Skip to main content

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 the 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.

Ciera Thomas Conference Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Ciera Thomas is a second year MPH student in the Global Health concentration with interests in monitoring and evaluation, health systems strengthening, and health equity. Outside of Gillings, Ciera works as a program officer at the JSI Center for Health Information, Monitoring, and Evaluation. In her free time, she runs a foodstagram (@cieraskitchen), is a dedicated plant mom, and loves taking weekend trips to explore her new home state of NC!

Why MHC?: She initially became involved with the conference last year as the internal planning coordinator where she coordinated conference logistics and inter-committee communication. Seeing the 44th conference bring together hundreds of individuals from diverse backgrounds to raise awareness of specific health issues impacting marginalized communities-and particularly to advocate for health as a human right-was the highlight of her first year at Gillings. Ciera is excited about the theme for this year’s conference (coming soon!) and the discussions she hopes it will inspire.


Raven Walters Conference Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Raven is a second-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.. 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 a great way to be a part of the conversations and change much needed in society.

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.

Mercy Adekola- Planning Co-Coordinator

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Bio: Mercy L. Adekola is pursuing her BSPH in Environmental Health Sciences. A gifted public speaker and advocate for social justice, Mercy is passionate about embedding public health within the framework of human rights law. She envisions a world where every individual is granted the right to health and a clean environment. Beyond the realm of academics and activism, Mercy enjoys fitness, traveling, reading, and music. As she gears up for another year working with the nation’s biggest student-led health conference, Mercy believes that it’s imperative to address health issues through the lens of racial disparities, inequity, and societal gaps.
Why MHC?: Whether it’s at MHC or her broader professional journey, her mission remains clear: amplify the narratives of people of color. Mercy is interested in pursuing a career in dentistry where she can focus on the often-overlooked gap between public health and oral health.

India Washington- Planning Co-Coordinator

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: India is a second-year MPH- Nutrition RD student serving as the external planning co-coordinator. Her research interests are in preconception health and nutrition, maternal mortality, health disparities, the social determinants of health, and health equity. In her free time, India enjoys visiting botanical gardens, cooking, and trying new coffee shops.

Why MHC?: India made the decision to join the planning committee in 2023 after attending and thoroughly enjoying the 44th MHC conference. She wanted to contribute to the legacy of bringing together various public health professionals and activists. India believes that when diverse perspectives are brought together in one space, it is the incubator in which culture, change, and activism merge, leaving people inspired to take action in their respective fields.

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.


Shriti Pant- Speakers Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Shriti Pant is a first-year MPH student in the Maternal, Child and Family Health Concentration. She serves as a speakers committee co-chair for the Minority Health Conference. In this role, she is looking forward to connecting with public health professionals across the country whose work and research focus on minority health and well-being and inviting them to showcase their work with the Gillings Community. Shriti graduated from Virginia Tech in 2020 with a B.S. in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and served two years as an AmeriCorps Vista/ Public Health AmeriCorps Volunteer in Virginia before coming back to school for her master’s. She hopes to contribute to the efforts of reducing the rates of maternal and child mortality around the world and is currently also working as a research assistant with the Children’s Data Network to advance policies that reduce the rates of child abuse and neglect in the United States. During her free time, Shriti enjoys painting, baking and spending time exploring North Carolina!


Paddy Qiu- Speakers Co-Chair


Bio: Paddy Qiu is a first-year MPH candidate specializing in Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights at the Gillings School. They recently obtained their B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Creative Writing. Paddy has actively contributed to several research projects, including studies on transgender gerontology, the impact of race-related racism during the COVID-19 endemic, the use of social justice films in education, and translating research findings into actionable solutions.

At Gillings, Paddy is dedicated to further developing their expertise by exploring the intersection of queerness and race through collaborative community efforts and oral history research.”

Why MHC?: “The second I heard about MHC during Admittance Day, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Being one of the largest and longest-running student-run academic conferences in the country, I really wanted to learn more about topics centering minoritized populations, learning about what can genuinely be done in conversation with academia.”

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.

Maia Barille – Communications Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: As a second-year master’s student in Health Policy at Gillings. Maia’s ideal strategy for promoting public health lies at the intersections of health policy, advocacy, equity, and education. These days, I can be found studying with friends in cafes or boba shops around the Triangle, hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with my pup, or writing policy briefs for my internship at a non-profit health advocacy organization.

Why MHC?: For decades, MHC has empowered students with a hand in organizing health advocacy and education efforts. For me, supporting MHC fosters new professional growth and lets me enrich skills I built in previous roles, like serving as a Student Health Peer Educator or Project Public Health Co-Chair at the University of Miami, where I graduated in May 2022. By challenging the public to discuss both enduring and emerging public health issues and inequities, MHC encompasses every component of my ideal public health promotion strategy – being part of it is an opportunity I simply wasn’t willing to miss!

Mariangelie Torres – Communications Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Mariangelie Torres Maldonado is a second year MPH student at UNC Chapel Hill in the Health Equity, Social Justice and Human Rights concentration. Torres Maldonado obtained a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. Her first approach to the public health field was through storytelling and community service. She has written social, health, well-being and lifestyle articles for newspapers in Puerto Rico such as El Nuevo Día, Primera Hora and Pulso Estudiantil. Her passion for volunteering has led her to develop multiple community events throughout the years to assist victims of natural disasters and support shelters for homeless people, survivors of gender violence and children in the archipelago. This past summer, Torres Maldonado interned in Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos, where she developed accessible, language and culturally appropriate health communication materials to educate survivors of gender violence about preventive health services and comprehensive child development in Puerto Rico. Torres Maldonado aspires to perform ethical and high quality journalism to increase access to information, educate about social issues, advocate for social justice and improve the health conditions for underserved communities. Her public health interests include health communication and promotion, health disparities in the Latinx population, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive justice.

