April 29, 2024

Students at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have voted this year to select the School’s most innovative classroom teachers.

First presented in February 2012, the Teaching Innovation Awards honor faculty members who students feel “improve the learning environment at the Gillings School by integrating new technologies, engaging students in interactive activities, employing creative assessment methods, and introducing and incorporating progressive curriculum ideas into the classroom.”

A $1,000 prize is intended to help each winner advance his or her educational development in teaching and learning.

The 2024 award winners are Bahjat Qaqish, PhD, professor of biostatistics; Amanda Northcross, PhD, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering; Yesenia Merino, PhD, MPH, adjunct assistant professor of health policy and management and public health leadership; Caroline Chandler, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of maternal and child health; and Jan Lee Santos, MD, MHA, MA, adjunct instructor, academic affairs.

In their nomination letters, students shared high praise for the achievements and influence that these instructors had on their learning experiences.


Bahjat Qaqish

Dr. Bahjat Qaqish

Bahjat Qaqish, PhD

“Dr. Qaqish’s teaching style has helped me build skills outside of the classroom (checking myself for knowledge) that I don’t think are typically learned in our departmental curriculum. I remember one day when he asked a question in class, and he remained silent until someone answered. This took a minute of silence, but really felt like 10 whole minutes. He is comfortable with silence, and to me that tells me he is a confident instructor that is willing to help untangle any learning blocks. I’m glad that I got to take this class (and other classes) with Dr. Qaqish. He has inspired me to be a more inquisitive statistician and not be afraid to take my time when learning a new subject. He is a strong pillar of the biostatistics department, and I feel lucky that I got to take his courses.”



Dr. Amanda Northcross

Dr. Amanda Northcross

Amanda Northcross, PhD

“Dr. Northcross has been the most consistent part of my UNC experience with faculty. I have worked with her for two full years, and throughout she has been patient, kind and helpful. She always makes time to meet with me when I need mentorship and is always ready to help move my research project along. I truly appreciate everything she has done for me, and my time at Carolina wouldn’t be the same without her. There is no doubt in mind that she is one of the most deserving professors in this University of a teaching award.”



Yesenia Merino, PhD, MPH

Dr. Yesenia Merino

Dr. Yesenia Merino

“Yesenia is the ultimate instructor. From her compassionate heart to her strong justice analysis to her joy, she makes the world. I took her “Critical History of Public Health” class, which was an elective I was excited about. This was the one class I’ve taken where I feel like I had agency with my learning. A big part of that agency was that creativity was strongly encouraged. We were able to dig into our own topics, show information using a variety of materials and created a huge timeline to wrap up the class. Her ethos is clear, and her handle of anti-oppressive pedagogy is to be honored. She is who I would want to be if I was an instructor. She holds space and facilitates in a way that makes me feel like a colleague and not someone who is lesser than.”



Dr. Caroline Chandler

Dr. Caroline Chandler

Caroline Chandler, PhD, MPH

“Caroline was a wonderful professor who brought innovative teaching styles into the classroom. She is the perfect example of a professor who is kind and inviting while also being an incredibly effective instructor. She goes above and beyond for her students, always willing to provide additional support on assignments. She has been one of the best parts of my time at Gillings!”



Dr. Jan Lee Santos

Dr. Jan Lee Santos

Jan Lee Santos, MD, MHA, MA

“Dr. Santos truly reaches out to students and engages them with the topics we are learning. He is friendly and open and encourages new ideas from students and is constantly thinking ‘outside of the box.’ He is committed to quality improvement and demonstrates significant awareness of the latest innovations in both public health and medicine. He is committed to helping underserved populations and exemplifies this both in his work with Gillings and Piedmont Health.”

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