Meet all 15 finalists and learn more about their projects.

MPH for Health Professionals student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A culturally tailored bereavement curriculum emphasizing mental health care and advanced care planning for the Filipino American community.

Angela Rose David is a first-generation Filipino American, born and raised in Los Angeles, California, with familial ties to the Philippines (Oriental Mindoro and Bulacan).

David graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a BS in Biology and a double minor in Spanish and Public Health. After spending two years interning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on projects related to public health education and COVID-19 preparedness, she went on to complete a pre-medical post-baccalaureate program at UCLA, followed by a yearlong NIMHD T37 Minority International Research Training fellowship at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Utilizing these experiences, David now works at UCLA full-time as the project manager for a lab that explores health disparities affecting the Filipino immigrant population. She is also enrolled full-time in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s Master of Public Health for Health Professionals program.

Photo of Angela Rose David

Caring for my grandparents during the COVID-19 pandemic taught me how intergenerational support networks become more crucial as people age. In the context of illness, it is especially important to understand a person’s cultural perspectives on death and dying. I want to prepare households to respond to death, as well as natural and human-caused disasters of a post-pandemic era. Through the Health Equity Challenge, I hope to develop a culturally tailored bereavement curriculum emphasizing mental health care and advance care planning, thereby equipping the Filipino/Filipino American community with the social support and knowledge needed to protect and support themselves and each other in the face of future traumas.

MPH in Health Policy and Management student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A training program for health care providers and community health workers working with unhoused pregnant women.

Samantha Deveaux

Samantha Deveaux is currently a first-year student pursuing a Master of Public Health in the Health Policy and Management program at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

At UCLA, Deveaux serves on the board of the Reproductive Health Interest Group (RHIG), and volunteers alongside the Mobile Clinic Project. Her passion lies in addressing social justice issues and advocating for health equity. Within research, she is dedicated to enhancing access to high-quality healthcare for underserved populations, with a specific emphasis on reproductive health

Deveaux holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with a minor in Infection Control from the University of South Florida. During her undergraduate career, she conducted research on health care disparities in the U.S., concentrating on the Tampa Bay area. At the time, Deveaux served as a patient relations coordinator at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital before transitioning to a program coordinator role in the Department of Infectious Disease and International Medicine at the University of South Florida upon graduation.

Maternal mortality rates, particularly within low-income communities of color, have remained consistently high, underscoring the need for immediate change. My goal is to enhance access to equitable maternal health care within the most vulnerable populations in the Los Angeles area. Through the Health Equity Challenge, I hope to meet individuals where they are by introducing a training program for health care providers to equip them with the knowledge necessary to deliver compassionate and equitable care, regardless of background or circumstances.

MD student, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Project: A pilot program that incorporates point-of-care ultrasound into street-side services for people experiencing homelessness.

Em Dickey is pursuing her MD in hopes of doing her part to build a world where when we die and how much we suffer along the way is not dictated by hierarchies that place the worth of some human lives above others. A guiding question she uses to decide how to spend her life is: “Am I learning to work in community with friends to upend systems of oppression?” If the answer is yes, she goes for it.

Dickey received her BA in Anthropology at Willamette University and her EdM in Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She worked as Program Director for the Chemawa Indian School-Willamette University Partnership, a mentoring program serving Native American youth; collected stories about intergenerational trauma and nomadic practices as a tool for healing on the Innu reserves of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish in Labrador, Canada as a Fulbright Scholar; supported a Nepali NGO serving women survivors of wartime violence as a Luce Scholar; and created curricula for community health workers with Compañeros en Salud (Partners in Health Mexico).

Dickey plans to train in emergency medicine to accompany and serve people who are underinsured, struggling with substance use disorders, and experiencing cyclical violence.

Emily Dickey

Growing up in rural southern Oregon, I watched how patterns of intergenerational trauma, untreated mental health and substance use disorders weave together and shape families, including my own. I watched from afar, and felt the reverberations up close, as a member of my family struggled with cycles of incarceration and homelessness in Los Angeles. Beginning medical school in LA, my desire to understand how these patterns play out here, in this complex and enormous city, and to understand where I could best fit in to be of service, compelled me to join the Mobile Clinic Project at UCLA. I hope to improve healthcare outcomes for people experiencing homelessness by providing radically nonjudgmental streetside care to people whose trauma histories and socioeconomic status too often make accessing healthcare in formal settings all but impossible.

