Carrington honored with three APHA student awards for public health leadership and achievement

March 26, 2020

Makala Carrington

Makala Carrington

First-year Master of Public Health (MPH) student Makala Carrington has been driven by a desire to meet public health needs since her days as an undergraduate. A curious student with an interest in research, she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in public health (BSPH) at UNC Charlotte in only three years and has served as a passionate representative of the American Public Health Association (APHA) Student Assembly. Her commitment to service and academic achievement recently earned her three awards at the APHA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Carrington received the 2019 Trong D. Nguyen Memorial Award to recognize her significant leadership contributions as a student in public health, as well as the Campus Liaison of the Year Award and the Outstanding Student Achievement Award from the Health Informatics Information Technology Section.

Makala Carrington poses with awards she received at the 2019 APHA Annual Meeting.

Makala Carrington poses with awards she received at the 2019 APHA Annual Meeting.

Her student resume is extensive, including internships with Johns Hopkins University, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Association for State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Red Cross and the Fayetteville Dream Center. Now her passion for public health has brought her to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health as an MPH@UNC student.

With a desire to be closer to her family in North Carolina while continuing her work improving lives with non-governmental organizations and local and federal government programs, the online MPH@UNC option was the perfect fit for Carrington’s needs. She chose the concentration of Leadership in Practice because it most aligned with her future career goals.

“Being in research is something I love to do,” said Carrington, “but I plan to be an officer in the United States Air Force. So that ties into the leadership aspect. I plan to serve long-term as a chaplain. Right now, I am obtaining my MPH and will pursue my MDiv. I also plan to pursue a PhD focusing on the intersection between health, faith and pastoral care.”

Makala Carrington (center) poses with her award and a group of APHA members.

Makala Carrington (center) poses with her award and a group of APHA members.

Carrington’s educational goals are as broad as her record of service, but the unifying factor has always been her interest in social determinants of health from the perspectives of injury prevention research, culture, religion and faith. As the daughter of a retired army veteran and public health social worker, she feels called to the military and public health professions. Her experiences in the community have exposed the need for health care practitioners to provide services that are humble to the religious and cultural differences of a diverse American population.

“In health care, we sometimes try to ignore controversial topics like religion and politics, but I think they are very important. Public health is political,” Carrington explained. “The intersection of faith, culture and health could, for example, challenge us to think about how to provide care to individuals who migrate to America with their own traditional healing practices. As a marginalized individual from Black and Native American descent, I think about how to better serve populations like the immigrant and refugee community, framing public health messages in a way that accommodates health literacy but also respects norms, customs, and values.”

The flexibility of the MPH@UNC program allows her to take classes remotely while also working remotely on grant-funded projects in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area, as well as with places like UNC’s Injury Prevention Research Center. She also recently attended the Gillings School’s first Immersions event in February.

“I was honored to be one of the first students to experience that,” Carrington said. “And I think it was definitely beneficial to helping students get more accustomed and connected to campus.”

While Carrington sees her future as a chaplain in the United States Air Force, she is focused on making her mark within the field of public health as a millennial change agent and mentoring others to follow in her footsteps. It’s all in line with her passion for service – another opportunity to respond to communities in need.

Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at

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