The Minority Student Caucus (MSC) advocates for issues of concern to students of color in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and promotes research and programs aimed at addressing public health issues that affect people of color. Membership is open to all students of color in the School and anyone else who is interested in supporting the Caucus’ mission.
Minority Student Caucus Statement on University Support for Mental Health
The Minority Student Caucus issues a statement on the overdue need for University support for mental health following the passing of UNC students this past weekend and throughout the semester. The statement also includes resources that students, faculty, and staff can access to help them through this difficult time.
Incoming and outgoing Minority Student Caucus co-presidents sign statement to Gillings community
To continue the dialogue at the Gillings School about racism and structural violence against Black people, the Minority Student Caucus issued this Statement in Response to Anti-Black Racism and Racialized Violence against Black Folx (PDF).
History and Aims
The Minority Student Caucus consists of all students of color in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health who wish to join. The Caucus was founded in the early 1970s as a vehicle for bringing the concerns of minority students to the attention of the School’s administration and for working to attract more students of color to the School. The Caucus founded the Minority Health Conference (MHC) in 1977 and has conducted it annually since then. The Caucus works with the school administration to advocate for the needs of students of color and MSC representatives currently serve on the Dean’s Council, the SPH Alumni Association and other committees throughout the Gillings School.
Minority Health Conference
Connect with us
Questions about the caucus? Contact email@example.com.
2023-2024 Executive Board
Co-President: Shaelyn Hawkins
Shaelyn Hawkins (she/her/hers) is a second-year MPH student in the Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights concentration and previously attended the University of California,Los Angeles for her undergraduate studies. This year she is excited for her new leadership role to re-establish MSC on campus and in-person after years of being virtual. She looks forward to advocating on behalf of students of color and providing them with the support and resources to be successful. Her research interests broadly include advancing health equity for traditionally marginalized communities through evidence-based interventions addressing social determinants of health. Outside of Gillings, she really enjoys cooking, being outside in the sun, and roller skating.
Co-President: Breyana Williams
Breyana Williams (she/her/hers) is a second-year MPH student in the Health Behavior concentration and attended North Carolina State University for her undergraduate studies. She is excited about the opportunity to work alongside Gillings to prioritize an inclusive learning experience and community for prospective and current students of color. Her interests include health education and communications, community-based participatory research, evidence-based interventions, and policy solutions to improve youth mental health and overall population well-being outcomes. She is honored to serve in this position that represents an incredible legacy of dedication to uplifting and advocating on behalf of students of color within the Gillings community and beyond and wholeheartedly embraces the vision and mission of the Minority Student Caucus and looks forward to doing the work to move the needle forward.
Secretary: Amaya Jackson
Amaya Jackson (she/her/hers) is a second-year MPH student in the Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights Concentration and attended North Carolina Central University for her undergraduate studies. She is most excited about enjoying the unique events that are being planned as well as building a wonderful community in her time at Gillings and MSC! Her research interests include investigating the role of social determinants of health in the development and management of chronic gastrointestinal issues for Black children and families, and the innovation around equitable access to healthcare; especially the role of physicians in advancing/advocating for/developing this innovation.
Education and Community Action Co-Chair: Rami Darawsheh
Rami Darawsheh (he/him/his) is a second-year BSPH student in the Health Policy and Management department. He previously served as the Secretary and is excited about this new position. Rami is looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate directly with local community organizations to streamline service opportunities and increase communication between Gillings alumni and current students to improve networking opportunities. Rami’s research interests include diagnostic modeling for cancer that utilizes patient tumors and tests an array of treatments to optimize treatment response as well as clinical retrospective studies of electronic health records to improve health outcomes. He is interested in optimizing the standard of care for these patients to improve their health and quality of life.
Education and Community Action Co-Chair: Rokhaya Kane
Rokhaya Kane (she/her/hers) is a first-year MPH student in the Global Health concentration. She attended the University of Maryland Baltimore County for her undergraduate studies. She is excited to meet new people and create more opportunities for professional development and community engagement. Her research interests include studying how the different determinants of health affect health outcomes and in reducing healthcare disparities to create more equitable access to care for underserved populations.
Taking Responsibility to Increase Access and Diversity (TRIAD) Co-Chair: Galilee Ambellu
Galilee Ambellu (she/her/hers) is a second-year BSPH student in the Health Policy and Management department. She previously served as the ECA Co-Chair and is excited about this new position. This year, she is excited to work with Jonathan Earnest and Gillings Inclusive Excellence Office to advocate for increased stipends for graduate students. Her research interests include psychosocial stress, racial socialization, healthy equity, quality of care, community-based participatory research, ethnography, and thematic analysis.
