Welcome MCH Alumni!
UNC’s Maternal and Child Health alumni serve the health needs of women, children, and families at the local, state, national, and international levels. We in the department are very proud of the accomplishments of our alumni and the important contributions you make to public health across the globe.
We thank you for the support you provide the department through your service and your gifts.
Meghan Shanahan, PhD (MCH 2010)
Alumni Spotlight: Where are they now?
Juliana Thornton, MPH, 2010
In 2008, I went to the UNC-CH School of Public Health (not yet Gillings, though it became that in our second year) after working for four years for a non-profit based out of Johannesburg but working nationally across South Africa with care homes for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. My years coming to grips with the issues facing children made me want to try to tackle the “upstream” issues which led to these problems – maternal health. I can say without doubt that my years at UNC-CH were some of the happiest of my life. Having shed the job and the car in South Africa, I was a free agent peddling happily around town on my bicycle. My adviser was the now-retired Lew Margolis (which reveals either his age or mine, I’m not sure which). I fondly remember my feedback sessions in his little office.
When I graduated in 2010 I returned to South Africa, where the World Cup was about to happen for the first time. It was a joyous time to be back in my adopted country. Shortly thereafter I took a position with an organization called Tshikululu which managed funds for charity provided by several of South Africa’s largest corporates. I went in thinking it would be nice to be “on the other side of the table” after years in the non-profit world asking for money, and it was interesting for a time but also brought me face to face with the sometimes ugly and selfish capitalist world of corporate South Africa. I left that job in 2012 and joined an exciting non-profit then based out of rural Thoyohandou in the northern province of Limpopo. A conservation organization, they worked with indigenous elders to seek legal recognition for Sacred Natural Sites. In general, I was in charge of fundraising and project management. The work reminded me of my passion for stories and story-telling, and in 2016 I joined the Wits Department of Journalism with the hope to share fundraising skills while also upgrading my own writing skills. I started with one of the Department’s projects – the Wits Radio Academy—which works with community radio stations across South Africa to develop high quality, informative and entertaining talk radio shows on a variety of topics including health, legal issues, financial literacy and education. A few years later, I took up the task of coordinating fundraising and partnerships for all of the Department’s community outreach projects, which bring in around R17 million a year of the total R21 million budget for the department.
One of these projects is the African Investigative Journalism Conference which features a dedicated track on Health Journalism. We’ll be running this online until the end of October and if anyone would like to join they can contact me.
Recently I have been able to renew my US connections with some part-time work for an exciting new start-up – the Centre for Collaborative Investigative Journalism – with an international management team, headquartered in the US. We work with journalists all over the world to produce cross-border investigative journalism on a range of topics, currently access to water and, of course, the impacts of COVID on an already struggling industry.
I have two young boys – 6 year old Cole Givens and 2 year old Jordan Thornton who keep me well-grounded on the earth and very busy with daily questions about how the world works. They have taught me a lot about myself and continue to teach me. We live in sunny Johannesburg, they go to a beautiful school in Auckland Park, and are often picked up by my mom, their granny to spend afternoons at her house.
In my spare time I bake lots of sourdough bread, cook endless meals for my ravenous boys, feed my backyard chickens, and tend my little veggie and herb patches. Oh, also knitting of course! A skill taught to me by the great Sara Rose Brandspigel, another MCH Alum who now lives in Denver. We remain in touch and I had hoped to visit in June of this year until… COVID.
I’d be very happy to chat with current or former students in the MCH Department who would like to reach out, and they may do so via email: Juliana.firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Rackers, MPH, 2017
Hannah is passionate about improving maternal and youth mental health and community health. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English from Truman State University. Early in her career as a mental health caseworker and emergency department navigator, she saw how difficult it can be to access quality care and how stigma and biases around class, race and gender contribute to a lack of access and health disparities.
She believes that through workforce development and increasing capacity for quality improvement, monitoring, and evaluation, health services and programs can better serve their communities. Skills she learned through her MPH coursework and practicum as a GSEP intern with Buncombe County Community Health Improvement Team have helped her support practitioners and programs with these efforts.
After earning her MPH in Maternal and Child Health, she worked in UNC’s Center for Women’s Mood Disorders on etiological research on perinatal depression and anxiety. She also served as program manager for NC MATTERS, which improves screening and treatment of perinatal behavioral health disorders through training primary care providers, providing psychiatric consultation, and serving patients through a telepsychiatry clinic.
