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The Minority Health Conference is a major undertaking led and organized by students and guided by a group of advisers.

Conference Co-chairs

The co-presidents develop a vision for the Minority Health Conference, which includes selection of a conference theme, setting the objectives and timeline for each of the sub-committees, and managing their progress throughout the planning process. They are responsible for general conference management, monitoring logistics including registration, budget management, and communication with all key stakeholders.

Callia Cox- Conference Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio: Callia Cox (she/her) is a second-year Master of Public Health-Nutrition/Registered Dietitian Internship student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her main interests include nutrition policy that prioritizes food system sustainability and municipal efforts to increase food access. She has made an effort to engage with the Gillings, Carolina, and Chapel Hill community during my master’s program. In addition to serving as the MHC Co-Chair, she is a member of the Nutrition Departments’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committee where she assists in streamlining the department’s values and efforts to become more inclusive. Callia has also served as a student member of the Carolina Campus Dining Board to advocate for an equitable campus food system. In addition, she has had the joy of volunteering with the Carolina Hunger Initiative to provide nutrition education to families around the state. In Callia’s free time, she loves visiting coffee shops and museums around the Triangle.

Why MHC?: Conferences are a great way to communicate with other students, researchers, and community experts that can expand our knowledge and perspectives that lead to innovative and evidence-based interventions. As The Gillings School is preparing us to be global health leaders, it is important that we engage and offer meaningful experiences that will facilitate an individual’s scholarship academically and professionally.

Rhea Jayaswal – Conference Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her

Bio: Rhea is a BSPH student in the Nutrition department. Rhea served as the internal planning coordinator for the 43rd Minority Health Conference and is thrilled to serve as the co-chair for the 44th conference. She is currently writing her honors thesis with the Global Food Research Program. As someone who’s worked at the intersection of food and health systems, she hopes to reshape them around principles of equity and justice. Outside of school, she enjoys reading and ice skating.

Why MHC?: Since coming to UNC, I’ve been inspired by MHC’s mission of bringing together a diverse set of researchers, advocates, and students to discuss minority health. I joined as soon as I could! I’ve also loved getting to work with an incredible, compassionate team.

Planning Committee Coordinators

They are responsible for all organizational elements of the Minority Health Conference and work closely with the Conference Co-Chairs and Committee Co-Chairs to ensure smooth operations and logistics. The Co-Coordinators oversee collaboration between all seven committees to ensure effective and efficient communication including taking meeting minutes, making sure each committee is on track, and sending out reminders/action items. The Planning Co-Coordinators also manage the website and assist with other logistical tasks such as coordinating meeting times, booking meeting spaces and organizing MHC social events. They play an important role in providing additional assistance to both Co-Chairs and the Committee Chairs throughout the planning process.

Ciera Thomas – Planning Co-Coordinator

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Ciera is a first-year Master of Public Health student in the Global Health Concentration at Gillings. She graduated from the University of Georgia this past May with a B.S. in Microbiology and is passionate about addressing structural determinants of health to mitigate health inequities for marginalized communities. During her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and hiking, and at Gillings, she looks forward to learning about global health issues through the eyes of people with different life experiences

Why MHC?: I was interested in joining MHC because it seems like one of the foremost fronts for scholarship and discourse on health equity, one of my primary public health interests. As a planning coordinator, I am very excited to be able to connect with various internal and external partners, including other students, faculty, and public health professionals, and learn from their perspectives on how we can better work to promote wellbeing for all.

Raven Walters  – Planning Co-Coordinator

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Bio: Raven is a first-year Master of Public Health student in the Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights concentration at Gillings. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. At Gillings, Raven hopes to bring awareness to the holistic landscape of how public health affects populations. Raven is interested in the promotion of maternal health, youth mental health, and dismantling racial and economic inequities faced by marginalized communities. She also currently works in the Carolina Union as a Graduate Coordinator for Student Activities. In her free time, Raven enjoys traveling, cooking, catching a great sports event, and spending valued time with family and friends.

Why MHC?: MHC has a long and wonderful history of calling out and bringing awareness to the needs of marginalized populations, and it is inspiring in this effort. It is great way to be a part of the conversations and change much needed in society.

Speakers Committee

The co-chairs oversee the work of the Speakers Committee which includes developing break-out session topics and identifying speakers for the conference breakout sessions. They arrange and organize all logistics pertaining to the creation of breakout sessions. The co-chairs work with the NC Institute for Public Health and committee members to coordinate interesting, engaging, and interactive sessions.

Mercy L. Adekola – Speakers Co-Chair

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Bio: Mercy L. Adekola is a BSPH student in the Environmental Health Sciences department. Mercy is an accomplished public speaker and social justice activist. She is passionate about advancing public health under human rights law, establishing a human right to health and a healthy environment for everyone. Outside of school, Mercy enjoys hiking, reading, and music.

Why MHC?: I am excited to participate in the nation’s biggest student-led health conference, and I believe that focusing on health concerns as they connect to racism, inequity, and general disparities is critical. During my time at MHC and throughout my career, I hope to highlight the voices of people of color in medicine and public health.

