The Minority Health Project in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health works to expand awareness and knowledge about health equity concerns, deepen understanding of methodological, theoretical and practical issues in health disparities research and interventions, and strengthen linkages across diversity activities to increase their effectiveness and success.

Recent accomplishments
Current status
New initiatives

The Minority Health Project was launched in 1994 with funding from the National Center for Health Statistics (Minority Statistics Grants Program, Audrey Burwell, MS, Director) through the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. The objectives of the original grant, which received major funding over a six year period, were to develop resources to improve minority health statistical research through searchable catalogs of research and datasets, networking of researchers, and a course on minority health research.

During its first five years, the Project developed a website, searchable, web-based catalogs of research literature and datasets, and a one-week Institute first held at UNC-Chapel Hill in June 1995. The course has evolved into the Annual Summer Public Health Research Institute and Videoconference on Minority Health.

When Dr. Edwards moved to Duke University in 1998, Victor Schoenbach, PhD, assumed the leadership of the Project, jointly with Dr. Browne until she moved to Morgan State University in 2002. Dr. Schoenbach had previously led the UNC Lineberger Minority Cancer Control Research Program. In that role he had worked with the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Minority Student Caucus on its Annual Minority Health Conference, which the Caucus initiated in 1977. In 1999, the conference’s keynote lecture was named in honor of retiring Associate Dean William T. Small Jr., a key figure in the life of the Caucus, the Conference’s founding, and its continuing success. The Project began offering a webcast of the Annual William T. Small Jr. Keynote Lecture (satellite broadcasting began in 2001, with funding from the NC state health department).

Student participants (L-R) Che Smith, Mohamed Jalloh, Mimi Goli and Laura Harker with Dr. Victor Schoenbach.

Student participants (L-R) Che Smith, Mohamed Jalloh, Mimi Goli and Laura Harker with Dr. Victor Schoenbach.

After 1999, when the NCHS funding had ended, support from the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention Office of Health Disparities (Bill Jenkins, PhD, MS, MPH, Director), the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health dean’s office, and other sources enabled the Project to continue the five-afternoon interactive Videoconference. Participant and site fees were discontinued, and the number of downlink sites jumped several-fold. Since then the Annual Summer Public Health Research Videoconference on Minority Health has been disseminated at no charge to thousands of public health practitioners, researchers, faculty and students throughout the U.S. and abroad. Major co-sponsors have included Morgan State University School of Public Health and North Carolina State A&T University Institute for Public Health.

Although funding constraints have shortened the Videoconference to a single afternoon in recent years, there have been significant expansions in other dimensions. Major accomplishments during the past eight years include (1) a broadcast with two members of the Congressional Minority Caucus, initiated by an aide to the Hon. Donna Christensen, (2) a first broadcast from the newly-dedicated UNC Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History (this broadcast featured the Hon. Melvin Watt and a panel of five other experts), (3) a first broadcast produced at Morgan State University, and (4) Videoconferences guided by a planning committee with representatives from several schools and centers, organized and supported by UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and co-presented with NC A&T State University Institute for Public Health.

Videotapes and DVDs from Minority Health Project broadcasts are distributed by the Public Health Foundation, and several of our programs have been disseminated by Kaiser Network. Our programs are used in academic courses and staff trainings, and the archived webcast from the 2007 Videoconference, Does Racism Make Us Sick?, has had well over a thousand viewers and has been adopted as required viewing by courses in at least two universities. The Videoconference is now widely known as a unique forum on health disparities issues.

The large auditorium, central location and institutional significance of the Stone Center provided the opportunity to build linkages with several UNC programs designed to attract and advance minorities underrepresented in the health professions, including Emerging Leaders in Public Health, the NC Health Careers Access Program [NC-HCAP], and the Summer PreGraduate Research Experience. Participants in these and other programs have comprised the majority of the studio audience, and as a result of their shared involvement, ELPH and NC-HCAP have initiated joint programming of their own.

Dean William T. Small Jr.

Dean William T. Small Jr.

After three broadcasts from the Stone Center, major construction adjacent to the facility induced the Videoconference to produce its next broadcasts from the Tate-Turner-Kuralt building of the UNC School of Social Work. The 2008 Videoconference, on Men’s Health Disparities was highly successful. The equally successful 2009 broadcast was dedicated to the memory of Dean John B. Turner, 1922-2009, a writer, scholar, teacher and educational leader who devoted his life to community organization, social activism and social work education. This broadcast was moderated by Sen. Howard N. Lee, a graduate of the School and a leader in North Carolina government for over 40 years.

