“Since we started this in 2022, we’ve seen a wide array of innovative ideas — from direct interventions, to developing new programs, to advocating for policy changes,” said Kathryn Kietzman, PhD, director of UCLA CHPR’s Health Equity Program. “The students who enter inspire us every year with their intelligence and passion.”
Each of the selected students will receive a $2,500 stipend and 15 weeks of mentorship with a UCLA faculty member or community leader who can help them further develop and refine their proposals into projects that a community organization could implement.
An independent review committee will review their final proposals and up to four students will be awarded an additional $2,500 stipend and the community organization will receive up to $50,000 to implement the project.
“By partnering with community organizations, we help ensure that the challenge’s benefits extend beyond campus to where the needs are most acute,” Kietzman said.
Monika Shankar, a PhD student in environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said she was thrilled to be named a finalist in the Health Equity Challenge.
“It gives me the opportunity to innovatively apply my research in collaboration with expert community organizers and skilled residents,” said Shankar, who proposed the citizen scientists training program in Watts. “I hope to build the capacity of Watts residents to identify and address stationary sources of pollutants in their community, with the long-term goal of moving the needle on health inequities.”
Samantha Garcia’s project would help pregnant women by creating a virtual prenatal care program in partnership with UCLA resident physician Dr. Maria Paula Arias. Garcia, who is studying at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Anderson School of Management, is the daughter of an immigrant mother from Mexico and father from Puerto Rico. As a premedical student interning and then working at St. John’s Community Health, or SJCH, in South L.A. she found herself identifying with the Latinx patients.
“I quickly learned that there is power in my ability to understand cultural nuances and communicate effectively in Spanish with monolingual Spanish-speaking patients, especially in communities like Los Angeles where many of the individuals impacted by health inequities are Latinx,” she said. “I am confident that my experiences at SJCH along with my current business and medical education at UCLA are allowing me to develop the tools to address health disparities through innovative solutions as a future Latina OBGYN physician.”
Finalist Angela Rose David is a first-generation Filipino American, born and raised in Los Angeles. David is working toward her master’s in public health in the Fielding School’s program for health professionals, while working full time as the project manager for a lab that explores health disparities affecting the Filipino immigrant population.
“Through the Health Equity Challenge, I hope to develop a culturally tailored bereavement curriculum emphasizing mental health care and advanced 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,” said David, who graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a double minor in Spanish and public health.
Several of the projects include creating shareable resources like curricula and toolkits that can be used by others.
“MolinaCares is dedicated to promoting health equity for all individuals, regardless of their circumstances in life,” said Abbie Totten, plan president of Molina Healthcare of California. “That’s why we’re proud to continue supporting this important work at a world-class university like UCLA.”
Added Kara Carter, senior vice president of strategy and programs for the California Health Care Foundation: “I continue to be inspired and impressed by the innovators and solutions coming out of the Health Equity Challenge. I can’t wait to see what the latest group of finalists accomplish with their current proposals and in the years to come.”