Currently, she is a Senior Analyst at Child Trends where she works on applied research projects focused on supporting youth and families. Part of what she enjoys so much about this role is the variety in her day to day work which may include quantitative analysis, conducting program observations, working with service providers and partners, developing resources for practitioners or families, or working on peer reviewed publications.
Hannah loves to work with interns and research assistants and in recent years has been able to supervise both MPH and MSW student interns. When she isn’t working, you can find Hannah outdoors gardening, climbing, or hiking with her partner, Ira, and their dog, Annie. Feel free to contact Hannah about her work or just to chat at email@example.com.
Kelsey White, MSW, MPH, 2016
Kelsey White, MSW, MPH, 2016 works on the front lines of two pressing public health issues: health disparities and immigration. Since 2017, she has served as Program Coordinator of the Immigrant Health Access Project (IHAP) at UNC Greensboro’s Center for New North Carolinians. The Center promotes access and integration for immigrants and refugees in Greensboro and across North Carolina through direct service provision, research, and training.
As a Spanish speaker, Kelsey focuses on outreach to the Latino community, particularly among individuals who cannot access health insurance due to systemic barriers. Additionally, she trains and supports a team of community health workers (CHWs) dedicated to alleviating health disparities among Greensboro’s diverse refugee and immigrant communities. IHAP serves approximately 600 individuals each year from countries around the world, including Burma, Bhutan, Vietnam (with a focus on indigenous Montagnard communities), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, and Colombia. Their approach is rooted in community-based cultural brokering: CHWs meet individuals in their homes and accompany them to appointments to assist in navigating complex health and social service systems and addressing social determinants of health.
“On a daily basis, I use nearly every skill that I learned in my training as a public health social work practitioner in MCH, from program planning to evaluation to policy analysis,” Kelsey says. Over the past three years, she has presented at the North American Refugee Health Conference, UNC’s Minority Health Conference, and the North Carolina Public Health Association Fall Educational Conference. She has delivered training for Cone Health pediatric residents and City of Greensboro employees, and supervised social work and public health interns at both graduate and undergraduate levels. More than anything else, she says, “the time I spend with community members is the most valuable experience of all—it led me to this career and it gives my education meaning. It is a privilege to build relationships with people and walk alongside them.”
Having traveled and worked throughout Latin America over the years, Kelsey feels right at home among her coworkers at the Center for New North Carolinians, who hail from 13 different countries and collectively speak over 15 languages. She is proud to be part of a passionate, multidisciplinary team that prioritizes community and care while responding to the practical concerns of Greensboro’s immigrants and refugees. As the COVID-19 pandemic tests our public health, social, and economic systems on a global scale, Kelsey and her colleagues are rapidly innovating their model to maintain strong relationships while keeping communities healthy and safe. The abrupt transition to remote work has been challenging, but Kelsey emphasizes, “I have never felt clearer about what is important to me as a public health social worker.” To learn more about opportunities at the Center for New North Carolinians, please visit cnnc.uncg.edu or contact Kelsey White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristin Anna Bergman, MPH, 2018
Kristin holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy (Applied Ethics) and Bioethics from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned her Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2018.
Kristin loves data. She is committed to data quality and standardization, and passionately leverages interdisciplinary methods and data sources to address data gaps and challenges through her work. An advocate for data translation, Kristin works to understand both the data themselves and the operational contexts from which data are derived.
After earning her MPH in Maternal and Child Health, Kristin worked as a Statistician and Epidemiologist for the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics’ Birth Defects Monitoring Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded Zika-related Birth Outcomes Project. In this role, she cleaned and manipulated complex data, fulfilled data requests, and completed routine and novel data linkages. She also provided statistical services support to researchers from external agencies and ensured data quality and timeliness in State surveillance and reporting.
Currently, Kristin is a Data Analyst with the United Nations (UN) Development Coordination Office. The focus of her work is UN INFO, a planning, monitoring and reporting system developed to track country-level UN system efforts to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. In support of these efforts, she liaises with staff at Regional and Country Offices, provides technical assistance and offers consultation on data quality, data literacy, and systems strengthening.
In addition to her work with the UN, Kristin continues to work collaboratively with colleagues from the State Center for Health Statistics, the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, and the CDC Division of Reproductive Health.