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. The goals of the committee are two-fold: 1) to generate revenue, as committing exhibitors will be required to purchase table space and 2) to give a platform to organizations whose work and mission are aligned with the conference theme or the conference’s broader goals.  

Sarah Musa- Exhibitors Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers:

Bio: Sarah is a second-year MPH student in the Maternal, Child, and Family Health concentration at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She studied social psychology and gender studies at Texas Tech University, and before pursuing her MPH she worked closely with survivors of sex trafficking. She is passionate about reproductive and sexual health, youth health education, gender-based violence prevention, and health equity. Outside of school, she enjoys her work as a fitness coach, going to concerts, and traveling.

Sarah believes in the power of health equity research to advance public health and reduce health disparities. The Minority Health Conference is a great way to collaborate with the future generations of public health professionals and social justice advocates. She is excited to be a part of the impressive leadership and contribute to the legacy of the conference.

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.

Jenny Carpenter – Exhibitors Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Jenny Carpenter is a first-year MPH student in the Global Health concentration at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is honored to serve as an Exhibitors Committee Co-Chair for the 2023-2024 academic year for the Minority Student Caucus (MSC).

Why MHC?: Jenny’s motivation for joining MSC is rooted in my dedication to the ideals of health equity and advocacy. She firmly believes that meaningful change toward a healthcare system characterized by fairness and justice can be achieved through active participation in MSC and the Minority Health Conference. Jenny believes that together, we can work to address and combat disparities that disproportionately affect minority communities, not only within the Gillings community but also extending our impact far beyond these walls.

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.

Esha Agarwal – Posters Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Esha Agarwal is a second-year undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill, majoring in Environmental Health Science at the Gillings School of Public Health and minoring in Chemistry. She serves as Co-Chair of the Posters Committee on the Minority Health Conference board. In her free time, she loves to play tennis and watch movies!

Why MHC?: In this role, she hopes to identify and promote the voices of important research being done by and for minority populations and their experiences with health and healthcare. She aims to further integrate the environmental perspective of health in the conference as well as help get other undergraduate students involved in MHC.

Justin Wang – Posters Co-Chair

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Bio: Justin is a third-year undergraduate student pursuing a BSPH in Biostatistics with a minor in Chemistry. He is passionate about promoting health equity, particularly by enhancing healthcare accessibility for rural and uninsured communities. Outside of school, he enjoys cooking, conducting research with the UNC IEHS, and playing ukulele with the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble.

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 research and identify new potential donors (i.e. individuals, organizations, departments, schools, etc.).

Raimah Hossain – Fundraising Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Raimah Hossain is a second-year Master of Public Health student in the Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights concentration at Gillings. She graduated from West Virginia University in May 2022 with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering. Her interests in public health lie in patient navigation, especially with regard to immigrant health. Raimah will be serving as the Fundraising Co-Chair for MHC this year.

Why MHC?: She joined MSC because she believes in the mission of MSC to advocate for students of color at Gillings and uplift research conducted by people of color in the field of academia.

Jennifer Regan- Fundraising Co-Chair

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Jennifer Regan is a second-year Master of Public Health/Nutrition and Dietetics student at Gillings School of Public Health. She is so excited to serve as one of the Fundraising Co-Chairs for the 2024 Minority Health Conference.

Why MHC?: Jennifer joined MSC after feeling inspired by seeing the potential impacts of MHC and wanting to be a part of that!

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 second-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 NC Medicaid’s social determinants of health pilots.

Why MHC?: MHC resonates with me because it’s such a compelling model for public health storytelling.

Olivia Ojugbeli – Evaluations Co-Chair

Pronouns; She/Her/Hers

Olivia Ojugbeli is a second-year MPH student in the Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights concentration and serves as a co-chair for the MHC Evaluations Committee. She is interested in racial and ethnic health disparities, health policy, and policy/program evaluation. Her interests lie in promoting health equity by addressing historical patterns of discrimination through innovative programs and policy work, specifically targeting the social determinants of health. She is also interested in issues regarding justice-involved and unhoused populations. Outside of Gillings, she enjoys going to the park with her dog, trying local coffee shops, and exploring new genres of music.

Minority Student Caucus Co-Presidents

Co-President – Shaelyn Hawkins

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Shaelyn Hawkins is a second-year Health Equity MPH student and serves as Co-President for the Minority Student Caucus. Shaelyn is interested in advancing health equity through program implementation and evaluation. Her research interest includes the impact of social determinants of health on traditionally marginalized communities. She is excited about her role in supporting and advocating for students of color at Gillings. Outside of Gillings, Shaelyn enjoys cooking, rollerskating, and being outside in the sun.

Co-President – Breyana Williams

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bio: Breyana Williams is in the second year of her MPH degree with a concentration in Health Behavior and serves as a Co-President for the Minority Student Caucus. In her role, she looks forward to collaborating alongside Gillings to continue the legacy of MSC and bring about meaningful change for students of color that has a lasting impact for years to come. Breyana is passionate about systems-level solutions that incorporate evidence-based interventions and policy. She is also interested in program implementation and evaluation to achieve better mental health and well-being outcomes for youth populations within public school systems. Aside from being a student, she enjoys trying new restaurants, reading on rainy days, and boba.