RWJF Health Policy Scholars Program
The Health Policy Scholars Program offers MMC students in the School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, and School of Graduate Studies & Research, who have educational and research interests in health policy and social science research, the opportunity to participate in coursework, seminars and research activities leading to the completion of a Certificate in Health Policy to be awarded in conjunction with the student's declared academic program degree. Students must maintain a 3.00 GPA in their current academic program.
This program offers Meharry students from various disciplines the opportunity to expand their knowledge of health policy as it relates to health care planning, health care resource allocation, health maintenance, health promotion, health programs and interventions, and strategies specific to minority and underserved communities. Students learn from faculty of multiple specialties from both Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University. The program’s curriculum spans two years of training and includes a supplemental paid externship experience at a national organization.
FALL 2012 SCHOLARS
Italo Brown, MPH
Italo Brown, MPH, 2012-13 recipient of the Gabriel F. and Harriett B. Lefebvre Endowed Memorial Scholarship, is a second-year student in Meharry's School of Medicine, and previously completed a Meharry post-baccalaureate program. A Sacramento, California native and Morehouse College graduate (B.S. in biology), he received a master of public health with dual concentrations in epidemiology and social and behavioral sciences from the Boston University School of Public Health where he worked with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition (MCCCC) to launch the first-ever Massachusetts Cancer Survivorship Summit. Current research interests include health policy, innovative health IT, and disruptive health care delivery models.
Damien Cuffie, M.P.H.
First-year dental student and New Orleans native Damien L. Cuffie earned a B.S. in biology from Xavier University and a master of public health (MPH) with a concentration in health policy and systems management from Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. While at LSU, Damien worked with the Louisiana Models for Change-System Reform in Juvenile Justice and published a white paper on Evidence Based Practices for Juvenile Justice Reform in Louisiana. He also worked with the LSU Health Services Division and Louisiana Office of Public Health in disease management on projects including the Louisiana Public Health Information Exchange (LaPHIE) and the Medical Informatics and Telemedicine program. He is the 2012-2013 recipient of the Joseph L. Henry NDAF/Colgate-Palmolive Scholarship, the 2012-2013 MLK Essay Scholarship as well as the Dr. Cyril O. Spann Scholarship. Career interests include oral health policy, education and promotion, healthcare management, and cultural competency.
Timothy D. Guinn
Timothy D. Guinn is a first-year student in the MSPH program. He earned a bachelor's of science degree in kinesiology from Morehouse College.
Eddie Hackler III
Eddie Hackler III recently completed Meharry Medical College's post baccalaureate program and entered the School of Medicine where he is currently a first-year student. Eddie is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio in 2011.
DeMarquis O. Loyd
DeMarquis O. Loyd, a third-year student in Meharry's School of Dentistry, is a native of El Dorado, Arkansas. DeMarquis is the recipient of the Drs. Herbert and Mildred C. Harris Scholarship (2010, 2011) and a Dr. Joseph L. Henry Scholar through the National Dental Association Foundation Colgate-Palmolive Scholarship (2010, 2011). He earned a master's in biomedical science (M.B.S.) in 2010 from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Illinois. In 2007, DeMarquis earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he held honors as a Coca-Cola National Scholar. DeMarquis is vice president of the Meharry chapter of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). Additionally, he is the 2012-2013 president-elect for the 100 Black Men of Meharry.
Maria C. Mejia de Grubb, MD, MPH
Maria C. Mejia de Grubb, MD, MPH, a Medellin, Colombia native and second-year preventive medicine resident at Meharry, received a $4,000 nine-month mini-grant from the CDC-sponsored American Psychological Association Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities Program (SESRCD). Her project, "Training Resident Physicians to Address Cancer-Related Health Disparities," develops an educational module targeting primary care and preventive medicine physicians, introducing them to evidence-based practical strategies in minority-population cancer care, and providing them with basic knowledge in addressing cancer-related health disparities. Dr. Mejia de Grubb's interests also include Hispanic and minority populations, cultural competency, health education, and healthy lifestyle promotion in underserved communities.
Vanessa C. Nwaozo
Vanessa C. Nwaozo is a third-year medical student with interest in pediatric gastroenterology and endocrinology. Born and raised in Austin, Texas to Nigerian immigrants, Vanessa is the oldest of five children. She has a B.S. in health from the University of Houston and in 2012 launched her own online company, Sisterly Hair, which caters to the beauty and hair industry.