MS in Health Policy and Management student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A veteran’s garden that increases access to safe outdoor spaces for veterans to heal and gain support navigating post-service life and employment, and access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to support their health needs.

Katie Fruin headshot

Katie Fruin, MD, is a recent graduate of the UCLA Internal Medicine VA-Primary Care program and currently pursuing her Master of Science in Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health through UCLA’s Preventive Medicine fellowship.

Fruin is passionate about leveraging economic development as a pathway to improving population health. Among her areas of interest is how the rise of diet-related disease can be mitigated through creating employment across the food system and subsidies that promote access to heathy, nutritious food.

Through the Health Equity Challenge, she looks forward to learning from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research team and other finalists about innovative strategies to promote health equity.

During my fourth year of medical school, someone I loved passed away from suicide. While I cycled through different stages of grief, I realized I had to stop asking myself, ‘What could I have done differently?’ and instead start asking, ‘What can I do differently?’ At the time, I was also navigating the residency application process. As I traveled across the country interviewing, it became clear that the health system most passionate about suicide prevention and treating complex trauma was the Veterans Health Administration.

MD and MBA student, Charles R. Drew/Program in Medical Education for Leadership and Advocacy (PRIME-LA), David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Anderson School of Management

Project: A sustainable virtual group prenatal care program for pregnant patients at the West Medical Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic (West-Med), providing educational classes accessible to patients in either English or Spanish.

Samantha Garcia is an MD/MBA candidate at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Anderson School of Management, completing her education as an L.A. Cares’ Elevating the Safety Net Scholar and Consortium Fellow. She is a part of the UCLA/Charles R. Drew University Medical Education and PRIME-LA Programs, which are shaping her into a future physician leader for under-resourced communities.

Garcia is a proud first-generation student and daughter of an immigrant mother from Mexico and father from Puerto Rico. Her identity has driven her to be actively engaged in the Latino Medical Student Association Western Region, where she serves as Director-Elect. Garcia also enjoys teaching, an interest that stems from her eight years of leading health education programs at St. John’s Community Health, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Peer Health Exchange. As a medical student she has merged her interest in teaching and medical education by serving as an anatomy TA, clinical mentor, and tutor for her medical school peers.

Ultimately, Garcia’s goal is to become an OBGYN and combine her medical and business knowledge to improve the overall quality and accessibility of women’s healthcare services for communities made vulnerable.

Garcia earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies and Master of Science in Global Medicine from the University of Southern California.

Samantha Garcia headshot

As an aspiring OBGYN, I am driven by a commitment to health equity, particularly in the context of women’s health. In partnership with my mentor, Dr. Maria Paula Arias, I aim to implement a sustainable virtual group prenatal care program at the UCLA West Medical Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic, which predominantly serves a low-income and publicly insured population. Through the Health Equity Challenge, I hope to evaluate the program’s impact on patient satisfaction and obstetrical outcomes, contributing to the broader goal of improving accessibility, efficiency, and quality of prenatal care delivery.

MPH in Community Health Sciences student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A toolkit used in medical education settings to increase LGBTQIA+ youth and adults’ access to sexual and mental health services and gender-affirming care.

Zurisadai Inzunza

Zurisadai Inzunza is a second-year MPH student at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in the Community Health Sciences department. Their community’s experience and lived experiences as a non-binary Latine young adult navigating health services in the Inland Empire, drew them into the health care field.

During their time as a clinical leader at a student-run free clinic in Tijuana and conducting their senior thesis on LGBTQ+ medical education, they were able to solidify their passion and interests in public health. They hope to continue addressing health equity for minority populations in practice, research, and advocacy in their local and global communities.

Inzunza currently serves as a UCLA FSPH EDI Fellow, Secretary for Community Health Sciences Student Association (CHSSA), UCLA LGBT SRC Advocacy Committee Member, and Social Services Navigation Co-Chair for the UCLA Mobile Health Clinic Project.

Inzunza is a first-generation student who graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor of science in Global Health.

I chose this topic because I believe that addressing gaps in LGBT health medical education is long overdue. I hope that this project can equip the future of medicine to go beyond cultural competencies and strive for cultural humility to build an environment in which LGBTQ+ individuals can feel supported and affirmed by those they seek care from.

