Our Department of Maternal and Child Health is one of 13 Centers of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science and Practice.

The Department of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health is one of 13 Centers of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science, and Practice programs across the country funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA). The overall mission of these Centers is to support graduate and postdoctoral MCH training to prepare the next generation of public health leaders focused on improving the health of women, infants, children, youth, and their families. Master’s students, doctoral students, and postdoctoral scholars trained in the Centers enhance their MCH knowledge and skills and gain practical experience by collaborating with MCH communities and Title V MCH partners.


UNC Center of Excellence (CoE) Key Faculty

Dr. Sandra Martin

Dr. Sandra Martin

Sandra L. Martin, PhD, CoE Director, Professor and Associate Chair for Research, Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC
Dr. Martin’s research, teaching, and public health service focuses on gender-based violence. She has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters and reports on a wide range of violence-related concerns including sexual violence, domestic violence and child maltreatment. Dr. Martin teaches the MCH course Gender Based Violence (MCFH 732).


Dr. Meghan Shanahan

Dr. Meghan Shanahan

Meghan Shanahan, PhD, CoE Deputy Director, Assistant Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC
2021 McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Shanahan’s research focuses on improving the health and developmental trajectories of children, with an emphasis on adverse events, such as maltreatment, that potentially influence these trajectories and prevent children from realizing their full potential. Dr. Shanahan also has experience examining the impact of substance use and material hardships on parenting and child development and evaluating prevention strategies. Dr. Shanahan teaches the MCH course Foundations in Maternal and Child Health (MCFH 701).


Dr. Dorothy Cilenti

Dr. Dorothy Cilenti

Dorothy Cilenti, DrPH, CoE Faculty, Associate Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health
Dr. Cilenti has worked in local and state public health agencies in North Carolina for more than 20 years. She is primarily interested in improving systems of care for vulnerable women and children. Dr. Cilenti is the Director of the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center which oversees training and technical assistance to state agencies implementing health transformation. Dr. Cilent also directs the Maternal Health Learning and Innovation Center. Dr. Cilenti teaches the MCH courses Health Transformation (MCFH 745) and Leadership in Maternal and Child Health (MCFH 890).


Dr. Anna Austin

Dr. Anna Austin

Anna Austin, PhD, CoE Faculty, Assistant Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health
Dr. Austin’s research focuses on understanding risk and protective factors in child health and development and examining the impact of population-level programs and policies on child and family wellbeing. She has experience and interest in applying advanced statistical methods, linking existing survey and administrative data sources, and partnering with state and local agencies to conduct research on child maltreatment, substance use in pregnancy, and material hardship among families.


Iyana Alewine

Iyana Alewine

Iyana Alewine, CoE Program Manager, Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC
Iyana Alewine has extensive student services experience supporting undergraduate and graduate students completing their degree requirements. In this capacity, Iyana connects students to helpful University resources, assists with interpreting University policies, facilitates the execution of various University procedures and actively monitors students’ progress toward program completion. Her educational background in psychology and professional school counseling truly speaks to her passion to understand students’ needs, in addition to being a reliable resource that promotes student success and academic success.

UNC Center of Excellence (CoE) Training Programs

UNC Center of Excellence Training Program. All master’s and doctoral students in the UNC Department of Maternal and Child Health are considered Center of Excellence (CoE) trainees as funding from this program supports a wide range of training activities and educational experiences. In addition, each year, six first-year students (typically four master’s students and two doctoral students) with U.S. focused research and practice interests in MCH are awarded tuition and stipend support through the Center of Excellence. Students receiving this support participate in 10 hours per week of activities working with faculty on research and practice projects to further enhance their MCH knowledge and skills.

UNC Center of Excellence Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Doctoral Training Program. The Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Doctoral Training Program provides stipend support to two MCH doctoral students minoring in epidemiology and conducting dissertation research on a U.S.-focused MCH issue. The purpose of this program is to support the preparation of the future MCH epidemiologic workforce by promoting advancements in applied MCH research.

UNC Center of Excellence Maternal and Child Health Postdoctoral Program. The Maternal and Child Health Postdoctoral Program provides 1-2 year postdoctoral positions to prepare doctoral graduates for academic positions within the field of MCH. The program focuses on enhancing postdoctoral scholars’ proficiency in MCH research, teaching, conceptual knowledge, communication, professionalism, and leadership, under the guidance of an MCH mentoring committee. The program is currently accepting applications. Visit the Program Description (PDF) to learn more, including how to apply.