Taking Responsibility to Increase Access and Diversity (TRIAD) Co-Chair: Sephara Pierre
Sephara Pierre (she/her/hers) is a first-year MPH student in the Health Behavior department and attended the University of Florida for her undergraduate studies. She is excited about the prospect of connecting with new individuals and discovering their passions both within and beyond the realm of public health. Additionally, I’m thrilled about the opportunity to create innovative events at Gillings that are designed to enhance diversity within our community. She is still new to the public health field and is still discovering her interests however, she is particularly drawn to Reproductive Justice and the complex interplay of other factors, such as health care systems, housing availability, and food insecurity, that impact someone’s ability to parent or not to parent in safe and healthy environments.
Co-Treasurer: Steven Houang
Steven Houang (he/him/his) is an MSPH-PhD student in the Department of Health Behavior, and attended The New School for Social Research for his undergraduate studies in Interdisciplinary Sciences. Steven is a returning treasurer and is super excited this year for his printmaking and advocacy workshop for MSC! His research interests include LGBTQ health, HIV, and Cardiovascular Disease.
Co-Treasurer: Obdulio Vasquez-Bonilla
Obdulio Vasquez-Bonilla (he/him/his) is a first-year BSPH student in the Health Policy and Management department. He is excited to meet and network with rising professionals of color in the field of public health as well as helping increase access to Gillings BSPH and MPH programs to students of color across the country. He hopes to increase the representation of Latine public health professionals across the country and advocate for non-English-speaking individuals who face barriers to communicating their health needs.
Social Chair: Ariana Frazier
Ariana Frazier (she/her/hers) is a first-year MPH student in the Maternal, Child, and Family Health concentration and previously attended North Carolina State University for her undergraduate studies. She is excited to bring Gillings students together for fun get-togethers that strengthen our community! Her research interests include the impacts of increasing access to non-clinical methods of birthing support (e.g. community-based interventions, lactation education, doula support) for Black birthing people.
Publicity Chair: Laith Rayaan
Laith Rayaan (he/him/his) is a second-year BSPH student in the Nutrition department on the science and research track. Laith is delighted to join the Minority Student Caucus, bringing forward a meaningful Middle Eastern perspective and contributing to the rich diversity of our community. With a research focus on cellular metabolism and a keen interest in investigating the associations between obesity and cancer progression, Laith seeks to blend scientific inquiry with public health initiatives. By providing a platform that bridges cultural understanding and scientific research, he aspires to contribute to a future where each member’s voice and expertise are acknowledged and valued. Together with Laith, let’s explore the synergies of diverse narratives and research in sculpting a resilient and inclusive public health future.
Minority Health Conference Co-Chair: Ciera Thomas
Ciera Thomas (she/her/hers) is a second-year MPH student in the Global Health concentration and previously attended the University of Georgia for her undergraduate studies. This year she is excited to be able to meet and learn from new people. Ciera’s research interests include program monitoring and evaluation, health systems strengthening, and improving access to quality, comprehensive care for marginalized communities.
Minority Health Conference Co-Chair: Raven Walters
Raven Walters (she/her/hers) is a second-year MPH student in the Health Equity concentration and previously attended the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate studies. This year she is excited to network with other Gillings students and to cultivate experiences for students of color to feel heard, seen, and uplifted. Her research interests include maternal health and adolescent health.
Minority Health Conference Co-Chair: Bayan Abulabda
Bayan Abulabda (she/her/hers) is a first-year BSPH student in the Environmental Health
Science concentration. Bayan is excited to venture into Gillings, not just as a student, but as a
point of contact for fellow minority students to build a sense of community within our campus.
Her research interests include water sanitation and global health, sustainability in fashion, and
the cross-over between city planning and public health. Outside of Gillings, she enjoys boxing,
running, and watching soccer.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Patsy M. Poltson
Dr. Patsy M. Polston completed her MSPH (2011) and PhD (2015) from the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering with a minor in Health Behavior. As a student at Gillings, she had the honor of serving two-terms as the co-president of the Minority Student Caucus (MSC) (2009-2011) and as co-president of the Student Government (2014-2015). Currently, she serves as the faculty advisor for MSC and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior. Dr. Polston teaches an MPH core course that prepares students for “public health practice by introducing fundamental leadership skills necessary to advance equity and recognize and address bias in organizational settings.” Additionally, she teaches an undergraduate course focused on equity, ethics, and engagement for public health. She is passionate about mentoring students and committed to creating an inclusive learning environment where everyone can thrive. Her research interests explore the intersection of environmental and social determinants of health and involve understanding and addressing health inequities. In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Polston served as co-investigator for two community-based projects centered on reducing COVID-19 disparities that have disproportionately placed communities of color at greater risks for morbidity and mortality.