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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC: Health Policy Research Scholars Champion Racial Equity in Public Health

Ms. Jennifer Richmond and Mr. Samuel Baxter are doctoral candidates at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. They’re also emerging leaders with plans to make patient care — and the public health field — more equitable.

Ms. Richmond studies health behavior and Mr. Baxter studies health policy and management. In 2016, they were named Health Policy Research Scholars (HPRS) by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In late 2019, the HPRS program awarded competitive dissertation funding to both students, which supports the completion of their groundbreaking research.

Ms. Richmond’s dissertation seeks to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in lung cancer treatment and develop a measure for assessing medical mistrust among patients.

“With early-stage lung cancer, surgery is the only chance at a cure,” she explains. “Black patients are less likely to get that surgery. In my study, we’re conducting an intervention with nurse navigators who educate patients about their options, arrange transportation when needed, work through financial barriers and even follow up with patients who miss appointments.”

Mr. Baxter, meanwhile, is studying the connection between cardiovascular health and residential segregation among African-American and white young men. As he points out, most Americans live in segregated neighborhoods — and their differing environments may be tied to their likelihood of developing heart problems.

“This research is important because cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, and it’s especially prevalent among African-American men,” he says. “My study is unique because we’re only looking at young adults. My goal is to understand how the disease first takes hold and what we can do to prevent it.”

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