Irwine Sainvil, MS
Irwine Sainvil, MS is pursuing a D.D.S. degree from the School of Dentistry at Meharry Medical College. She earned a bachelor's degree in biomedical sciences and a master's degree in medical sciences from the University of South Florida.
Rachel G. Smith
Rachel G. Smith, from Point Fortin, Trinidad in the West Indies, is a first-year student in the MSPH program. Rachel received a B.S. degree in exceptional student education with ESOL endorsement from Florida International University in 2004. After teaching with North Miami Beach Senior High School for five years, Rachel became the lead teacher for a marine biology program—M.A.R.R.I.N.E (Marine Academy for Research and Recreation in Nautical Environments)—and a marine biology honors teacher for the Biomedical Environmental Advanced Magnet (BEAM) program. Rachel desires to be an advocate for underprivileged citizens.
Nefertari Terrill-Jones is a Kansas City, Kansas native and a May 2012 magna cum laude graduate of Howard University, where she received a bachelor's of science degree in sports medicine, with a minor in chemistry. While at Howard, Nefertari was a member of the dean's honor roll from 2008 to 2012. She was also a member of Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity-D.C. Alpha chapter, Misses at Meridian Outreach Society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Throughout the year, Nefertari works with the Children's Defense Fund, serving as an Ella Baker Trainer for the Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute during the summer.
Rebbie S. Timmons
Rebbie S. Timmons is a second-year student from North Carolina, enrolled in the master of science in public health program. She is a graduate of Winston Salem State University where she majored in exercise science. Rebbie has interned with the American College of Healthcare Executives, a health administration association that strives to advance members and healthcare management excellence. In addition to her summer internships, she is a student health ambassador of the HBCU Wellness Project. Upon completion of the MSPH program and the health policy scholars program, Rebbie plans to pursue a career in healthcare management with an emphasis on quality and safety initiatives and health care policy.
Shanele C. Williams
Shanele C. Williams is a junior in Meharry's School of Dentistry. She is a native of Jamaica and a first-generation college graduate of the University of Florida, receiving a bachelor's of science degree in integrative biology and a minor in Spanish in 2007. Following graduation, she earned public health certification from UF while a laboratory manager for the UF Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Williams developed interest in public health issues through her volunteer experiences, where she gained insight into the need for increased healthcare access and health education efforts. She plans to contribute to dental public health research throughout her career, focusing on providing oral health education and care to the underserved.
Nadia Winston was awarded the Albert W. Dent Graduate Student Scholarship ($5,000) from the Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). The annual scholarship—in honor of the first African-American Fellow of ACHE—is for minorities enrolled in their final year of a healthcare management graduate program. Ms. Winston, a second-year student in Meharry's master of science in public health program and Memphis native, earned a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Rhodes College. With interests in the epidemiology of infectious and communicable diseases, health program management, and health policy, she hopes to become a nurse practitioner.
FALL 2011 SCHOLARS
Sydne Ford is a medical student at Meharry Medical College who plans to use her medical degree to not only treat patients, but to promote health literacy and education among minority communities. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Sydne is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology. While there, Sydne worked to improve her local and cultural communities by volunteering and participating in research at the University of Michigan Geriatrics Center to help decrease health and health care disparities. Sydne’s academic interests include preventive medicine, childhood obesity, and health education and promotion.
Lamercie Saint Hilaire
Lamercie Saint Hilaire is a medical student at Meharry Medical College who aspires to aid in the elimination of health disparities through a combination of patient education, holistic medicine, and health advocacy. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, she plans to pursue a career in family medicine. Lamercie’s passions include preventive medicine, nutrition, public health, and global health.
Ballington Kinlock is a doctoral candidate in the biomedical sciences program in Meharry’s School of Graduate Studies and Research who said he values the center's health policy scholars program as a career step toward focusing not only on biological aspects of health disparities but on effecting policy changes to decrease those differences. From Brooklyn, New York by way of Jamaica, Wisconsin, he graduated with honors from The City University of New York-Medgar Evers College with a B.S. degree in biology. A program funded by the National Institutes of Health allowed him to conduct cancer research in the Nanjing Key Lab of genomics at Nanjing Medical University in China. He is researching his dissertation at Meharry’s Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research.
Movado Long is a medical student at Meharry Medical College from Chicago, Illinois whose research interests include diabetes and high blood pressure. He attended Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi and successfully completed the post baccalaureate program at Meharry Medical College in May 2011.
Letitia Lyons, M.S.
