Impact Through A Collective Effort
The Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative is a fledgling effort to increase our impact with the collective efforts of faculty and students through research; awareness building and education; capacity building and technical support to countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); engagement and service projects; and advocacy and influencing of policy and practice.

We at the Gillings School already have activities underway in a number of countries through the efforts of faculty including; leading humanitarian-related programs at multilaterals, advising national governments, researching key threats and possible remediation interventions, as well as providing on-the-ground technical support. But we know we can and must do more - both individually and collectively.

Message from the Gillings Global Advisor

Enam performing an ultrasound with the FAMLI project in Zambia with the consent of the patient.


We are pleased to announce the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative offers several paid Gillings graduate student internships. Each internship works on projects focused on different humanitarian health areas our faculty members are engaged in.

Meet our Gillings Humanitarian Fellow

Dilshad Jaff, MD, MPH is an adjunct associate professor in the maternal and child health department. Dr. Jaff has over 20 years of experience working on complex humanitarian crises in conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa. He speaks four languages (Kurdish, Arabic, English and Farsi) and currently works in a complex emergency setting. As a Fellow, Dr. Jaff will present seminars and lectures; travel, to North Carolina when that becomes possible, to meet with students, faculty and people on campus around humanitarian health issues; provide an internship opportunity; and continue to collaborate and publish papers.

Hayley Welgus works with her Save the Children colleagues.

Service Projects

We are pleased to announce the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative is now piloting Service Project Awards at a funding level of up to $4000. We anticipate funding approximately 3-5 innovative projects in the first phase (2020-2021) to provide technical assistance to NGOs or other relevant governmental or parastatal organizations which are focused on humanitarian/development needs. Technical assistance and support will be provided largely through volunteer efforts of faculty and students with funding for related required resources. Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

If you are interested in volunteering for upcoming and/or already established service projects, please fill out the Volunteer Interest Form.

Meet the Humanitarian Health Initiative Interns

The Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative offered four internships for the 2020-2021 school year. Meet our interns and learn about their work and interests.

Meet Lein Soltan

Lein is an MPH Candidate in Global Health. She works with Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist and an interdisciplinary research team based in Iraq to examine the perinatal and postpartum experiences of internally displaced Yazidi women in Iraq.

Meet Doreen Ankamah

Doreen is an MPH Candidate in Maternal Child Health. Doreen works with Dr. Dilshad Jaff and Professor Sheila Leatherman by assisting to develop evidence-based interventions that are effective and feasible within the South Sudan context to improve access, safety, and effectiveness of health care.

Meet Katerina Pattee

Katerina is an MPH Candidate in Global Health. She works with Professor Sheila Leatherman in conjunction with an NGO in Syria.

Meet Maggie Holly

Maggie Holly is a PhD Candidate in Health Policy and Management. Maggie works with Professor Sheila Leatherman on various humanitarian health projects.

Current Service Projects

Learn about current Humanitarian Health Initiative's Service Projects established in 2020 and undertaken by Gillings School faculty and students.

An international, independent medical humanitarian organization

The organization provides medical assistance to save lives and ease the suffering of people in crisis situations in settings affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare services in globally. The UNC service project is focused on supporting the organization to strengthen its clinical governance framework that provides the guidance, mechanisms and accountability for health care services provided in many countries. The technical assistance specifically includes building the evidence base and practical tools for improving safety, effectiveness, and the experience of care of persons receiving health care.

NGO - Syria

This long-established Syrian NGO responds to the challenges faced by marginalized groups affected by the Syrian Crisis including difficult-to-reach areas, where there are internally displaced and war-afflicted persons living in community centers and collective shelters. SSSD actively intervenes at an individual person, household and community level with specialized programs to alleviate the suffering of IDPs. Programs include health, WaSH, psychosocial support, shelter, social protection, infrastructure, vocational training and livelihood generation, educational programs for children and adults. The UNC service project is supporting the development and operations of health care programs with design of health-related records and data sets to improve patient care and enhance design and expansion of health operations.

NGO - Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world and an expected lifespan of just 52 years. This NGO partners with The Tikonko Chiefdom to advance existing maternal and child health services through community-based solutions including two Birth Homes for Mothers for safe deliveries and a Children’s Health Program. Through outreach motorcycle clinics in eight villages, family planning and antenatal care is provided as well as care for children under age 5. Most common conditions for treatment of children include acute illness, immunizations, arranging hospital care for critically ill children as well as a comprehensive program for moderate and severe malnutrition. The UNC service project includes developing the evidence base and understanding of best practices as well as qualitative assessment to improve access and effectiveness of health services.

Seminar Series

As part of the Humanitarian Health Initiative, the seminar series brings those who work in humanitarian health to the Gillings School to share their experiences in the field.

Improving Quality of Care in Humanitarian Healthcare: Perspectives from Doctors Without Borders

February 4, 2021

UNC Gillings alumna Anna Freeman, RN, MPH, nurse and quality improvement specialist, shares her humanitarian field experiences and working to build quality systems with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders.

Watch the video

On November 11, 2020, Dr. Dilshad Jaff presented a seminar titled “Perspectives from the Field: Gillings Humanitarian Fellow.” (Recording not available)

Humanitarian Health Initiative Faculty Advisors

Faculty advisors serve in various roles including mentoring interns, providing technical expertise for NGOs and  leading service projects.