MS in Health Policy and Management student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and Fellow, UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program

Project: A peer specialist program that would complement existing jail diversion programs and improve care for people experiencing homelessness and criminal justice system involvement.

Dr. Salmaan Kamal, MD, was raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and he attended Princeton University with a focus on global health and health policy. After graduation, Kamal worked as a policy associate at the National Coalition on Health Care in Washington, D.C., where he advocated for policy reform that improved value in the U.S. health care system.

Kamal attended medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he led the student-run free clinic for the uninsured. He completed internal medicine residency and chief residency at UAB Hospital, where he revamped the advocacy curriculum and completed the Society of General Internal Medicine’s Leadership in Health Policy Program.

Kamal is currently a fellow of the UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program, a fellowship inspired by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program that is committed to addressing the largest inequities in the U.S. health care system. He is passionate about improving care for people experiencing homelessness, people who use drugs, and people exposed to the criminal legal system.

Outside of work, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Salmaan Kamal

The incarceration-to-homelessness cycle is pervasive and harmful to the health of our community. I hope to strengthen jail diversion and housing programs, which have been shown to break this cycle, by implementing a peer navigator initiative led by individuals with lived experience of homelessness and criminal legal system involvement.

MPH in Health Policy and Management student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: An educational resource for Black and African American parents called the “Birthing Medical Rights Booklet,” so that Black expectant parents would have the knowledge to access adequate care and resources.

Mohammad Khorgamphar headshot

Mohammad Khorgamphar is a second-year Master of Public Health candidate with a concentration in Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Currently, Khorgamphar serves as a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, where his focus is on investigating health equity and disparities within the aging population of California.

Khorgamphar is deeply committed to addressing health inequalities and injustices, with a focus on enhancing the quality of care within underserved and disadvantaged communities.

Khorgamphar’s professional background includes valuable experience at the UCLA Health system and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. In these roles, he actively contributed to both clinical and governmental sectors.

As an aspiring physician and public health professional, Khorgamphar is dedicated to improving the quality of patient-centered care and optimizing the utilization of public health resources. His passion lies in providing compassionate care while simultaneously working towards systemic improvements in the healthcare delivery landscape.

Racism and discrimination wield considerable influence, leading to the erosion of trust and hindering individuals from receiving proper care. Unfortunately, specific populations, including African Americans, Latinos, and those with lower incomes, bear the brunt of these negative impacts, receiving inadequate services despite deserving better. The objective of this intervention is to educate these populations about their medical rights, emphasizing the importance of being treated with integrity, listened to without judgment, and having access to resources and services that facilitate seeking additional support.

MD and MPH student, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A culturally-sensitive and culturally-relevant mental health education curriculum that combines a focus on nutrition, sleep, and regular physical activity with traditional Chinese medicine for youth in the San Gabriel Valley.

Michelle Ko is currently completing her MD/MPH degree at UCLA. Growing up in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, an Asian ethnic enclave, as the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Ko learned of the importance of culturally sensitive and competent healthcare from a young age.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology from Harvard College and completed a Fulbright grant teaching English to elementary school students in Taiwan. Through her own educational experiences and from her later experiences teaching grade school students in various settings, Ko saw how education systems, and their resources can play critical roles in perpetuating or disrupting cycles of health inequity amongst young people.

Ko aspires to become a physician who will collaborate interdisciplinarily in public health through research and collaboration to increase cultural sensitivity and considerations for patient care and to further expand access to health education and care.

Michelle Ko

Asian Americans, especially immigrants and those with immigrant parents, have been shown to face significant disparities with regards to mental health outcomes and treatments, beginning at an early age. As such, Asian ethnic enclaves such as the San Gabriel Valley face unique health challenges, yet also present unique opportunities. Here, we propose the creation, implementation, and evaluation of a more culturally-sensitive and culturally-relevant mental health education curriculum for youths in the San Gabriel Valley.

MD and MPH in Health Policy and Management student, Program in Medical Education for Leadership and Advocacy (PRIME-LA), David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A multifaceted program that encompasses educational outreach, community engagement, and increased access to automated external defibrillators to address CPR disparities for people who live in public housing.

Monica Le

Monica Le is a first-generation medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in the Program in Medical Education for Leadership and Advocacy (PRIME-LA). She grew up in Riverside County and is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants. Witnessing her family’s experience as non-English speaking, low-income immigrants in health care instilled in her a passion for health justice for vulnerable populations.

