Project AHEAD (Asian Health Education and Development) provides training and experience to college students who have an interest in pursuing a career in health care. It supports further understanding of the historical and current issues impacting the health of Asian American populations. Every summer, the participants design a community health project to amplify the impact of their work and address the community’s most pressing health needs.

Meet the 2019 cohort as they raise awareness about caregiver burnout in the New York City Asian American community. Stay tuned for more information on their community health project including their upcoming podcast, bi-lingual zine, and social media campaign called “AAPI Caregivers of New York.”

ERIN BERJA

Erin is pursuing a degree in cognitive and brain sciences and minoring in Asian American Studies at Tufts University. She then plans to attend graduate school for social cognitive neuroscience research and a combination of different fields related to public health, social psychology, neuroscience, justice-oriented community-based research, health equity, technological accessibility, and mental health advocacy. As a daughter of a low-income immigrant family from the Philippines, Erin is passionate in research and community work in health equity and justice for vulnerable populations, focusing on low-income immigrant children and displaced families across the Asian American diaspora.

JENNY CHAN

Jenny graduated from Cornell University, where she studied Policy Analysis and Management with minors in Health Equity, Gerontology and Law & Society. From her coursework, she is equipped with a unique curiosity for understanding health beyond the purview of biomedicine and strives to explore the mechanisms by which social determinants influence well-being. In her role as an Undergraduate Researcher at AguaClara, Jenny worked to secure donor and investor funding for sustainable municipal-scale water treatment systems in poor communities in Honduras and India. Jenny also served as Editor of the Disability Studies Journal and oversaw publications submitted by undergraduate students. In 2017, Jenny completed a fellowship at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, where she worked on policy development and advocacy related to childhood lead poisoning. With Project AHEAD, Jenny hopes to explore the various pathways through which she can create change as both a healthcare provider and a social activist who advocates for the most vulnerable of patients.

CRISTINA EILEEN CHONG

Cristina is a rising senior at New York University studying psychology on the pre-health track. She aspires to work in pediatrics and integrate her interest in child and adolescent mental health into her career. She is particularly interested in the study of mental disorders as they are often neglected and stigmatized in society. As a student, she is aware of the inadequacies of mental health services provided at universities and would like to better understand the root cause behind the ineffective services experienced by her peers. Cristina believes that increasing education on the importance of mental health upkeep and improving current mental health services may help normalize the idea of seeking help for mental disorders and illnesses. Cristina is also passionate about the prospect of making health care more accessible to the Asian American community, and by extension, other disadvantaged minority populations.

KELLY HUANG

After volunteering in a hospital, Kelly Huang decided to pursue a career in nursing through Binghamton University where she is currently a junior. After becoming a registered nurse, she plans to further her education and become a nurse practitioner. Kelly has a strong interest in pediatrics and obstetrics and currently participates in asthma research and management awareness for children in her local community.  She is also enthusiastic about educating local middle and high school students on the impact of vaping and its social effects in adolescents. Kelly believes it is important for underrepresented populations to have better access to quality health education and increase health literacy.

RACHEL KIM

Rachel is a rising senior at Vassar College majoring in biochemistry. Rachel aspires to be a physician and be part of redefining the effective practices of health care services by exploring its inequalities and inequities through public health and/or narrative medicine. Her involvement with the nonprofit organization Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) sparked her interest in mental health and women’s health, as these topics are considered taboo. She strongly believes that this lack of attention and education to such health issues is also present in the Asian American communities, leading to stigmatization and limited health literacy. To achieve better global health equity, Rachel’s goal is to help destigmatize mental health and women’s health.

JUSTIN KONG

Justin is a rising fourth year undergraduate student at The University of Chicago, double majoring in biological chemistry and chemistry. Despite his scientific background, Justin has also developed a keen interest in public health. Through his experiences in Hyde Park, Chicago, and as a volunteer at UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, he learned the importance of understanding medicine as both a social and scientific practice. He believes it is the physician’s responsibility to treat a patient’s illness and understand their needs, providing the best form of care. As an aspiring physician, Justin wants to specialize in pediatrics and work around the world focusing on adolescent health. In his free time, Justin likes to read, hike, travel, and ballroom dance.

ANISA MARHULL

Anisa is an incoming senior pursuing a degree in political science at Barnard College. She is passionate about connecting different policies with social determinants—such as language, employment, and gentrification—and learning how they have affected community access to healthcare. Anisa was first exposed to the intersection of public policy and health care through her research at New York University, working with the African American community in Brownsville, Brooklyn to track diabetes trends. She aspires to work in the field of emergency medicine to learn more about chronic diseases that affect local communities. Anisa is thrilled that Project AHEAD is providing her the opportunity to develop unique methods of delivering health care to the New York City Asian American community.

VIVIEN PAN

Vivien is a recent graduate of Binghamton University where she majored in integrative neuroscience while also pursuing asthma research with the nursing department under the guidance of Dr. Judith Quaranta and Dr. Frances Srnka-Debnar. As part of the research, she taught the Open Airways for Schools program from the American Lung Association in local elementary schools, providing education on asthma management, and assessed program efficacy and the relationship between asthma and adverse childhood events through the administration of pretests and posttests. Vivien hopes to continue community health research in marginalized groups, and plans to pursue an accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing. She finds many specialties fascinating, but she is particularly interested in pediatrics, neonatal, ICU, and emergency. In her spare time, Vivien enjoys yoga, volunteer work, and making various desserts.

VIVIAN YI

A true artist at heart, Vivian was an art major at Yale University. However by the end of her freshman year, her interests shifted to raising mental health awareness in Asian American populations and she switched her major to East Asian Studies. Vivian wishes to focus on contemporary Chinese social movements and attend medical school after receiving her undergraduate degree. She is particularly interested in attitudes toward mental health and sexuality, especially amongst first and second generation Asian American immigrants. Though her exact path in medicine may change, she has hopes of becoming a practicing Mandarin-speaking psychiatrist in the United States.

Posted by Charles B. Wang Community Health Center

The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center is a nonprofit and federally qualified health center offering comprehensive primary care services to all in five convenient locations in Manhattan and Queens seven days a week. We accept most major health insurance plans and serve everyone regardless of their ability to pay, the language they speak, or their immigration history. For more information, please visit www.cbwchc.org.

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