The Health Justice Scholars Program supports the development of Pitt Public Health scholars who have interests and/or projects in health equity and justice. This includes, but is not limited to, health equity research, policy, and practice in areas such as:
- Chronic disease
- Violence prevention
- Maternal and infant health
- Mental health
- Interventions focused on Black, Latinx, and communities of color
- Program Details
All current Pitt Public Health graduate students are eligible to apply and the 2023 application deadline is September 18.
Scholars have access to professional development and training opportunities with their peers and CHE-affiliated faculty and experts.
Scholars engage in monthly meetings to network with other Health Justice Scholars and CHE faculty.
Each scholar will receive a maximum stipend of $1000 for the year with an average time commitment of 2-4 hours per week.
Meet the 2022-23 Health Justice Scholars
- Donald Bourne, HPM PhD student
Donald Bourne is a fourth year MD/PhD student currently pursuing his PhD in Health Services Research and Policy. Before entering medical school, he earned an MPH in Epidemiology from Oregon Health and Science University and worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He believes that every system is designed to get the results it gets, and health care is no exception. As a future physician, Donald wants to practice medicine in a system that includes everybody, treats patients based on medical need instead of insurance status, and doesn't put patients into debt. His research focuses on alternative payment models, and he wants health disparities to be a major focus of their evaluation.
- Alyce Palko, BCHS MPH student
Alyce Palko is a first year MPH student from Somerset County, PA with a BA in public and professional writing and a community health assessment certificate from Pitt. Palko’s areas of professional interest include addressing health inequities facing rural areas and those related to COVID-19 prevention, in addition to health communication and health literacy.
Since February 2021, Palko has volunteered for the Cambria-Somerset COVID-19 Task Force, a community coalition of individuals and organizations focused on preventing COVID-19 in two southwestern PA counties with rural populations. She now serves on the Task Force executive committee.
Prior to beginning Pitt’s MPH program, Palko wrote for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Pitt Med Magazine. She also runs her own freelance editing business.
Palko said, “I am most looking forward to connecting and collaborating with other Health Justice Scholars and faculty of the program. I intend to expand my knowledge of best practices for designing equitable public health programs in partnership with rural communities, and I plan to advocate for improved pandemic preparedness and public health infrastructure that is created around a justice framework.”
- Antonio Gumucio, BCHS MPH student
Antonio Gumucio is an MPH candidate and research specialist for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. His current research efforts are focused on testing cardiac arrest interventions and promoting CPR education via the Center for Cardiac Arrest Survival (CCAS). While attending the School of Public health, he participated in Bridging the Gaps, providing health-centered community outreach to local underserved populations. Gumucio has previously served as chapter mentor for SACNAS and Medecins Sans Frontieres at Pitt, is former vice-president of the Global Health Student Association, as well as a founding member and former president of Street Medicine at Pitt, a student organization providing direct medical care to individuals experiencing homelessness. Gumucio volunteers at Operation Safety Net’s winter shelter and is committed to raising awareness on the numerous barriers experienced by rough sleepers.
In addition to his MPH, Antonio is completing certificates in Health Equity and Global Health. Through an equity inspired and global health lens. he hopes to use his education through the Health Justice Scholars Program to focus on environmental justice and barriers to care for vulnerable populations. Other public health concerns that Gumucio would like to tackle are street medicine, Indigenous Health, wilderness medicine, search and rescue (SAR), pre-hospital care EMS systems, disaster preparedness, management and emergency response.
Gumucio’s prior research experience includes the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the Maikuru project-repeat teen pregnancy prevention program, Vascular Medicine Institute, Safar Center for Resuscitation Research-traumatic brain injury (TBI), and Trauma Care in a Rucksack (TRACIR)-an autonomous trauma care system for battlefield and natural disaster deployment. Gumucio hopes to pursue a career in medicine and scientific research. Areas of interest are emergency medicine, surgery, plastics, trauma, and critical care.
- Fatimah Dixon, Epidemiology MPH student
Fatimah Dixon is a second-year MPH student raised in PG County, Maryland with a BA in medical anthropology and a statistics minor from Pitt (Class ‘22).
“I am a lifelong advocate of human rights for all. I hope to become a change agent for work within the community to uplift and center the voices of people who have been historically marginalized.”
Recognizing that health disparities exist beyond the classroom lecture, Dixon strives to engage with the community to understand their concerns about health issues directly. She understands that history shapes many of the health issues we see today, and she works to integrate racial equity solutions to repair these past injustices within community programs and services.
“I just want to help build healthier communities. I believe we have the resources to help anyone who needs it, but there’s still so many people left with unmet needs, and that is simply unacceptable.”
Dixon’s research examines historic displacement and gentrification of Black residents within Pittsburgh and its impact on Black maternal mortality and related adverse outcomes.
Dixon is eager to engage in health justice scholarship with her peers and build an inclusive community to discuss shared interests within the field.