Personal Statements from our 2021-2022 UNC Center of Excellence Trainees

Lauren Caton

Lauren Caton

Lauren Caton, PhD student. I came to UNC after overseeing the women’s health portfolio for a national policy-advocacy organization working to expand treatment access for pregnant and parenting persons who use substances. Prior, I conducted research at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco (UCSF) on topics ranging from opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment expansion to adolescent reproductive health. I hold a Master of Public Health (MPH) from UC Berkeley in maternal, child, and adolescent health and a B.S. in nutritional sciences & toxicology from UT Austin. My research interests include research dissemination, implementation science, and evaluating state-level policies that promote child and family well-being.

Leah Daniel

Leah Daniel

Leah Daniel, MPH student. Born and raised in rural, eastern North Carolina, I am excited to be back at UNC to continue my education. As a dual MSW-MPH student, I have already completed one year of MSW coursework, and I am looking forward to beginning classes at Gillings in the fall. During my undergraduate studies at UNC, I worked with UNC Birth Partners as a volunteer doula, participated in research, and completed a summer internship with the Edgecombe County Health Department where I worked on various health education and promotion initiatives with their Services for Women and Children. After graduating in 2018 with a B.S. in Psychology, I worked for two years as a college adviser with the Carolina College Advising Corps. In that role, I helped rural, underserved, and minority high school students apply to and enroll in college. As a rural citizen myself, I have a particular interest in rural health and health disparities. My research interests center around maternal health and include rural health, perinatal health outcomes, and health policy. This year, I hope to continue to expand my knowledge of maternal health policy and practice and gain meaningful skills related to maternal-child health program development, implementation, and evaluation.

Caroline Hays

Caroline Hays

Caroline Hays, MPH student. I began my career as a labor and delivery nurse in a community hospital on the west side of Chicago, providing hands-on nursing care in a medically under-served area of the city and assisting with data collection on parent and infant morbidity and mortality. I joined the staff of Chicago Public Schools to work on access to quality medical care and support the success of students with health conditions at school. My interest in public health further expanded as I worked as a volunteer nurse for an organization providing medical care and strengthening healthcare infrastructure in West Africa. I currently hold a Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. My research interests fall under the umbrella of perinatal epidemiology as I seek to understand morbidity and mortality in low-resource settings and delivery of public health interventions to vulnerable groups. I hope to work towards decreasing disparities in obstetric complication rates and dismantling structural barriers in healthcare.

Jasmine Hodges

Jasmine Hodges

Jasmine Hodges, MPH student. I attended Elon University and graduated in May 2019 with a Bachelor’s in public health studies. As a student, I had the opportunity to study Adverse Childhood Experiences, Maternal and Perinatal disease control, and community health education. After graduating I completed a service year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Wake Forest University. During my time as a VISTA, I focused on capacity building for community partners through resource allocation, program development, and community engagement. My educational and work experiences fortified my interests in public health and maternal and child health. My specific research interests include maternal and perinatal HIV/AIDS, health behavior, and health education as it relates low income and BIPOC women and children. This year I look forward to exploring all that my program has to offer and further gaining hands on experiences, as well as working with my cohort to impact change!

Adia Louden

Adia Louden

Adia Louden, PhD student. For the past two years, I’ve worked as a Data Analyst for the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services. In this position, I was responsible for evaluating the agency’s programs and analyzing the state’s crimes against women, active offenders, and advocating for victims. While this role taught me much about a path to redemption that law enforcement has to offer, it also parallels a mission of public health to advocate for vulnerable populations and ensure lasting behavior change. In this position, I learned about interacting with victims of domestic violence, providing resources for safety, and advocating for a system to dismantle gender-based violence and promote women’s health and well-being. My passion for women’s health was ignited during my undergraduate career at Claflin University, a historically black college/university in Orangeburg, South Carolina. I was the Public Health Alliance President and spent my time planning events that impacted not only women, but college students significantly. At this same time, I was also writing and exploring feminism and toxic masculinity while enrolled in an Advanced Composition course. Since college, I have done several things that include creating an online platform for women of color, conducting research in Iganga, Uganda, and earning a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and Certificate in Maternal and Child Health from Emory University. As an incoming student to UNC and bold content writer, I look forward to leveraging my passion for data and public health with research and telling stories to advance health, gender equity, and health outcomes for vulnerable populations of women.

Alexandra Otto

Alexandra Otto

Alexandra Otto, MPH student. After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, I conducted research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for 3 years. In the Chronic Viral Diseases Branch (CVDB), I developed, optimized, and performed a protocol for Whole Genome Sequencing on Human Papillomavirus. Additionally, I served on a COVID19 Taskforce. During my time at CDC, my knowledge of and interest in the field of public health grew immensely. I look forward to returning to school to further develop my skillset and knowledge base, while making connections with others who share similar passions. I am particularly interested in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the effects of health determinants on access to family planning. I look forward to earning my MPH in Maternal, Child, and Family Health so that I can reach my full potential, better serve society, and work to create a healthier and more equitable world.