Feel free to reach out to Kristin if you would like to connect over data, or if you just want to chat. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Annie-Laurie McRee, DrPH, 2011
Widespread vaccination against human papillomavirus has the potential to prevent several types of cancer, yet many young people are not receiving it. Dr. Annie-Laurie McRee’s research centers on addressing this gap. She seeks to advance behavioral, public health, and health services approaches to increasing adolescent vaccination and improving adolescents’ receipt of preventive services, particularly around sexual and reproductive health. Her portfolio of research includes projects funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).
Annie-Laurie McRee received her DrPH in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) in 2011. Prior to enrolling in the MCH program, Annie-Laurie worked for over a decade in Title X family planning programs in Boulder, Colorado. She earned a master’s degree in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan with a concentration in sexual and reproductive health.
In July 2019, Dr. McRee was promoted to Associate Professor of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health and named a McKnight Presidential Fellow at the University of Minnesota, which is a prestigious three-year award given to individuals “based on excellence in research and scholarship, leadership, potential to build top-tier programs, and ability to advance University of Minnesota priorities.”
Dr. McRee serves as the Associate Director of Training for the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Training Program at the University of Minnesota, one of several MCHB-funded projects across the country. The LEAH program seeks to develop the next generation of child and adolescent health leaders through training an interdisciplinary cadre of pre- and postdoctoral fellows in medicine, nursing, nutrition, psychology, public health, and social work, among other disciplines. She is also the Deputy Director of the Healthy Youth Development-Prevention Research Center, a CDC-funded center which conducts community-partnered research, provides technical assistance, and disseminates research on promoting healthy youth development and preventing youth risk behaviors.
Regarding her time at UNC-CH, Dr. McRee notes “I appreciated both the interdisciplinary and collaborative environment of the MCH program. No single discipline garners all the requisite knowledge and skills to promote the health of young people and families so I believe that learning to work with each other and across systems is critical.”
Annie-Laurie enjoys collaborating with colleagues across disciplines and institutions to improve the health of young people, particularly those most vulnerable to poor health outcomes. You can learn more about her work here: https://www.pediatrics.umn.edu/bio/pediatrics-a-z/annie-laurie-mcree. When not working, Annie-Laurie can be found volunteering as a Board member at a local teen clinic and exploring the Minnesota State Parks with her dog, Jackson Mistersippi. You are invited to contact Annie-Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Handler, 2013
Amy has long had a passion for improving sexual and reproductive health by using evidence to inform action. Currently, Amy is Provide Inc.’s Program Evaluation Manager. In this role, Amy ensures essential data and information are available for program implementers to make strategic decisions that improve access to abortion services in the South. She has especially enjoyed her time working with the Title X systems in a couple southern states to implement research studies that explore abortion referral-making practices and client experiences.
Prior to joining Provide, Amy oversaw evaluation activities for two of SHIFT NC’s Office of Adolescent Health teen pregnancy and STI prevention initiatives, worked as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for MEASURE Evaluation, coordinated the Rethinking Sexuality Education Project for the Population Council, and was a Legislative Aide in the Wisconsin State Senate. In each of these positions, Amy saw the critical role that evidence and data play in informing decision-making.
From her first jobs, which were in politics and advocacy, Amy saw how one newly enacted policy could make quick, sweeping changes that affected and improved the lives of millions of people. She loved the fast-paced environment and digging deeper into the evidence behind what makes policies effective and helpful to our most vulnerable communities. During this time, Amy had the opportunity to work on the Healthy Youth Act, a bill that made evidence-based sex education a requirement for all middle school and high school curricula in Wisconsin. Working on this sexual health bill sparked a desire in Amy to work in sexual and reproductive health fulltime.
Amy holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Political Science and Sociology and completed her Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. In her spare time, Amy is the Curriculum and Board Chair for the New Leaders Council, a progressive nonprofit helping millennials run for office and start progressive businesses and nonprofits in North Carolina. She volunteers for the Carolina Abortion Fund, manages a beehive with her friends at SEEDS in Durham, and enjoys running and biking the trails in North Carolina. Feel free to contact Amy at email@example.com.
Virginia Guidry, MPH, 2003
Virginia Guidry, or Ginger as she is known by many, came to the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Gillings school after spending a year working with young women coming out of juvenile detention. This work opened Virginia’s eyes to the numerous, deep-rooted social determinants of health, and she wanted to learn more.
