October 15, 2017

In 1993, Julie Cashman was an unfulfilled American Studies major at UNC, and Omid Ahdieh was a frustrated pre-med student. Both were looking for a focus in their lives and a way to have meaningful careers that allowed them to serve their communities.

Enter the health policy and administration department at the UNC School of Public Health (now the Gillings School’s Department of Health Policy and Management). The department offered a range of challenging classes – from epidemiology to health-care law – and both Julie and Omid were drawn to the interesting students and faculty members.

It didn’t take them long to find each other. In 1994, before everyone had a Gmail account, Omid asked Julie on a date through the School’s interdepartmental mail. Sixteen years of marriage and three beautiful children later, they are grateful to have found each other and are proud alumni of the School that brought them together.

Omid is now a managing director with Wells Fargo’s Investment Banking Division, where he focuses on advising health-care companies in mergers and acquisitions. Before taking time off to raise children, Julie worked in the health insurance industry and for Novant Health.

Omid and Julie Ahdieh

Omid and Julie Ahdieh

Through the years, they have contributed to the Gillings School in various ways, but they decided recently to make a more significant contribution, one that could help other students have the important learning experiences they did.

This year, they established The Ahdieh Family Scholarship to support outstanding undergraduate students in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

“We both feel strongly that our successes have come from the people and institutions that supported us along the way,” Julie says. “This includes our families and mentors – and certainly the Gillings School. Not only did we find each other there, but the School set us on our career paths. Whether you call it ‘giving back’ or ‘paying it forward,’ that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Omid feels particularly close to the School and its mission. His family of origin emigrated from Iran in the mid-1970s and settled in the small town of Hamlet, N.C. After completing a medical residency, Omid’s father became the first pediatrician in Richmond County, N.C. He served his entire career there, and Omid saw firsthand how important it is to have high-quality health care within the community.

When Omid decided not to pursue a medical degree, he found the UNC School of Public Health a natural fit.

“We believe strongly in the Gillings School’s mission to improve public health and eliminate health inequities in North Carolina and around the world,” Omid says. “As alumni, we want to remain engaged in this important work. Establishing this scholarship was one way we found to do our part.”

For more information about establishing a scholarship or other ways to support Gillings School students, please contact the advancement office at (919) 966-0198 or giving.sph@unc.edu.

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Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit sph.unc.edu/cph.