Public health students recognized for work benefiting North Carolina

April 13, 2010
Gillings School of Global Public Health students earned four of 16 Impact Awards, presented by UNC’s Graduate School. The awards were presented at the graduate student recognition ceremony held April 8 at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.
Sponsored by the Graduate School’s Graduate Education Advancement Board, the Impact Awards recognize graduate students whose research provides special benefits to the citizens of North Carolina. That impact can be basic as well as applied. It can have a direct impact on the citizens of North Carolina (and beyond) or a more indirect impact through new knowledge or insights gained, educational, economic, health, social and cultural, or environmental effects that will be derived from the research endeavor.
Applicants come from all of UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduate and professional programs. Graduates within the last three years also are eligible to apply.
Awardees receive a cash award and their research projects.
“We are extremely proud of these students and their groundbreaking work,” said Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor at the public health school.
“We are very serious about our commitment to improve the health of people in North Carolina as well as around the world. Our students enthusiastically accept the challenge of anticipating needs and accelerating solutions to the greatest public health needs.”
This year’s recipients include:
Jennifer Gierisch

Jennifer Gierisch

Jennifer Marie Gierisch, PhD, graduated in December 2008 with a doctorate in health behavior and health education. She noted that North Carolina ranks in the top 15 states in breast cancer-related deaths, with more than 1,300 each year. Gierisch found that women were less likely to get regular mammograms if they were less satisfied with their last mammography experiences, reported one or more barriers to getting mammograms, had fair to poor health or were aged 40 to 49. Her findings may help structure public health programs to promote regular mammography.

Maiysha Jones

Maiysha Jones

Maiysha D. Jones is a doctoral candidate in environmental sciences and engineering. She identified bacteria capable of biodegrading industrial pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are present in 32 hazardous waste sites in North Carolina. Her research has the potential to contribute to a lower cost, environmentally friendly technology that would help reduce the risk of human exposure to potentially carcinogenic compounds and eventually allow development on previously contaminated sites.

Kathryn Remmes Martin

Kathryn Remmes Martin

Recent graduate Kathryn Remmes Martin, PhD, earned a doctorate in August 2009 in health behavior and health education. She analyzed data from a sample of North Carolinians in 32 communities. She found that the availability of public transportation and the numbers of restaurants and hospital beds in any given community affected how many healthy versus unhealthy days the study subjects reported. Community poverty was linked to unhealthy days. Martin’s findings may help policy makers better allocate resources where they might make the biggest impact.

Stephen Richardson

Stephen Richardson

Stephen D. Richardson is a doctoral candidate in environmental sciences and engineering. He noted that through the mid-1900s, manufactured gas plants provided much of the country’s energy. Poor waste management at these sites resulted in contamination of soil and ground and surface water. North Carolina has more than 30 such sites. Richardson treated some of the soil with a technique that uses natural soil micro-organisms to degrade the contaminants. His findings have the potential to help remediate contaminated sites.

Other students from Gillings School of Global Public Health also were recognized at the Graduate School event. They are listed below, by department.

  • Natnaree Aimyong, Royal Thai Government Fellowship
  • Naomi Brownstein, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Environmental Sciences and Engineering

  • Daniel Gatti, EPA-STAR (Science to Achieve Results) Fellowship, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Barron Henderson, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellowship
  • Lanakila McMahan, EPA-STAR (Science to Achieve Results) Fellowship, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Raju Prasad, University Day Research Award, 3rd place, Best Graduate Student Poster in the Biological Sciences
  • Stephen Richardson, University Day Research Award, 1st place, Best Graduate Student Oral Presentation in Physical Sciences
  • Seth Rylander, National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM) Fellowship


  • Lillian Brown, NRSA Fellowship (F30) for MD/PhD students – National Institute of Mental Health
  • Virginia Guidry, University Day Research Award, 2nd place, Best Graduate Student Poster in the Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Susan Mason, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Dissertation Award
  • Sunni Mumford, NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Intramural Research Training Award
  • Sharon Myers, NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Intramural Research Training Award
  • Anne Rositch, NIH/Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholarship
  • Sirin Yaemsiri, American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship

Health Behavior and Health Education

  • Ling-Yin Chang, Fulbright Fellowship for Non-U.S. Students
  • Esther Majani, Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship
  • Heather Luz McNaughton Reyes, NRSA Fellowship (F31), NIH-National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • Elizabeth King, International Research and Exchanges Board Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Program Grant
  • May May Leung, American Association of University Women (AAUW) Dissertation Fellowship

Health Policy and Management

  • Shu Wen Ng, PhD, 2009 graduate of the Department of Health Policy and Management, received the 2010 Linda Dykstra Distinguished Dissertation Award in Social Sciences.

Maternal and Child Health

  • Elizabeth Jensen, University Day Research Award, 1st place, Best Graduate Student Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences
  • Fernanda Queiros, Capes-Fulbright Program for Non-U.S. Students

  • Jenica Abram, American Dietetic Association Foundation’s Lydia J. Roberts Memorial Scholarship in Public Health Nutrition
  • Carolina Batis Ruvalcaba, CONACYT (Mexican National Council for Science and Technology) Scholarship
  • Laurie Bennie, American Dietetic Association Foundation’s Colgate Palmolive Fellowship
  • Rachael Bryan, American Dietetic Association Foundation’s Mead Johnson Nutritionals Scholarship
  • David Cavallo, American Dietetic Association Foundation’s 2009 Commission on Dietetic Registration Scholarship
  • Alison Gustafson, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Research Dissertation Award (R36)
  • Bethany Mack, Fostoria Community Hospital Foundation’s G.H.W. Bruggemann Scholarship
  • Jill McClain, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Research Dissertation Award (R36)
  • Amy Paxton, North Carolina Dietetic Association Inc.’s Nancy Williams Didactic Program in Dietetics Scholarship
  • Meghan Slining, American Society for Nutrition’s Wrigley Research Institute Predoctoral Fellowship; The Society for Developmental Origins of Adult Health and Disease’s Young Investigator Award
  • Elizabeth Widen, American Dietetic Association Foundation’s Dora E. Colver Scholarship
  • Jessica Wilcox, American Heart Association’s Predoctoral Fellowship; American Society for Nutrition’s Cargill Predoctoral Fellowship
  • Daisy Zamora, National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellowship for Minority Students (F31), NIH/National Institute of General Medicine Sciences

Public Health Leadership Program

  • Rachael Wong, Wong Kong Har Tong Society Education Grant; Hawaiian Lodge’s Free and Accepted Masons Scholarship

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or