Calling Newport News, Virginia home, Letitia Lyons is a student in Meharry Medical College’s School of Medicine. Prior to matriculating to Meharry, she received a B.S. degree in biology and an M.S. degree in education with an emphasis in sport management from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. She is assisting with research exploring ovarian failure due to chemotherapy treatment.
Brandon Morgan is a student in Meharry’s School of Dentistry whose interests include orthodontics, dental public health, education, and health policy. He received his B.S. degree in biology from Emory University and taught physical and environmental science at Mundy’s Mill High School in Jonesboro, Georgia. Brandon began at Meharry Medical College in 2009. In addition to obtaining a position in the third cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy, Brandon belongs to the American Dental Association, The Student National Dental Association, and the Ewell Neil Dental Society.
Jake Porter, M.D.
Jake Porter is a 2012 Meharry School of Medicine graduate with high honors, also receiving a certificate in health policy. He was a Fall 2011 health policy scholar while a fourth year medical student at Meharry. With Decatur, Georgia as his hometown, he received his bachelor of science degree in biology at the University of Georgia in 2005. In 2007, Jake completed the master of public health program at Georgia State University. He has a strong interest in health policy, especially as it relates to orthopedics, his field of residency.
Roxanne Rich is a medical student at Meharry with academic interests including health policy, pediatrics, and neurology. Her interest in health policy, she said, stems from a desire to combat health disparities and provide adequate health care for all. Originally from Powell Butte, Oregon, she graduated summa cum laude from Washington State University in May 2009 with a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience, emphasis on pre-medicine. Roxanne is a member of both the American Medical Student Association and the Student National Medical Association. After graduation, she plans to pursue a residency in pediatrics.
Lakeisha C. Tillery
Lakeisha C. Tillery is a doctoral student in the department of microbiology and immunology at Meharry Medical College. Her ultimate career goal is to become an interdisciplinary scientist for the Food and Drug Administration. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she graduated from the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore with a B.S. degree in biology after becoming a certified nursing assistant. Following graduation she worked for Agencourt Biosciences as a genomic fellow in the research and development department and at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as a research assistant in the department of neurobiology. Her research thesis at Meharry focuses on delineating novel signaling pathways within the human endothelium responsible for endothelial dysfunction and vascular inflammation.
Tulani Washington-Plaskett is a medical student at Meharry Medical College, introduced to the world of medicine through her mother, an internal medicine physician, and her father, a nurse anesthetist. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Tulani attended Temple University and received a bachelor’s of science degree in biology. She went on to receive a master’s of science degree in forensic science at Drexel University.
Christopher Watson, M.P.H.
Christopher Watson, M.P.H., is a second-year medical student at Meharry Medical College from Dothan, Alabama. Christopher holds a B.S. in biopsychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a masters of public health (M.P.H.) from Georgia State University. He plans to use his training in the Health Policy Scholars Program to become a rural health advocate working against the ever-enlarging health gap in the rural south. He hopes to contribute to reducing the health gap that engulfs his own African-American community by gaining the tools and insights needed to develop sound health policies and create a medical practice focused on compassionate and outstanding patient care.
SPRING 2011 SCHOLARS
Danielle Brown was a Spring 2011 health policy scholar and a 2012 honors graduate of Meharry’s master of science in public health program with primary interests in health promotion and education, and health care administration. She also received her certificate in health policy. In May 2010, she received her bachelor of science in biology, chemistry minor, from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Upon graduation from Meharry, Danielle's aspirations included working with an organization with a mission focus of eliminating preventable health problems through education—particularly HIV and STD infections in young adults.
Janie Charleston, M.S.P.H.
Janie Charleston was a 2012 graduate of Meharry’s master of science in public health program with a goal of becoming a clinical dietitian with interests in obesity, food safety and sanitation, and health promotion. Janie received a certificate in health policy and was a Spring 2011 health policy scholar. A native of Linden, Alabama, Janie Charleston received her bachelor of science degree with honors in nutrition and hospitality management from Alabama A&M University. Awards there included the Outstanding Senior Award from the Alabama American Dietetic Association, deans list, and the Outstanding Student Award from the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management. She was the secondary author of a poster on a national water program research project in conservation and resource management titled “A Comparison of Total Coli form, E. Coli, and Entercocci in Surface Water Located in Madison County, Alabama.”
