TODO
Health Behavior Student Highlights

The Department of Health Behavior posts student news and updates on our website as they happen. We also compile and distribute the list at least annually as a component of our e-newsletter.

June 2018-present

November 1

Photo: Fatima Guerrab

Fatima Guerrab

Health behavior master’s student Fatima Guerrab is busy. The Brooklyn-born Algerian-American, likes to think of herself as a full-time member of the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative (GHDC) as well as a full-time health behavior master’s student. Guerrab is energized by her work that brings together policy, race, community-based participatory research (CBPR) equity, and cancer prevention and control.

“I love that the GHDC consists of diverse community leaders and advocates, researchers, university faculty and staff, health care professionals and others from Greensboro and the surrounding areas,” says Guerrab. “The collective does an outstanding job of working together efficiently using CBPR to understand and significantly reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.”

So, when she heard about Focusing on Social Determinants of Health: Transportation, Food, Housing & Toxic Stress, a conference sponsored by the Greensboro Area Health Education Centers, Guerrab and others from the GHDC thought this would be a great opportunity to let the target conference attendees – health care professionals, and human service providers – know what the GHDC is all about. In September, Guerrab and Crystal Dixon, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Education at UNC in Greensboro, co-presented a conference session entitled Organizing for Racial Health Equity.

Dixon and colleagues like Nora Jones, executive director of the Partnership Project, founding President of Sisters Network – Greensboro, and also a founding member of the GHDC provide invaluable expertise and mentorship to health behavior students who have the opportunity to experience the unique Greensboro collaborative in action. Indeed, community partnerships are invaluable to the educational experience of students at UNC Gillings.

Photo: Crystal Dixon, Nora Jones and Fatima Guerrab (left to right)

Crystal Dixon, Nora Jones and Fatima Guerrab (left to right)

As a second-year undergraduate student in the Department of Public Health Education at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Guerrab was a fellow in the PARTNERS Research Education Program – a collaboration between the UNC-Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC Gillings and NCCU. The fellowship allowed Guerrab to work with Dr. Geni Eng and Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot, and she says that her experience with Eng and Lightfoot was the main reason she chose to enter the master’s program in health behavior at UNC Gillings.

Guerrab is a co-contributor to “Antiracism Organizing in Cancer Care,” a chapter in Racism: Science and Tools for the Public Health Professional that is to be released at the  2018 APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego, California on Sunday, November 11.

Guerrab’s long-term goal is to earn a doctorate in public health and become a leading health liberation researcher using a racial equity lens and community-based participatory research approach to eliminate health disparities in this country – for good.

October 30

Tainayah Thomas

Tainayah Thomas

Tainayah Thomas, doctoral candidate in health behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Health Services Research Dissertation Program (R36) to fund her dissertation research, “Mixed Method Approach to Examine Prediabetes Screening, Follow-up Care and Guideline Implementation.”

Thomas, who also is a predoctoral fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, is interested in the study of diabetes prevention and management, men’s health and health disparities. Her award of $18,162 is for a one-year period ending Oct. 31, 2019.

Prediabetes continues to be underdiagnosed and untreated. In North Carolina, it is estimated that 33 percent of adults have prediabetes, while only 9 percent report having been given a diagnosis. Diabetes prevalence among black women and men is 15 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively, compared to a statewide prevalence of 10.9 percent.

August 20

UNC Health Behavior master’s students meet in Ackland Museum. (Photo credit: Alexandra Lightfoot)

Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, assistant professor of health behavior took her foundations course to meet in Ackland Museum in August.

The portrait exhibition provided great stimulus for discussion about identity and what calls the students to study and work in public health.

Liz Chen

Liz Chen

August 7

Liz Chen, MPH, doctoral student in health behavior,  has been awarded an American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Dissertation Fellowship.

The award aims to “recognize women’s potential and support their future promise.”

Chen, whose public health work leverages mobile technologies to transform health education and support adolescent well-being, was named a 2018 Forbes “30 Under 30” social entrepreneur. She works with colleagues to develop a mobile application in which teens can share stories and read information on topics such as puberty, healthy relationships and bullying.

For her dissertation research, Chen is developing a scale to measure the acceptability of mobile health (mHealth) interventions among teens.

“I am honored and grateful to have received one of the AAUW American Dissertation Fellowships for the 2018-2019 academic year,” said Chen. “This fellowship allows me to prioritize my independent research and connects me to a vast network of fellows and grantees who are also trying to positively impact the lives of women and children.”

The AAUW, one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, has awarded more than $115 million in fellowships, grants and awards to 13,000 women since 1888.

June 18

Karla Jimenez-Magdaleno

Karla Jimenez-Magdaleno traveled to Ecuador and Mexico to complete the practicum requirement and blogged about her experiences in Mexico and Ecuador where she studied how waves of retiree migration in two colonial cities are simultaneously changing healthcare systems, land uses and real estate practices, and social dynamics. Below are excerpts from her blogs.

Ecuador – “Our first city is Cuenca, Ecuador—a UNESCO world heritage site located in the Andes in Southern Ecuador. There are estimates that anywhere between 8,000-10,000 retired expats are living in Cuenca, potentially making up about 1% of the population. Before arriving to Cuenca, I had the assumption that this small retired expat population had high financial and social capital that contributed to major changes in housing (and displacement) through price inflation in the past decade.” Read the blog.

Mexico – “Through my qualitative research in San Miguel I have gathered that the presence of retiree immigrants has morphed the social determinants of health for the community in a manner that benefits some while harming others. If you ask any key stakeholder in San Miguel what they think about retiree migration and the effects on the community, they will likely say that the retirees have been the best thing to happen to San Miguel because they have created jobs, have demanded better services, instituted a culture of volunteerism, and have helped San Miguel become one of the most desirable cities to visit in the world. These stakeholders might be government officials, real estate agents, or geriatric specialists, but they often also own other commercial businesses catered to retirees and tourists in general. If you ask people who operate outside of these circles (like a store owner in a predominantly low-income Mexican neighborhood), you will hear how difficult it is to afford living in San Miguel with stagnant wages.” Read the blog.

June 4

Rodrigo Costa Liau, master’s student in health behavior

Rodrigo Costa Liao, master’s student, completed the practicum requirement for a master’s degree in health behavior in Malawi. He posted a blog about his experiences.

Muli bwanji? In Malawi you hardly ever have an exchange without asking the other person how they are, and you can be sure you’ll always be asked back. The country is known as “The Warm Heart of Africa,” and all who visit have the opportunity to confirm this statement.

This summer I was fortunate enough to join the project to work on a research study called, “Mother Infant Retention-Promoting Mother Infant Retention along the HIV Care Continuum: A Comparative Effectiveness Evaluation of Three Models for Community Facility Linkage.” The study’s goal is to characterize widely adopted community-facility linkage models and assess the impact on mother-infant pair care retention and the Prevention of Maternal-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV under “real world” conditions in Malawi. Read June blog and his July blog.


Maribel Sierra, master’s student in health behavior

“Rallying Against Family Separation in Our Communities,” a blog posted by health behavior master’s student Maribel Sierra, master’s student, focuses upon the human impact of the Trump Administration’s  zero-tolerance immigration policy, which implemented the harmful practice of forcibly separating children from their parents, in order to prosecute their parents in criminal court.

Sierra, who is completing the health behavior practicum requirement as a research intern at Human Impact Partners in Oakland, Calif., writes about  the experiences  community members shared on the steps of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the need to move beyond the headlines to see how the border policy plays out in real neighborhoods. Read her blog.