Le is in the dual degree MD/MPH program, which trains future physicians dedicated to addressing health disparities in underserved communities. She hopes to utilize her knowledge and skills to improve health equity and justice for underserved communities, primarily through leadership, advocacy, and policy efforts.

Le is interested in emergency medicine and is currently involved with research and projects related to point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS), medical education outreach, and bystander CPR. She is currently an Emergency Medicine Interest Group (EMIG) student leader and works as a College Academic Mentor (CAM) for the Center for Academic Advising at UCLA College, where she counsels and mentors undergraduate students.

Currently, Le is in the one-year Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management program at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and will be returning as a fourth-year medical student to DGSOM in June 2024.

I witnessed the inequities experienced by minorities in low-income communities resulting from structural barriers that unfairly worsen health outcomes. The consequences of such injustice became evident when my grandmother passed away from cardiac arrest because my family lacked awareness and understanding of bystander CPR and AED unavailability. I hope to collaborate with the Health Equity Challenge to create a sustainable intervention that addresses CPR disparities in underserved communities.

MD and MPH in Health Policy and Management student, Program in Medical Education for Leadership and Advocacy (PRIME-LA), David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A nutrition and food gardening curriculum program for low-income older adults in the South Los Angeles area.

Bethlehem Michael is a medical student at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine in the dual-degree Program in Medical Education-Leadership and Advocacy (PRIME-LA). She graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Global Health.

Michael is passionate about health justice and pursuing health equity for vulnerable and under-resourced communities, particularly through a career in internal medicine. She is specifically interested in addressing health disparities in digestive diseases and nutrition.

She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Bethlehem Michael

I chose this specific area of health equity, inspired by a desire to address health disparities in the realm of food access and nutrition. By implementing a food gardening curriculum at a community park, I aim to empower older adults in under-resourced communities with the knowledge and skills to cultivate their own nutritious produce. Through this project, I aspire to foster sustainable health practices, enhance social connectedness, and contribute to the broader goal of creating equitable access to locally sourced food.

MPH in Community Health Sciences student, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: Spill the Chai Ma, a program for pregnant and new South Asian mothers (six months postpartum) in Los Angeles County, focused on dismantling the intergenerational stigma surrounding mental health within South Asian communities.

Supraja Saravanakumar

Supraja Saravanakumar is a second-year Master’s in Public Health candidate in the department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

While pursuing her undergraduate studies at UC Davis in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, she piloted a campus-based harm reduction campaign for safe marijuana use, following the legalization of recreational marijuana in California in 2016, which is where she discovered her passion for public health. Following graduation, with an interest in the bench to bedside perspective in medicine, she worked as a Research Associate at City of Hope, developing CAR-T cell therapy models for melanoma and glioblastoma.

Currently, as a Maternal and Child Health fellow at the MCH Center of Excellence, Saravanakumar collaborates with Curamericas Global in the KIKOP project to reduce maternal and child mortality, and gender-based violence, as well as improve menstrual hygiene management in Kisii, Kenya. She has worked extensively with unhoused populations in Sacramento and Los Angeles, and serves as a Public Health Coordinator with the UCLA Mobile Clinic Project, exemplifying a community-centered, action-driven approach in program development.

Saravanakumar is also a certified Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Counselor at Peace over Violence, providing support services in Los Angeles through a crisis hotline. Being a first-generation student in the US and a woman of color, Saravanakumar holds a conviction to improve the livelihood of people with similar stories and contribute to the inclusion of underrepresented communities in academic and professional spaces.

Growing up, I was unexpectedly thrust into the realm of mental health, raised under the care of my Ammamma (grandmother), who battled schizophrenia and depression. Her passing immediately before I started graduate school left me feeling isolated in my grief due to the profound stigma surrounding mental health in my community. Fortunately, timely access to mental health therapy services through my medical insurance became a lifeline. In the realm of postpartum depression, despite the increased access to mental health Cognitive Behavioral Therapy services since the pandemic, limited access to culturally competent therapists who speak the mother’s native language, limited affordability, and continued stigma associated with therapy deem this approach not as effective for South Asian mothers as it is for other communities. Through this program, I aim to dismantle the intergenerational stigma surrounding mental health within South Asian communities and raise awareness about mental health issues and suicide prevention, with open, empathetic conversations as a means to shield others from the same profound pain and bewilderment that my family and I have endured. I envision a future where seeking mental health care is not only accepted but also where culturally-tailored, cost-effective services are readily accessible to South Asian populations.

