Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award

2021 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.

Current Award Recipients

Columbia University, Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP)

Jaleel Poole

1st Place: Jaleel Poole

Project Title: Racial Disparities in Cardiovascular Diseases Among Black Women in Central Harlem Due to Food Insecurity

Mentor: Alex Breen, BA

Project Placement: Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center

Project Details: Jaleel interned with the Advance and Earn Culinary Training Program at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center. The Advance and Earn Culinary Training Program provides workforce development training in the culinary arts for out-of-school out-of-work youth ages 18-24, an underserved and often overlooked population of young people in the workforce. Advance and Earn enables these youth to develop necessary skills and competencies that will aid them in achieving long-term economic security, stable employment, and a high quality of life.

For the first half Jaleel’s internship, he helped develop and propose recommendations that would improve Advance and Earn’s alumni outreach strategies and approaches so that the center can better track long-term programmatic effectiveness and foster connectivity between all participating cohorts, increasing the availability of staff support and access to the center’s resources after program completion. For the second half, he collected qualitative data on how the center can improve its data collection and evaluation metrics as well as its data-driven decision-making to improve organizational performance and impact. He conducted interviews with key stakeholders, which were incredibly helpful in assembling recommendations for scaling up monitoring and evaluation processes.

Jaleel’s individual summer research focused on the racial disparities in heart disease mortality among Black women with low incomes in East Harlem. His research is responsive to rampant food insecurity and is a byproduct of interventions that organizations like Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center are implementing in the country’s communities that are most underserved and marginalized.

Honorable Mentions: Isabel Cordova and Chidilim Menakaya

Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI), Maternal Child Health Careers/Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement - Undergraduate Program (MCHC/RISE-UP)

Aubrianna Wilson

1st Place: Aubrianna Wilson

Project Title: Demographic Characteristics of Autistic Children With and Without Intellectual Disability

Mentors: Christine Wu Nordahl, PhD and Joshua Lee, PhD

Project Placement: UC Davis Health MIND Institute

Project Details: Aubrianna interned at the UC Davis Health MIND Institute. The UC Davis Health MIND Institute is a collaborative international research center, committed to the awareness, understanding, prevention, and treatment of the challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

The focus of Aubrianna’s project was analyzing if the demographic characteristic of autistic children with intellectual disability and without intellectual disability differ in terms of race/ethnicity, parental education, parental socioeconomic status, and the researchers’ ability to obtain a magnetic resonance imaging scan, which may represent intelligence quotient assessment and intellectual disability exclusion bias.

Aubrianna is passionate about exploring how to support people with disabilities through research with a socio-cultural model of disability that does not perpetuate harmful ableist prejudices.

Honorable Mentions: Joshua Woods and Kate Vogel

About Walter Williams

Walter Williams, MD, MPH

Walter Williams, MD, MPH, FACPM began his career at CDC in 1981 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer with the Hospital Infections Program in the National Center for Infectious Diseases. Williams has held a number of leadership positions during his career at CDC, including serving as director, Office of Minority Health/Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (1998-2010). He holds the distinction of being the first African American to complete a 30-year career as a Commissioned Corps Officer in the US Public Health Service at CDC.

About Sonja S. Hutchins

Sonja S. Hutchins, MD, MPH, DrPH, FACPM

Sonja S. Hutchins, MD, MPH, DrPH, FACPM joined CDC as an EIS officer in 1986 with the Division of Immunization. While with OMHHE, Hutchins served as acting associate director for science; associate director for medical science; and senior medical advisor and lead for OMHHE’s public health preparedness and response activities. She was the first African American female to enter the EIS program and complete a 30-year career as a Commissioned Corps Officer in the US Public Health Service at CDC. Hutchins retired on June 1, 2017.

Morehouse College, Project Imhotep

Jackie Luong

1st Place: Jackie Luong

Project Title: Racial/Ethnic Differences in HIV Diagnoses in the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the US Phase I Jurisdictions, 2017 & 2019

Mentors: Zanetta Grant, PhD, MS; Shacara Johnson Lyons, MSPH; Meg Watson, MPH; Xiaohong Hu, MS; and Andre Dailey, MSPH

Project Placement: National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Project Details: Jackie interned at CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP). NCHHSTP confronts the root causes of the nation’s most prevalent infectious diseases by improving care and treatment access for the nation’s most marginalized persons. They collaborate directly with the public and private sector – engaging community, state, national, and global leaders to conduct public health activities that serve the public and groups at higher risk of negative outcomes.