Tumi Akeke – Speakers Co-Chair

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Bio: Tumi Akeke is a first-year graduate student currently studying towards her MPH in Health Policy with a Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is interested in ways we can use policy reform to address the racial, gender and socioeconomic disparities in cancer outcomes. As a black woman from a low socioeconomic background, Tumi aims to devote her time to discovering, vocalising, and dismantling social hierarchies that breed bias, discrimination, and inequities. When Tumi is not engrossed in their research work or ‘ranting’ on social media about white saviourism, you will find them dancing to popular TikTok sounds and Afrobeats/Amapiano music.
Why MHC? I decided to join the MHC because I wanted to continue my work in advocacy. I also wanted to be surrounded by a community of people who looked like me and were passionate about interests similar to mine (i.e. health equity). I am really excited to see what we have in store for the 44th annual conference in 2023!

Communication Committee

The co-chairs manage the work of the Communication Committee which includes developing and marketing promotional materials for the Conference (e.g. flyers, email blasts, etc.). They craft standard language and coordinate all communications about the conference, such as notices to listservs, calls for posters, registration reminders, and webcast announcements.  They also brainstorm, organize, and implement advertising campaigns for social media accounts and communications with both on-campus and community organizations. This committee also manages the graphic designer and has creative control over the graphics and look/feel of conference materials.

Zara Mehta – Communications Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/her

Bio: Zara is a second-year MPH student studying Health Behavior at Gillings. Zara is from Greenville, NC and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.S. in Quantitative Biology and a B.A. in Medical Anthropology. She is passionate about maternal health, environmental racism, rural health, and working to eliminate health disparities in marginalized communities, and is enthusiastic to develop her problem-solving skills during her time at Gillings.

Why MHC?: I am energized to contribute to the largest student-led health conference in the nation, and I feel that the focus on health issues as they relate to racism, discrimination, and overall disparities is of the upmost importance.  I look forward to amplifying voices of color in medicine and public health during my time with MHC and in my career.

Danielle Owens – Communications Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/her

Bio: I am a third year undergraduate Biostatistics student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. I have personal interests in research of substance use disorders, specifically alcohol use disorder. I am involved in UNC’s Black Student Movement, Chancellor’s of Science Scholars, and the Gilling’s Minority Student Caucus.

Why MHC?: I decided to get involved with the Minority Health Conference Committee because I fell in love with the inclusivity, student involvement and overall learning experience of the Minority Health Conference. I am so excited to see what the 44th conference will bring!

Exhibitors Committee

The co-chairs work with their committee to identify groups, organizations, and companies that match the conference theme that will exhibit materials on the day of the conference. The co-chairs also serve as the primary contact for exhibitors in terms of communicating logistical information.

Christina Fredericks- Exhibitors Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Christina Frederick is a MD-MPH student currently completing her MPH in the Gillings Population Health for Clinicians concentration before completing the remainder of her medical degree. She attended Duke University for her undergraduate education where she majored in Cultural Anthropology with minors in Global Health and Biology. After graduating, Christina engaged in community health service work in Guatemala and then worked in clinical research on smoking cessation while applying to medical school. Christina is passionate about working with rural and underserved communities and addressing health inequities. As a future Family Medicine physician, she looks forward to incorporating public health into her practice as she partners with individuals to live healthy lives.

Why MHC?: The Minority Health Conference is one of the most influential spaces to learn, highlight and continue to promote change related to health equity for minority communities. Being a part of these efforts is so exciting and greatly aligns with my values.

Dorian Ho- Exhibitors Co-Chair

Pronouns: He/Him

Bio: Dorian is a second-year undergraduate student pursuing a BSPH in Health Policy and Management with a minor in Neuroscience. His interests include the intersection of health and identity — who we are and how we are — and the engineering of a more accessible, affordable, and equitable health system. Outside of Gillings, he conducts research at a neuro-HIV lab, plays violin in a string quartet, and enjoys reading existentialist fiction.

Why MHC?: Having seen the impact of MHC in bringing minority health issues to the fore and setting the agenda for health advocacy, Dorian is excited to work alongside other individuals committed to health equity to make this year’s conference a success.

Posters Committee

The co-chairs oversee the Poster Committee with responsibilities such as issuing a call for abstracts for poster presentations, reviewing and selecting poster abstracts for presentation at the conference, and serving as the primary contact for poster authors in terms of communicating logistical information.

Tatum Shamiso Kodzai's Headshot

Ashley-Laren Smalls – Posters Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Tatum Shamiso Kodzai is the MHC Exhibitors Committee Co-Chair. She is currently a senior at UNC with a Nutrition, Health and Society Major and a Medical Anthropology Minor. Along with her work with MHC, she is also a volunteer with Carolina CSSC and a research assistant with UNC Gillings School’s Food, Fitness, and Opportunity Research Collaborative (FFORC Team).

Why MHC?: I wanted to be a part of the MHC Planning Committee because I wanted to help uplift the voices of people of color in the health and wellness field. I also wanted to help raise awareness about the vast inequities that people of color face in health care and how we can reshape the medical field to correct this.