Although the Minority Health Project has succeeded in raising funds for the Annual Videoconference, the Project functions without any permanent staff support, which hampers efficiency and ability to advance our objectives and raises concerns about continuity, institutionalization and sustainability. Moreover, the economic situation necessarily affects state allocations to the University, which in turn threatens our ability to raise funds for the Videoconference itself. We are applying for government, foundation and corporate grants, and we welcome personal and organizational donations and gifts. In 2009, Bill Jenkins, now with the UNC Institute of African American Research following his retirement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Center for Research on Health Disparities at Morehouse College, joined the Project as Co-Director.

  • Work more closely with UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, to strengthen its linkages with the health affairs division of the campus
  • Use the Annual Videoconference and Annual William T. Small Jr. Keynote Lecture broadcast to form linkages with minority/diversity-oriented student and other organizations both at UNC and elsewhere.
  • Continue to work closely with the UNC Minority Student Caucus to support and promote its activities, including its role in the William T. Small, Jr. Keynote Lecture broadcast, and work to connect to student organizations at other universities. In 2009 minority student organizations at five other universities [view list] organized their own events in conjunction with the 30th Annual Minority Health Conference [home page] and used the UNC Keynote broadcast as a central component. The Minority Health Project is also working to build a network of Minority Student Caucus alumni (MSCalumnet), so that past Caucus members can support the activities of current students and can amplify their influence. A closely related activity is identifying a way to preserve and disseminate the remarkable history of the Minority Student Caucus, which is now more than half as old as the school itself. Future generations need to learn its inspiring story!
Dr. Victor J. Schoenbach

Dr. Victor J. Schoenbach

The Minority Health Project works to eliminate health disparities and to increase diversity in the professions, through production and dissemination of educational broadcasts, building linkages among diversity activities, and supporting the UNC Minority Student Caucus.

Collaborators and advisors

  • Trude A. Bennett, DrPH
  • Dorothy C. Browne, MSW, DrPH (at Norfolk State School of Social Work)
  • Vijaya K. Hogan, DrPH
  • Jay S. Kaufman, PhD (at McGill University)
  • Anissa I. Vines, PhD

Minority Health Project founders

  • Dorothy C. Browne, DrPH, Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • Trude A. Bennett, DrPH, Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • Lloyd J. Edwards, PhD, Department of Biostatistics
  • Audrey Burwell, MS, Director, Minority Grants Program, National Center for Health Statistics

Past investigators and staff

  • M. Ahinee Amamoo, Graduate student assistant (1999), Videoconference coordinator (2008), Videoconference co-coordinator (2009)
  • Tonya D. Armstrong, PhD, Graduate student assistant and Postdoctoral Fellow (1998-1999)
  • Millicent Ellison Brown, PhD, Project Coordinator (2000)
  • Pamela DeShazo, Project Coordinator (2001)
  • Kenitra Carby-Shields, BA, Project Assistant (2000)
  • Pai-Lien Chen, MS, Graduate student assistant, pre-2000
  • Deborah S. Cousins, BA, Graduate student assistant, pre-2000
  • Larry D. Crum, PhD, Project Director (1994-1999)
  • Matthew E. Garvin, MSPH, Graduate student assistant
  • Lloyd Edwards, PhD, Principal Investigator (1993-1998)
  • Mary Everette, Assistant to the Director for Budget and Finance, Department of Biostatistics
  • Ronald Helms, PhD, Co-Investigator, pre-2000
  • Lisa E. Hensley, MSPH, Graduate student assistant
  • Tracy Holloway, Project intern
  • William D. Kalsbeek, PhD, Co-Investigator, pre-2000
  • Veronica Lawrence, Program Coordinator (1997-1999)
  • Kyna K. McCullough, MPH, Graduate student assistant
  • Raj Kiran Medapalli, MBBS., Graduate student assistant (2001-2004)
  • Zipatly V. Mendoza, MPH, Graduate student assistant (2005-2006) and Videoconference coordinator (2006)
  • Monica Perez-Jolles, Graduate student assistant, 2000
  • Randall H. Rieger, BS, Graduate student assistant
  • Calpurnyia B. Powell Roberts, MS, Graduate student assistant (2004-2006)
  • Amy Shively, Project Assistant, 2001
  • Valerie G. Smith, MSPH, Graduate student assistant
  • Danielle Spurlock, MPH, MS, Videoconference coordinator, 2005
  • Michael Symons, PhD, Co-Investigator (1998-1999)
  • Eboni Taylor, MPH, Epidemiology doctoral student, Videoconference assistant (2008), Videoconference co-coordinator (2009)
  • Shelby Taylor, Project Secretary, pre-2000
  • Xiofeng Wang, MS, Graduate student assistant, pre-2000

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