Public Health Leaders Program (FPHLP)

Elexuious (Lexy) Burris

1st Place: Elexuious (Lexy) Burris

Project Title: UNIFIED & Connected Communities

Mentors: Alia Onawola & KaJaun Hill

Project Placement: UNIFIED Detroit

Project Details: UNIFIED is a nationally recognized multi-service center creating positive change through regional impact, innovation, and sustainability to promote HIV health and beyond. UNIFIED uses innovative approaches to help residents of southeast Michigan living with or affected by HIV achieve optimal health through compassionate direct care, support services, prevention, and education.

Through the field placement, Lexy used her creativity to complete and inspire innovation within the Michigan HIV/STD Hotline outreach plan. She presented the plan to key stakeholders and it was approved for adoption.  Additionally, her enthusiasm for engagement assisted her in conducting outreach and educational events to promote safe sex and education about STIs/HIV in the metro Detroit area.

Honorable Mention: Weston Lowry and Nassim Ashford

University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA)-UCLA Public Health Scholars Training Program

Nohely Hernandez Pineda

1st Place: Nohely Hernandez Pineda

Project Title: A Closer Look Into How We Are Failing Black Trans Women: Barriers to Adequate HIV Care

Mentor: Andrea Williams, MPA

Project Placement: Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers

Project Details: Nohely interned at Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, a non-profit organization established to sustain, coordinate, and improve health care access and delivery to the impoverished and vulnerable community members of south Los Angeles. Nohely assisted with the Care Coordination program which connects patients back to their primary care provider after being discharged from the hospital. She also conducted outreach, provided health education, and worked with the team to organize an annual “Walk for Health” back-to-school event.

During Nohely’s participation in the UCLA Public Health Scholars Training Program, she exemplified outstanding leadership. She demonstrated exceptional teamwork, problem solving skills, and was also a dynamic critical and creative thinker. Additionally, her mentors and co-workers spoke incredibly highly of her and her contributions. According to her fellow scholars, “Nohely is a confident and hardworking health advocate, offering her own insights while making space for and being open-minded towards others.” Nohely expressed a dedication to pursuing a career in public health with a focus on advancing health equity.

Honorable Mention: Joana Fernandez-Nunez and Safa S. Salem