Project AHEAD (Asian Health Education and Development) is a nine-week internship that provides firsthand training and experience to undergraduate students and recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. The internship facilitates increased awareness and understanding of the historical and present issues shaping the health of Asian American populations. Each year, interns work on a Community Health Project (CHP) that addresses the community’s most pressing health needs. 

Meet the 2021 Project AHEAD cohort as they continue this long-standing tradition with their CHP, a Health Needs Assessment study focusing on the populations who live and/or work in or near Flushing, Queens. This Health Needs Assessment will be used as a planning tool to help CBWCHC better address the needs of underserved communities and populations in Queens.    

2021 Project AHEAD Interns

Pharto Chanda

Pharto is a rising junior at Stony Brook University pursuing a major in biology. He first developed an interest in healthcare through his work at NYC Health + Hospitals as an ambulatory care intern, helping the uninsured get healthcare coverage. This led him to join the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps as an EMT. Pharto also conducts research on adverse childhood experiences in Malawian youth, studying the effects on health outcomes and how to mitigate them. He is excited to be a part of Project AHEAD this summer and help increase access to culturally competent primary care amongst NYC’s diverse Asian American community. In the future, he hopes to become a primary care physician, merging a career in medicine with policy, making a more equitable healthcare system. 

Natalie Chou

Natalie is a rising junior at Duke University pursuing her self-designed Program II, entitled “Documentary Health Humanities: Child Disability and Illness.” She currently works as a research assistant at The Bergelson Lab, where she is involved with studies focused on infant word learning and understanding how babies learn words from their visual, social, and linguistic environment. Natalie is also a member of the Duke Design Thinking Bass Connections team, which is currently developing a pilot patient-centered model for care integration for children with special healthcare needs and medical complexity. After Duke, she hopes to attend medical school and continue working with children through healthcare and expanding the incorporation of humanities, particularly documentary arts, into medicine.

Elizabeth Chu

Elizabeth, who also goes by Lizzie, is a rising senior at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) majoring in chemical biology, with a minor in Marketing. She is currently on the pre-med track and hopes to attend medical school in the future. At Stevens, Lizzie has participated in research with the Stevens Healthcare Educational Partnership, creating an educational module on emotional intelligence and another about the impact of COVID-19 in Queens for safety-net hospitals primarily in New Jersey and New York. She is the captain of the varsity women’s volleyball team at Stevens, where she was twice named Libero of the Year. Lizzie also serves as president of the Delta Zeta Chapter of Phi Sigma.

Chloe Fong

Chloe is a rising senior at the University of Chicago, majoring in neuroscience with a minor in education and society, on the pre-med track. She is a research assistant in a lab studying multiple sclerosis therapy and a current teaching assistant for a biochemistry course. She is also a member of the varsity swim team. Outside of university, she volunteers at a local high school where she delivers a weekly health curriculum through a program that provides free college admissions assistance to underserved students. After she graduates, she hopes to attend medical school and eventually become a physician. She would love to practice in New York City and give back to the community in which she grew up.

Kevin Ha

Kevin is a rising junior in Sargent College: College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, an affiliate school of Boston University. Currently he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health and health science with an integrated pre-medical track, with plans to apply for medical school thereafter to learn more about the practice of pediatrics. His ultimate goal is to establish a private practice as a community pediatrician. Some of his notable extracurricular activities include volunteering at the Flushing CBWCHC office, serving as a member of a charitable organization for pre-term infants in Boston, and being an avid fan of liberal arts and sports (having been a part of basketball teams and a dance team).

Crystal Huang

Crystal is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work degree at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She finds herself constantly drawn back to the Asian community that she grew up in. She considers Queens and Manhattan’s Chinatown to be her two “hometowns.” This has led her to take on internships at Chinatown NNORC, as well as Hamilton Madison House Smith Senior Services in the past few years. During her internships, Crystal realized that there is more to just providing services and resources to the seniors – and that there is value and need for companionship and community. Through this, Crystal gained an interest in mental health, specifically with issues such as self-care, intergenerational trauma, social isolation, and seniors with anxiety and depression. After Crystal graduates, she plans to get her LMSW and eventually LCSW. There’s a lot of work to be done. And that’s what fuels Crystal to stay on her feet.

Kamran Jillani

Kamran is a New York City native and is a 2021 graduate from Cornell University, where he studied biological sciences with a concentration in human nutrition. On campus, he was involved in a nutrition research group where he studies age-related weight gain. He was also a member of SMILES for Students, an organization that promotes oral-systemic health knowledge and creates oral care kits for the nearby Ithaca community. After graduation, he hopes to work in clinical research and eventually attend dental school. Outside of academics, Kamran is the president of Cornell’s Pakistani Students Association. He loves keeping in touch with his heritage and teaching others about it through Pakistani art, music, film, and literature. During his free time, you can find Kamran exploring new cities or flipping through Urdu poetry.

Jason Lei

Jason is a rising senior at the George Washington University where he studies public health and double minors in Chinese and marketing. Apart from his studies, he is a university-wide sexual health peer-educator and cohosts a weekly pop culture radio show. Throughout the school years, he has also interned as a social media marketer for a higher education access nonprofit, worked as a photography lab technician, and is currently an early education facilitator with AmeriCorps. He is unsure about his post-graduate plans but is interested in pursuing a career in public health. Currently, he is contemplating moving toward graduate school and pursuing a master’s degree in public health, health administration, or nursing. Wherever he goes next, he is eager to take his interests in community health and education and apply them to the communities that have nurtured him into who he is today.

Andrew Leung

Andrew is a rising senior at Washington University in St. Louis, majoring in biology and minoring in anthropology and chemistry. During the semesters, he volunteered at the Veteran’s Hospital in Jefferson Barracks under the My Life My Story program, aimed toward connecting the patients with their nurses by interviewing the veterans about their life stories. He also worked as a research assistant in the emergency department at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, interacting with eligible patients for various clinical studies. He is a proud member of his university’s GlobeMed chapter, a student organization that promotes awareness and raises money for global health initiatives. In his free time, he enjoys playing the violin and planning events for his residents as a resident advisor. He is excited to apply for medical school in the upcoming application cycle, hoping to continue his journey through the medical track and become a clinical physician.

Wendy Liu – 2021 Project AHEAD Coordinator

Wendy earned her BA from Vassar College and is a recent MPH graduate from Columbia, where she focused her studies on designing, implementing, and evaluating theory- and evidence-based interventions. Wendy aims to be a public health advocate and educator who centers accessibility, care, and informed research, including lived experiences, in her practice, much of which was influenced by her time as a Project AHEAD intern in 2015. She is excited to be back at the Health Center as a Program Coordinator and this year’s Project AHEAD coordinator.

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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