MD student, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Project: An STD self-testing kit tailored to the Latinx and Hispanic community that includes educational and follow-up information in Spanish/Portuguese and connects positive-testing individuals with HIV care. 

Jose Segura-Bermudez is a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and as a child immigrated to Ohio, where he grew up.

While a student at The Ohio State University, Segura-Bermudez volunteered as a patient intake representative at La Clinica Latina and a community outreach coordinator for the Columbus Free Clinic. As a coordinator, he developed an initiative that offered free health services for the underserved Hispanic population of central Ohio. This initiative was possible by cultivating partnerships with the Columbus Public Health Department, local clinics, and the Indianapolis Mexican Consulate.

Aside from his community involvement, Segura-Bermudez has extensive experience in scientific research, with his most notable work in zebrafish heart regeneration. He is a proud alumnus of the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) Choose Development! Fellowship and has presented his work at local and national conferences.

As a future medical professional, he hopes to integrate his community involvement with scientific research to implement significant health improvements for underserved communities.

Segura-Bermudez earned his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science with a minor in Aging from The Ohio State University.

Jose Segura-Bermudez

As a Mexican immigrant, I have witnessed firsthand the obstacles that prey on the Latinx community. These barriers significantly contribute to health disparities within this population, clearly seen in HIV — where Hispanics/Latinxs make up more than a quarter of new diagnoses nationwide. Therefore, this project aims to innovatively increase awareness and decrease the transmission of HIV in the L.A. County Hispanic population while becoming a national model for other programs.

PhD in Environmental Health Sciences, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Project: A citizen scientist training program in Watts to transform members of the community into “environmental agents of change.” 

Monika Shankar

Monika Shankar is a PhD student in Environmental Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Her graduate and professional work is situated at the intersection of environmental health and justice, and urban planning, with a particular emphasis on advancing research and developing policy strategies to address the presence of stationary sources of pollution in vulnerable communities.

In Los Angeles, the challenge of incompatible land uses — the siting of hazardous uses of land near sensitive populations — primarily impacts the region’s low-income communities and communities of color.

Shankar is committed to working with these communities, alongside advocates and policymakers, to identify viable environmental and land use based strategies to mitigate harm to human health and the environment. Her approach is interdisciplinary and rooted in community co-powerment and multi-stakeholder engagement.

Shankar has served on the steering committee of ClimatePlan, the Alliance for Community Transit-LA, and the Jordan Downs Environmental Justice Coalition. She is a Switzer Fellow, a candidate for the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, a Luskin Center for Innovation Field Fellow for Environmental Justice, a Reach the Decision Makers Fellow, and a Julie Roque Fellow.

I have committed to finding solutions to the challenge of incompatible land uses for over a decade, which is a serious challenge that disproportionately afflicts low-income communities and communities of color. I am thrilled to be a part of the Health Equity Challenge because it gives me the opportunity to innovatively apply my research in collaboration with expert community organizers and skilled residents. Through my proposed Citizen Science training program, I hope to build the capacity of Watts residents to identify and address stationary sources in their community, with the long-term goal of moving the needle on health inequities.

MBA student, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Project: A multi-tiered Braille system for vision care education for aging immigrants in multiple languages and tailored to different levels of vision impairment.

Apurv Sibal is a graduate student at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and has been passionate about health care equity since a very young age.

While working as a consultant at WorldQuant Predictive, Sibal advised top health care companies to tackle problems ranging from rare disease prediction to reducing hospital readmission rates.

With his strong quantitative, qualitative, and analytical skills, and a background in health care and data analytics, he hopes to facilitate equitable access to quality health care and envisions a world where equitable health care is not a privilege but a fundamental right.

Apurv Sibal

Driven by a personal connection to vision challenges, I have witnessed firsthand that vision care is an area of health that is often sidelined in general health care discourse, yet its impact on an individual’s quality of life is profound. As one grows older, vision impairment becomes an increasing concern. For aging immigrants, this concern is twofold. They not only face the natural decline of vision due to age, but also grapple with navigating a foreign health care system, linguistic barriers, cultural differences, and often, limited financial resources. I hope to solve this by commercializing multi-tiered Braille System for Vision Care to assist aging immigrants in California.