Originally from Aiea, Hawaii, Cheryl Chun is a medical student at Meharry Medical College with an interest in health policy going back to her experiences as a teacher in a Washington, D.C. high-needs community. In May 2006, after receiving her bachelor of science degree from George Washington University (computer science with a premedical concentration) Cheryl taught for two years as part of a commitment to Teach for America in Washington, D.C., during which she received a master’s of arts degree in teaching from American University with a concentration in secondary mathematics. Seeing her students overcome challenges outside of school to be successful in the classroom inspired her in helping similar communities. Deciding to pursue a career in medicine, she earned a master’s of sciences degree in biomedical sciences from Barry University in Miami, Florida. A Spring 2011 health policy scholar, Cheryl believes the program will give her deeper understanding of issues facing high-needs communities and help her to better serve them.
Camillia Comeaux M.S.P.H.
Camilla Comeaux is a 2012 graduate with high honors of Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy. She was a Spring 2011 health policy scholar. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Camilla earned her bachelor of science degree in biology in May 2009 and graduate certificate in public health in May 2010 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her interest in health policy stems from recognition of the importance of policy-making in developing a more efficient system of public health practice while focusing on the improvement of the community. With the knowledge and skills gained from the health policy certificate program, she plans to manage a facility that serves communities in any capacity that promotes healthy behaviors, preventive medicine, and disease treatment for impoverished and underserved individuals.
Kyle Gardner, M.S.P.H.
Kyle Gardner is a 2012 graduate with high honors of Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy. He was a Spring 2011 health policy scholar. His first experience in the public health field occurred when he worked as an intern at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. One of his aspirations is to become a physician specializing in primary or preventive care for underserved communities, with the career goal to become director of a major city’s public health department. Kyle graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor of science degree in molecular biology and biochemistry. He then conducted research at Abbott Laboratories, testing the chemical properties and optimal dosage for Erythromycin and Kaletra. Kyle has engaged and volunteered in a variety of organizations in order to interact and understand problems that plague communities. He is interested in finding solutions to health disparities among African Americans.
Ashley Huderson, Ph.D.
Ashley Huderson, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, sucessfully defended her doctoral dissertation on Friday, March 1, 2013 in the Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology at Meharry Medical College. Upon completion of a bachelor of science in chemistry from Spelman College, Ashley enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Meharry Medical College in 2006. As a student in the biochemistry and cancer biology department, her work centered on colon cancer. Her research project, “Mechanisms underlying the chemo-prevention of benzo(a)pyrene [BaP]- induced colon carcinogenesis by resveratrol [RVT],” looks at the chemoprevention effects of resveratrol on colon cancer induced by Benzo(a)pyrene. Upon completion of her doctoral degree at Meharry she plans to further her training with a post-doctoral fellowship at a cancer research institute. Beginning June 3, 2013, Ashley will be working at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center as a tumor biology post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr.Lucile Adams-Campbell. After post-doctoral training, she hopes to conduct cancer-related research at a minority institution in advancing those establishments as well-known research facilities.
Christopher Tran, M.D.
Christopher Tran is a 2012 medical school graduate with high honors from Meharry Medical College, also receiving a certificate in health policy. He was a Fall 2011 health policy scholar at the center while a third year medical student. Originally from southern California, Tran received his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Southern California. With a strong history of community service and didactic experience, Tran desires to use his professional position to encourage health care literacy among less-informed populations. His academic areas of interest were otolaryngology, health care policy education, and pedagogy.
Jacqueline Watkins is a 2012 honors graduate of Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program whose main research interests are obesity, fitness, nutrition, chronic disease, and health care for the undeserved. She was a Spring 2011 health policy scholar at the center, receiving her health policy certificate. She received her bachelor of science in community health from the University of Illinois. She completed an internship with Dr. Napoleon Knight, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Carle Foundational Hospital where she researched sleep apnea and childhood obesity. Jacqueline's thesis research focused on the development of cervical cancer in women aged 16-24. She plans to continue her education and become a nurse practitioner.
SPRING 2010 SCHOLARS
Amirah Abdullah is a 2011 high honors graduate of Meharry Medical College's master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy. She was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center. A native of Moreno Valley, California, Amirah is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University where she earned a bachelors of science degree in biology with a minor in public health. As an honor student during her time there, she was also an active member in many organizations that supported her goal to become a physician. She has worked as a regional research assistant trainee (RRAT) at the Institute for Faith-Health Leadership (IFHL)/Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) where she worked on the Louisiana Environmental Justice Faith Response Study. She is committed to disease prevention and health promotion, particularly among African-American women and children.