In 2019, the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) was introduced in the United States to decrease new cases of HIV by 90% by 2030. Phase I of this initiative focuses on giving high-impact HIV prevention and care to specific jurisdictions where >50% of new diagnoses occurred in 2017. The burden of HIV is disproportionately among people who are Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino compared to their White counterparts. Jackie’s project focused on examining the racial/ethnic differences in the number of new HIV diagnoses within the Phase I jurisdictions comparing 2017 to 2019.

Jackie Luong is a recent graduate of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and will be attending Emory University for a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology. Jackie is passionate about chronic disease epidemiology and the social determinants of health. She hopes to work in surveillance and field epidemiology.

Honorable Mentions: Sydney Fisher and Amber Agee

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

Evan Tansimore

1st Place: Evan Tansimore

Project Title: Decreasing the Spread of COVID-19

Mentors:  Michrisha Eddins, MPH and Douglas Durley

Project Placement: Wayne County Health Department

Project Details: Evan Tansimore interned at the Wayne County Health Department in Michigan. The Wayne County Health Department focuses on protecting the health of roughly 1.7 million residents in Wayne County – through the promotion of healthy lifestyles with education, communicable and non-communicable disease prevention and monitoring, and planning for current and future environmental health risks.

Evan worked as a communicable disease case investigator assigned to disease tracking and contact tracing for the COVID-19 virus in Wayne County, Michigan. Evan trained to use the Michigan Disease Surveillance System, which is a system that allows case investigators to upload COVID-19 case data to the county database to aid other investigators in their tracking efforts and support CDC in obtaining general epidemiologic data. During Evan’s placement, he interviewed clients who had tested positive for COVID-19 and shared information and resources with them.

Honorable Mentions: Natalie Akins and Mónica Ortiz Vázquez

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

Melina Rodriguez

1st Place: Melina Rodriguez

Project Title: The Imprisonment Epidemic: Addressing the Prison Industrial Complex Through a Public Health Lens

Mentor: Evelin Tomayo-Hernandez, MPH

Project Placement: VenaVer Events

Project Details: Melina interned at VenaVer Events, a community and food advocacy organization that develops and operates certified farmers’ markets and community events throughout Los Angeles County. VenaVer also partners with Hunger Action LA 501(c)3 to fight food inequities through food distribution events, advocacy, and market programs like Market Match. Melina actively participated in community outreach and petition signature collection for the expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentives, a program that advances health equity by helping families with low incomes gain more access to healthy foods. She also assisted with on-site Cal-Fresh sign-ups, EBT processing, and worked with the team to develop a free community wellness event.

Melina’s health equity group was responsible for facilitating a group discussion on the topic of mass incarceration as it relates to public health. Alongside her peers, she presented on the topic as well as co-hosted a panel of professionals working in the field of criminal justice reform. Her group health equity project, presented at the CDC showcase, offered public health strategies to address disproportionate rates of incarceration.

Honorable Mentions: Camryn Williams and Marie Nzeyimana

Criteria

Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award candidates will be evaluated and selected by their program based on one of the following criteria:

  • Exceptional performance, including work factors such as quality, productivity, timeliness, cost reduction, or improved service to the public
  • Exemplary actions, including special projects, overcoming unusual or difficult circumstances, or problem-solving using extraordinary methods or insight
  • Efficient and courteous service, unusual initiative in developing new approaches or procedures, innovations that improve effectiveness, creative work on a specific project, efforts beyond the call of duty and beyond the scope of the position.
Notification

The announcement of Williams-Hutchins award recipient(s) occurs at the end of the summer experience.

Recognition

Each award recipient receives a certificate. Their project is highlighted on the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity webpage and in the Health Equity Matters Newsletter the following fall, prior to the announcement of the CUPS summer application deadline.

Information

For questions about the Williams-Hutchins Health Equity Award and criteria, please contact omhhe@cdc.gov.

Page last reviewed: January 5, 2022