Ashya Smith – Posters Co-Chair

Bio: Ashya is a second-year MPH student in the Health Policy concentration at the Gilling School of Global Public Health.  She is from Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2019. Her interests include women’s health, reproductive health policy, decolonization of public health research, and health disparities. She hopes to run her own research center in the future. Outside of school, Ashya enjoys traveling, attending concerts, and collecting books.

Why MHC?: I joined MHC because I am passionate about research and minority health. I am excited to contribute to the conference’s efforts to raise awareness around health disparities to mobilize student, academic, and community members to take action for change.

Fundraising Committee

The co-chairs organize the duties of the Fundraising Committee which solicits donations and sponsorships, both within UNC (e.g. departments, schools, and institutes) as well as from local and national foundations and corporations in order to cover the cost of the Conference. They devise a plan that allows for potential donors to be solicited in a timely manner, assign tasks to committee members in order to maximize the number of solicitations, and researches and identify new potential donors (i.e. individuals, organizations, departments, schools, etc.).

Talia Kieu's Headshot

Talia Kieu – Fundraising Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: I am a third-year MSPH-PhD in Health Behavior and interested in addressing health equity broadly, with my specific research interests being in LGBTQ+ health across the lifespan and community-based participatory approaches. Outside of school, I play on the UNC women’s club water polo team as a goalie and organize with Southerners on New Ground Durham Chapter.

Why MHC?: Attending MHC was one of the reasons I applied to Gillings for grad school. I loved my experience as an attendee so much, and I’m excited to contribute to its legacy for other community members and students to enjoy!                                    

Manish Nayak – Fundraising Co-Chair

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Bio:I am a second-year Master of Healthcare Administration student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. After completing my undergraduate degree in Medicine from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India, I moved to the US to pursue my interest in healthcare administration. My interests lie in the fields of patient safety, quality improvement and value-based care. I am at Gillings to find a way to connect my background to my interests in improving overall patient outcomes. Outside of school, I love to play golf, mountain bike, and cook Indian food. After a refreshing summer in Chapel Hill, I look forward to working with the team and organizing my second successful MHC.

Why MHC?  This year’s theme that emphasizes that healthcare is a right resonates with my beliefs regarding healthcare. From my experience as a provider, I believe that healthcare should be accessible to all and the COVID pandemic has exposed that it is not. I want to be a part of the change that MHC is promoting in the field of health equity and work towards a better tomorrow. However, I also believe it is important to learn more about the limitations of the healthcare system in the US and come up with innovative ideas to solve them.

Evaluation Committee

The Evaluation committee designs, sends out, collects, compiles, and synthesizes evaluation information from attendees on the day of the conference, planning committee members, speakers, poster presenters, etc. They conduct interviews with key stakeholders to evaluate the processes and outcomes of the Minority Health Conference and generate an evaluation product for the use of next year’s conference Planning Committee. Most of the committee’s work happens just before and after the conference.

Beryl Bortey – Evaluations Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Beryl Bortey is a first-year MPH student in the Health Policy concentration. Her interests revolve around Medicaid, community-based participatory research, and public health education. She’s currently involved with the Navigator program for health insurance coverage.

Why MHC?: I gravitated toward MHC because it’s a compelling model for public health storytelling perspectives.

Anna Wakita – Evaluations Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: I am a fourth-year undergraduate student in Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. My interests center around older adult health and caregiver wellbeing; however, I also have various interests under value-based care, preventative care, health equity, quality of care, social determinants of health, and healthcare strategy. In the past, I have interned at UNC Partnerships in Aging, Orange County Department on Aging, and CVS Health under their Medicare division.

Why MHC?: I joined MHC because I have a passion to promote health equity and I want to be a part of the legacy and impact the MHC leaves behind.

Minority Student Caucus Co-Presidents

Co-President – Asia Carter

Asia Carter (she/her/hers) is a second-year MPH student in the Health Behavior department and is serving as the 2022-2023 MSC Co-President. She previously served as the Social Chair and is excited about this new leadership opportunity. Asia has a passion for advancing health equity and working to promote and diversify the public health workforce. Her research interests include community-based participatory research methods, qualitative research, racial and ethnic health inequities, and patient-provider communication. Asia is excited and privileged to be serving students of color, the Gillings community, and the larger community in this capacity to expand on the vision and mission of those that have contributed to the legacy of MSC in years prior.

Co-President – Kiara Tompkins

Kiara Tompkins (she/her/hers) is a second-year Health Behavior MPH student and serves as Co-President for the Minority Student Caucus. Last year, she participated in MSC’s token event, the Minority Health Conference, as the Evaluation Co-chair. She is excited and honored to work alongside Asia to provide BIPOC Gillings students a safe environment to foster connection, growth, and collaboration. Kiara is interested in health equity and reproductive justice, especially as it pertains to Black birthing individuals in the United States. Her research interests include qualitative research, program evaluation, and health literacy. Outside of Gillings, Kiara enjoys traveling, watching documentaries, and reading.