Naa Ayele Amponsah is a 2011 graduate with highest honors from Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy. She was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center. Amponsah is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she majored in biology. She interned in research laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School. In addition to her summer internships, she received a health policy certificate from the Five College Culture, Health and Science program. As a Cleveland, Ohio native, she has also volunteered as an HIV counselor at The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland where she provided outreach and support to those most vulnerable to infection. She plans to continue her studies in public health by obtaining a doctorate of public health degree with an emphasis on health care policy and management.
Orville Newton-Ray Bignall II, M.D.
Orville Newton-Ray Bignall II is a 2011 medical school graduate with high honors from Meharry Medical College pursuing a career in pediatrics and global health. A Fall 2011 health policy scholar at the center while a third year medical student, he also received his certificate in health policy. A summa cum laude graduate of Howard University, in Washington, D.C., Orville completed his bachelor’s degree in three years. Academic interests include early childhood and adolescent intervention in urban communities, health literacy, and global health policy.
Kevin Blythe, M.S.P.H.
Kevin Blythe entered medical school at Meharry Medical College in 2009 in pursuit of a doctor of medicine degree. He was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar. Kevin is a Southfield, Michigan native, a graduate of the University of Michigan, and a recipient of the 2005 National Merit Achievement Scholarship. Prior to his 2009 graduation with a degree in cellular and molecular biology Kevin was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and a founding member and president of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity’s, Epsilon Chapter. Among his talents, Blythe also speaks Japanese.
Kenisha Rose Cantrell, M.S.P.H.
Kenisha Rose Cantrell is a 2011 graduate of Meharry Medical College's master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy and graduating with high honors. She was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center. Originally from Atlanta, she graduated cum laude from Alabama A & M University with a bachelor’s of science in food science and technologies and a minor in chemistry. She plans to begin work toward a doctorate in environmental health sciences.
Eleanor Fleming, D.D.S., M.A., Ph.D.
Having earning her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in political science from Vanderbilt University, Eleanor Fleming received her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at Meharry in 2011, also acquiring a certificate in health policy. She was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center and an Ingram Scholar. A native of Franklin, Tennessee, she has been involved in her local community in various capacities. Eleanor led an oral health awareness campaign in Williamson County, Tennessee, providing dental screenings to community groups. Fleming’s aspirations include working with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, or in a similar position shaping the nation’s oral health policy.
Joelle Goggans, M.S.P.H.
Joelle Goggans is a 2011 high honors graduate of Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy. She was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center. A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana she received her bachelor’s degree in biology. While at Xavier, she participated and held positions in many organizations while performing community service throughout the city of New Orleans as the city continued recovering from Hurricane Katrina. During her time at Meharry, Joelle served as a research interviewer in the department of epidemiology at Vanderbilt University.
Piia T. Hanson, M.S.P.H.
Originally from Texas, Piia T. Hanson is a 2011 graduate with highest honors of Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program. She enrolled at Meharry after ten years in academic research. Piia also received her health policy certificate as a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center, her interests focused in health policy and administration. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in biology from Xavier University of Louisiana, she began her research career studying the role of the beta cell in the pathophysiology of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Khalil Harbi, M.D., M.S.P.H.
Khalil Harbi, is a 2011 graduate with highest honors of Meharry Medical College’s master of science in public health program, also receiving a certificate in health policy. He was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center. Khalil received his doctorate from the University of Hassan II (Casablanca, Morocco). While participating in research projects related to improving diabetes care in the Hispanic community in Nashville, he decided to pursue a master of science in public health and a health policy certificate at Meharry. His interests are global health policies and medical anthropology.
Asher A. Turney, M.D., M.B.A., M.S.P.H.
Asher A. Turney is a 2011 graduate of Meharry Medical College's master of science in public health program, graduating with high honors. He also received his certificate in health policy. He was a Spring 2010 health policy scholar at the center. He graduated magna cum laude from a joint medical program between Fisk University and Meharry Medical College in 1999. He completed his doctor of medicine degree with numerous honors. During his academic studies, he was inducted into Beta Kappa Chi Biological Honor Society and the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. In 2002, he matched in neurosurgery to Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and in June 2009, Dr. Turney became an occupational medicine fellow at Meharry Medical College where he entered Meharry’s masters of science in public health program. His interests include community-based approaches to health care and the use of health policy to promote quality, affordable, and accessible health care. Asher was literally born on the campus of Meharry Medical College where he says he was introduced early in life to a health care career.