While in the master’s program in the Department of Maternal and Child Health, Virginia took a course from Dr. Jack Leiss and discovered a new passion: children’s environmental health. A lifelong environmentalist, she learned that environmental conditions can have substantial impacts on human health, especially during childhood. The complex processes of growth and development, starting in the womb, are extremely sensitive to environmental pollutants, and the burdens of pollution are often heavier on populations that already have other disadvantages, such as lower income or racial discrimination.
Virginia went on to earn a PhD from the Gillings school in epidemiology , working with the late Dr. Steve Wing, who was a staunch advocate for environmental health and social justice. Together with community partners, they studied the health impacts of large-scale livestock operations in eastern North Carolina. Virginia’s dissertation research showed that nearby livestock operations, during certain atmospheric conditions, were associated with measured air pollutants at middle schools.
In January 2019, Virginia became the branch head for Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology in the North Carolina Division of Public Health. She returned to epidemiology after several years gaining invaluable experience in the Office of Communications at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
When not at work she loves being outdoors as much as possible with her husband and three young boys. Feel free to contact Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org and 919-707-5920.
Joy Noel Baumgartner, PhD, 2004
Joy Noel Baumgartner, PhD, is a public health practitioner and health services researcher with broad experience working in low-resource settings to strengthen the delivery of maternal & child health (MCH), HIV, reproductive health, and mental health services. She has been working in both academic and international development research institutions since completing her doctoral degree in maternal and child health in 2004 from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to this, Joy Noel worked for two years in Arusha, Tanzania as a volunteer with a local NGO serving vulnerable child and earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a concentration in mental health.
Upon receiving her PhD, Joy Noel was eager to dive into applied research to inform programming in low-resource settings. For the next 10 years, she worked for FHI 360 as a research scientist leading projects that collaborated with local partners and Ministries of Health across sub-Saharan Africa to develop and test reproductive health and HIV-related health service interventions with a focus on services integration and meeting the health needs of adolescents. During this time, she also completed a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology at Columbia University focused on global mental health.
Currently, Joy Noel is an assistant research professor of Global Health at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) where she also serves as Director of the DGHI Evidence Lab whose mission is to conduct objective and high-quality evaluations of global health programs, interventions, and technologies in order to provide evidence of impact. Her portfolio of work is funded by NIMH, USAID, foundations, and international NGOs and spans East, West and Central Africa. She enjoys working closely with partners to evaluate and improve MCH programming such as quality of care interventions to reduce neonatal mortality and early childhood development programs for HIV-exposed children.
“What I really appreciated about the MCH doctoral program was the emphasis on interdisciplinary training. I left the program with a range of skills—from econometric methods to ethnography which has served me well professionally—it is a rare public health research project that does not benefit from utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods.”
Joy Noel can be reached at email@example.com.
Mattson to be NC Medical Society Foundation board president
Gerri L. Mattson, MD, MSPH, has been named the new president of the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) Foundation board of trustees.
Mattson, a public health pediatrician with over ten years of experience working for the state Title V agency in the North Carolina Division of Public Health, received her MSPH in 2004 and also currently serves as an adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Read more.
Francis Likis, DrPH 1996
The Frontier Nursing University awarded on Oct. 5 the Distinguished Service to Society Award to Francis Likis, DrPH, a 1996 alumna in maternal and child health of the UNC School of Public Health.
Likis is an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University and a certified nurse-midwife and nurse practitioner. The award recognizes nationally advancing evidence-based practice in women’s health and bringing gynecologic and reproductive health further into mainstream nursing and midwifery practice. [Read more] [December 2018]
Tully hopes to serve mothers, infants with innovative new bassinet
Years ago, Kristin Tully, PhD, began her research into mother-infant interactions. Her first study on nighttime infant care found that “side-car” bassinets, which attach to the side of a hospital bed, greatly improved the mother-newborn experience during postpartum hospitalization and reduced safety risks for infants. While some hospitals around the globe have adopted these innovative bassinets in their maternity wards, there is limited capacity to better serve new families in United States postnatal units.
That is about to change, however. By 2020, Tully and colleagues expect to have a fully tested, federally approved version available for the U.S. market.
Tully, a research associate with the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, explained that some new mothers initially are physically unable to get out of bed without assistance, while others have difficulty handling their baby due to the high walls of existing bassinets.
In 2016, she applied for funding from the North Carolina Translational & Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TRaCS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the bassinet team received the highest level of NC TRaCS support in the form of an Improving Human Health Award. The award funded a project to design and develop infant bassinets specifically for use in hospital postnatal units.
