August 17, 2016

Sixteen students at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have been selected as 2016-2017 recipients of Gillings Merit Scholarships or Gillings Dissertation Awards. The scholarship and dissertation award funds, established in 2010 to help the Gillings School recruit and support graduate students with exceptional promise and potential, were made possible through the $50 million Gillings gift and are administered through the Gillings School’s Research and Innovation Solutions unit.

Fourteen students are 2016-2017 Gillings Merit Scholars, and two received Gillings Dissertation Awards.

photo, Marwa Elnagheeb

Marwa Elnagheeb

photo, Rose Ewald

Rose Ewald

photo, Dr. Erin Frey

Dr. Erin Frey

photo, Herodes Guzman

Herodes Guzman

photo, Gilson Honvoh

Gilson Honvoh

Cassandra Johnson, headshot

Cassandra Johnson

Sydney Jones, headshot

Sydney Jones

photo, Rae-Anne Martinez

Rae-Anne Martinez

photo, Christina Palazzo

Christina Palazzo

photo, Audra Reiter

Audra Reiter

photo, Blythe Rhodes

Blythe Rhodes

photo, Alex Sanchez

Alex Sanchez

photo, Jen Stutsman

Jen Stutsman

photo, Christine Walsh

Christine Walsh

photo, Yiqing Wang

Yiqing Wang

photo, Corinne Wiesner

Corinne Wiesner

They are Herodes Guzman, Audra Reiter, Erin Frey, DVM, and Christina Palazzo (Public Health Leadership Program); Marwa Elnagheeb and Alexandria Sanchez (maternal and child health); Christine Walsh and Blythe Rhodes (health behavior); Deanne “Rose” Ewald and Yiqing Wang (nutrition); Corinne Wiesner (environmental sciences and engineering); Jennifer Stutsman (health policy and management); Rae Anne Martinez (epidemiology); and Gilson Honvoh (biostatistics).

Erin Frey, a veterinarian with experience in companion animal private practice and veterinary preventive medicine, hopes to gain practical and research experience so that she can use a “One Health” approach to advance and promote public health.

“This scholarship will allow me to focus on coursework and research opportunities,” she said, “and will lessen the financial concerns about taking time out from my career to pursue this opportunity in public health leadership.”

Corinne Wiesner, who has lived in Wisconsin, and before that, Washington, D.C., said that a Gillings School education will give her the skills to help save vital natural resources.

“I have a powerful passion for public health and the environment, developed through my liberal arts background, teaching experience and service with Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps,” she said.

Alexandria Sanchez, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University at Sacramento, said her decision to pursue a Master of Public Health degree originated in her love for community and desire to see her hometown, Stockton, Calif., and others like it flourish.

“The Gillings Merit Scholar Award is providing me with vital funding to pursue my goal – to develop no-nonsense, common-sense intervention techniques to combat the social and emotional factors that lead to health disparities in young women of color,” Sanchez said.

Audra Reiter, a medical student at UNC School of Medicine, said she was honored to receive the Gillings Merit Award.

“I hope to work as a surgeon in an academic center,” Reiter said. “The Master of Public Health degree will facilitate my goal to become a physician who practices evidence-based medicine, as well as allowing me to explore my interests in global health, surgery, research and education. I’m excited to have the public health background to aid me in being an effective physician.”

Cassandra Johnson, MSPH (nutrition), and Sydney Jones (epidemiology) were selected for Gillings Dissertation Awards.

Casandra Johnson said she arrived at the idea for her dissertation after realizing that the traditional ways of measuring food insecurity do not necessarily capture the way people now experience it now. She is using an interdisciplinary approach and mixed methods to better understand the complexities of the issue.

“I’m very honored to have received this dissertation award, which not only recognizes the importance of understanding food insecurity among families in North Carolina,” she said, “but also will allow me to share my research findings with a wider audience.”

“The 2007 Gillings gift continues to give us opportunities to make our public health school stronger – in this case, to recruit more exceptional students and reward two doctoral students whose research is especially promising,” said Julie MacMillan, MPH, managing director of Research and Innovation Solutions. “These 16 students are superb examples of the power of hard work and good ideas.”

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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