- Gabriel Quinteros, BCHS MPH student
Gabriel Quinteros is a first year MPH/MSW student. He agrees with writer Taiye Selasi not to ask where he is from, but where is a local of and Quinteros is a local of Pittsburgh and has made thoughtful, intentional decisions to immerse himself in his new community.
"Some of the most important things in my life are my relationships," Quinteros said. "I look for ways to meaningfully participate in the community with my lived experiences and my desire to serve."
As a Health Justice Scholar, his vision is to identify and remove barriers to health care and mental health care, specifically at the intersection of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Many of his ideas take in the wisdom of indigenous peoples that inform healing and sustainability and build community. His work with a non-profit organizations in Pittsburgh focuses on removing barriers to outdoor exploration, and he looks forward to building on that model to promote health equity. Quinteros envisions a model of accessible pathways to mental health care connected to the land.
Quinteros is also an assistant researcher and developer with the Center on Race and Social Problems in the School of Social Work. In his work, Quinteros' passion in building consciousness on racial equity is paramount in his service with the Health Justice Scholars. Illuminating pathways and igniting passions in racial equity is a practice he is grateful for each day.
- Harika Dyer, Epidemiology MPH student
Harika Dyer is a second-year MPH student with undergraduate degrees in political science from Georgia State University and law from the University of the West Indies.
Harika found that her work in human rights and environmental sustainability had many intersections with the social determinants of health, which led to an interest in public health.
“The idea that every person has an inherent right to complete physical, mental, and social well-being really resonated with me. Too often that is not the reality for the people I work with. I became convinced that if I wanted to help my community, I needed to go upstream, understand drivers of inequity, and learn how to address them.”
Harika’s research interests relate to chronic disease inequities among African American and Afro-Caribbean persons, as well as the impact of data literacy and education policies on health outcomes. She supports the CDC-funded Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health program as a graduate student researcher and is a data literacy intern at the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center.
Harika is excited to learn from and collaborate with others who are passionate about health justice. She believes the program will provide an environment in which she can grow as a health equity researcher, program evaluator, and advocate.
- Previous Health Justice Scholars
“At my core, I am a health educator. However, I know that we can’t address health inequities by simply looking at the individual. We must interrogate the structural and historical causes that disproportionately impact the health of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks,” said Kayla Ortiz (BCHS ’23).“The most exciting aspect of my work is the continued mentorship, guidance, and community within the health advocacy space. As someone who has gained much insight from experienced researchers and community leaders, I hope to pass on my wisdom as a peer mentor to future public health professionals,” said Aparna Ramani (HPM ’23).“My focus on public health and equity is rooted in my lived experiences as a Black woman but more importantly, the centering of others’ experiences with oppression to let their narratives drive equity work,” explains Monica Henderson (BCHS ’22). Her interests include child health and racial equity and for her thesis she plans to explore Black hair politics and the impact on the health of Black youth.Sarah Scott (BCHS ’23) is a first year MPH student and Pittsburgh native who returned home after completing her undergraduate degree in psychology at Pepperdine University. “I am most looking forward to learning more about health equity theories and frameworks to better develop my research projects,” said Scott of joining the Health Justice Scholars program.“I am honored to be a part of the Health Justices Scholars program to continue learning racial health equity frameworks and approaches, and to expand my network in the region as we work to break down silos related to the social determinants of health and to improving the health system for those for whom it does not work,” said Amy Raslevich (HPM ‘22).Research with a health disparities focus is the core of Taylor Robinson's (EPI MPH '22) pursuits. She has been involved in research throughout college and in high school. In college, she was an intern in the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Internship and was a 2019 Amgen NIH Scholar. Her research topics have included patient-physician communication bias, linear regression correlates of behavioral change techniques for smoking cessation on Twitt...Julia Donnelly (BCHS MPH '21) is a second-year student who is also pursuing a Certificate in Health Equity. "After taking the Seminar in Health Equity, I developed an interest in studying the incarcerated and reentry populations. I am specifically interested in how racial disparities in policing, sentencing, incarceration, and lack of investment in social services supporting re-entry efforts affect the health of offenders, their families, and th..."Over the summer, I conducted my first qualitative research study to gauge the experiences sex workers have had with health care professionals and the barriers to obtaining regular health care," said Jamie Martina (BCHS MPH '23). "Preliminary findings showed that there was a desire to trust health care providers but that trust was not there due to historically being stigmatized in a health setting. So I applied for the Health Justice Scholars pr...Through the Health Justice Scholars program, Haley Director (HUGEN MPH '22) looks forward to engaging with the Spanish-speaking population in the Pittsburgh area to assess and address their needs. She plans to use her privilege and knowledge of the health care system to bring about systemic change and support those who have been historically marginalized and overlooked.Phoebe Balascio (EPI MS '21) is excited to participate in the Health Justice Scholars Program so that she can broaden her knowledge in health equity issues and deepen her critical thinking in her areas of interest.