Tully said she expects that the bassinet will be licensed and on the market in the near term. The Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute already is being contacted by U.S. and foreign hospitals who are interested in the innovative product.
The original version of this article was written by Phillip Ramati of North Carolina State University.
The Sidney S. Chipman Award
This award is presented annually to a graduate of the Department of Maternal and Child Health who has shown outstanding promise to the field of maternal and child health. Graduation should have occurred within the past five to 10 years. The recipient should be dedicated to work for human welfare; effective in working with people and getting the job done; and be sensitive to the needs, feelings, and ideas of others. Nominations should be limited to one paragraph and must include specific examples of how the nominee reflects the attributes of the award. Nominations without the supporting paragraph cannot be considered. Nominations should be submitted by email to facilitate distribution to the Chipman committee.
The 2018 Sidney S. Chipman Award winner was Anna Freeman.
Select to see a list previous winners. 2018 Anna Freeman The MCH Alumni Committee is a group of volunteer graduates of the Department of Maternal and Child Health of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health who work to enhance learning and networking opportunities for graduates and students. Our mission is to: The committee meets four times a year in the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham area and is open to all graduates and especially welcomes current students. We have the ability to provide conference call-in options for non-local alumni. If you would like information about any MCH alumni activities or have questions about how you can become involved, please contact us. MCH Alumni Committee Members Katelyn Bryant-Comstock, incoming co-facilitator, firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 Nathan Nickel
2016 Joseph Lee
2015 Anisha Patel
2014 Emily Taylor
2013 Chisara Asomugha
2012 Bronwyn Glenn Lucas
2011 Mark Piehl
2010 Ameena Batada
2009 Roland Edgar “Eddie” Mhlang
2008 Diane Hedgecock
2007 Martha Coulter
2006 Millie Jones
2005 Joseph degraft-Johnson
2004 Mary Patterson
2003 Mary Rose Tully
2002 Martha Valiant
2001 Porapan Punyaratabandhu
2000 Andrèa Bazan Manson
1999 Renee Schwalberg
1998 Kevin Ryan
1997 Vijaya Hogan
1996 Arden Handler
1995 Marjorie Sable
1994 Richard Aronson
1993 Mike Durfee
1992 Susan Spalt
1991 Jamie Bayer
1990 Amy Fine
1989 Kay Johnson
1988 Richard R. Nugent
1987 Susan Rumsey Givins
1986 Henry C. Heins
1985 Kathryn A. Johnson
1984 Isa Grant
1983 Pouru Bhiwandiwala and Sam X. Charles
1982 Jonathan Kotch
1981 Claude E. Fox, III
1980 Joseph I. Holliday
1979 Jimmie Rhyne and Lynn Knauff
1978 Lois D. Isler
1977 Verna Barefoot
1975 Russell H. Richardson
1974 Robert S. McCurdy
1973 R. W. Penick
1972 Sarah T. Morrow
1971 Sister Joan Conway
1970 Peter Dawson
Macon Lowman, incoming co-facilitator, email@example.com
Erin Magee, incoming secretary/communications coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie DeClerque, outgoing co-facilitator, email@example.com
Sharon Epstein, outgoing co-facilitator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandra Cianciolo, outgoing secretary, email@example.com
Anita Farel, transition captain, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Cole, career development director, email@example.com
Julie Theriault, department staff/communications liaison, firstname.lastname@example.org
Meghan Shanahan, faculty representative, email@example.com
Joseph Lee, member, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Kotch, member, email@example.com
Marcia Roth, member, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Cretin, member, email@example.com
Rebecca Greenleaf, member, firstname.lastname@example.org
Priscilla Guild, member, email@example.com
Gerri Mattson, member, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathan Nickel, member, email@example.com
Lucy Wilson, member, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Williamson, member, email@example.com
Hannah Spector, member, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Chauvenet, student member email@example.com
2018 Anna Freeman
The MCH Alumni Committee is a group of volunteer graduates of the Department of Maternal and Child Health of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health who work to enhance learning and networking opportunities for graduates and students. Our mission is to:
The committee meets four times a year in the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham area and is open to all graduates and especially welcomes current students. We have the ability to provide conference call-in options for non-local alumni.
If you would like information about any MCH alumni activities or have questions about how you can become involved, please contact us.
MCH Alumni Committee Members
Katelyn Bryant-Comstock, incoming co-facilitator, firstname.lastname@example.org