Carolina honors Katherine LeMasters for outstanding public service

May 6, 2020

At the annual Public Service Awards event, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill honored 11 individuals and one organization for outstanding contributions to the campus and broader communities. This year’s event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Katherine LeMasters

Katherine LeMasters

Katherine LeMasters, a doctoral student of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, received an Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award, which honors individuals and campus units for public service through engaged teaching, research and partnership.

LeMasters is co-principal investigator — along with Sarah (Betsy) Bledsoe, associate professor of social work — on the community-based participatory research project “MI-PHOTOS: Mothers Informing Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Outcomes Through StOry Sharing.” Partners include Jada Brooks, an assistant professor in UNC’s School of Nursing; Kim Pevia, a community organizer and resident of Robeson County; Dolores Vasquez, Erica Little, Janice Oxendine and Brittany Gordon with Healthy Start; Darlene Gold with the Nurse-Family Partnership; Melissa Sampson with the Robeson County Health Department; and Cherry Beasley with UNC-Pembroke’s Department of Nursing.

Recognizing research gaps that exist despite known maternal and child health barriers and high infant fatality rates in Robeson County, North Carolina, MI-PHOTOS puts the research in the hands of its participants. Through the project, mothers capture the realities of health and well-being for themselves and their children through pictures, discussions and storytelling.

“As a doctoral student, it’s truly an honor to be involved this project and to learn how to conduct research in equitable partnership with a community,” LeMasters says. “Through listening to mothers’ stories and working in partnership with Robeson County’s community organizations, we have begun to develop an understanding of both challenges and strengths related to maternal and child health in the community. It has laid the groundwork for co-developing an intervention with our community partners, which is incredibly exciting to be a part of. MI-PHOTOS receiving this award is a testament to community-based participatory research and to the dedication of the mothers and community members in Robeson County who have been part of this work.”

The Carolina Center for Public Service presented the award, along with several others, on April 24.

The diverse projects conducted by this year’s award recipients include efforts to overcome socio-economic barriers to mental health services, establishment of a service-learning internship, fundraising for cancer research, development of inclusive history workshops for K-12 teachers and analysis of intersectional feminism in politically engaged research.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at

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