Personal Statements from our 2021-2022 Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Doctoral Training Program Trainees

Isabel Morgan

Isabel Morgan

Isabel Morgan, PhD student. Prior to joining the doctoral program at UNC, I worked in the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where I evaluated evidence for the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use. Other aspects of my work included analyzing survey data on family planning providers’ attitudes and practices related to contraception and examining social determinants that impact postpartum care utilization. More recent work with the National Birth Equity Collaborative has led me to develop an interest in infertility and pregnancy loss, because there are many unanswered questions related to the etiology of infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth, and there are significant racial inequities in the populations most burdened by these experiences. My research focuses on inequities in Black women’s reproductive and maternal health outcomes and examining how structural racism impacts Black maternal health. In this upcoming academic year, I’m eager to explore decolonized and participatory research methodologies for the qualitative and quantitative aspects of my research.

Julia Reddy

Julia Reddy

Julia Reddy, PhD student. I came to the doctoral program with over ten years’ experience in government and policy administration on issues including child welfare, family health, and perinatal substance use. My approach to MCH is centered on equity and liberation. I take a dynamic, intergenerational perspective to parenting and substance use that is culturally responsive, systems-focused, and strengths-based. My academic goals lie in the application of rigorous quantitative analysis to immediately relevant inquiries in the context of policy and program development. This year I intend to continue my work with the Children’s Data Network on research utilizing linked administrative data to learn more about child protective services systems involvement and family outcomes. I also look forward to learning more about methodologies to incorporate measures of systemic racial inequity in quantitative analyses.

UNC Center of Excellence Maternal and Child Health Postdoctoral Scholars

Dr. Crystal Hayes

Dr. Crystal Hayes

Crystal Hayes, PhD, MSW. I am a doula and reproductive justice scholar interested in using anti-oppressive decolonial methodological frameworks and research paradigms to address perinatal health equity issues at the intersections of motherhood, mass incarceration, race, and public health. My broad intellectual and political social justice commitments and research interests run deep. Born and raised in New York City at the end of the civil rights movement, on the cusp of the Black Power Movement, raised by parents, and grandparents in the Black Panther Party, and coming of age during third-wave Feminism are all experiences and perspectives that have helped to shape and define the way that I approach my work as a Black feminist and anti-racist reproductive justice scholar. Living by the Audre Lorde quote “…silence will not protect you,” I strive to use my voice and work in service to others and to tell the truth about racialized sexism and other forms of oppression. My current research goal builds on my dissertation study and focuses on creating a comprehensive prison-based pregnancy, parenting, and postpartum support programs in partnership with local grassroots community groups led by People of Color to provide trained doulas, childbirth education and child development training, and chestfeeding supports to birthing people who are incarcerated. Broadly speaking, I am deeply committed to prison reform policies that address the disproportionate impact that mass incarceration has on Black women and girls, and gender nonbinary and trans people, and other communities of color.


Dr. Lindsey Yates

Dr. Lindsey Yates

Lindsey Yates, PhD, MPH. Dr. Lindsey Yates is a reproductive health services researcher focused on examining domestic racial differences in contraception services and birth outcomes. Her work uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand the impact of racism as a root cause of disparities, with a specific interest in racial inequities experienced by Black women and birthing people living in North Carolina. Dr. Yates also helps communities implement MCH focused programs and policies. She works with teams to use tools that raise awareness about equity and center reproductive justice as the leading framework for delivering health-related services.

In addition to being a CoE postdoctoral trainee, Dr. Yates has also been recognized as an AcademyHealth Diversity Scholar and awarded funding through the Society of Family Planning Research Fund. Dr. Yates received her PhD from the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Where are they now?

Here’s what our formerly supported CoE students are now up to.

Cameron Thomas

Cameron Thomas

Cameron Thomas, 2nd year MPH student
“My goal for the upcoming year is to solidify the work from my summer practicum with the Georgia Health Policy Center and strengthen the skills needed to become the best public health professional I can be as I look towards graduation.”


Alex Coffey, current doctoral student
“This year I will begin working on my dissertation proposal and will complete my remaining coursework in the program. I hope to defend my proposal and begin conducting my dissertation research in the spring semester! Outside of school, I am excited to cook and bake new recipes with my husband, as well as spend quality time with our family and friends.”


Allie Atkeson

Allie Atkeson

Allie Atkeson, MPH (2020)
Policy Associate, Population and Public Health
National Academy for State Health Policy


Dr. Hannabeth Franchino-Olsen

Dr. Hannabeth Franchino-Olsen

Hannabeth Franchino-Olsen, PhD (2021)
Post-doctoral Research Fellow
University of Edinburgh

“The CoE gave me access to world-class faculty who helped me develop skills I can employ to improve the health of children and their families. I am now working on innovative primary data collection in South Africa, examining and interrupting the mechanisms that drive the transmission of intergenerational violence.”