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The Impact

Student Health Ambassadors (SHAs) are health promotion and disease prevention advocates. They are trained to investigate key community health issues through extensive study. 

They are change agents.


Deng graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2020. He is now working as a Senior Assistant Medical Lab Phlebotomist at Ascension St. Thomas Hospital Midtown, in Nashville, TN. The role gives Deng exposure to the everyday lives of medical staff. “It is my desire to one day become a doctor,” Deng said. “I enjoy serving alongside physicians and nurses, and most importantly forming relationships with the patients.”


Deng was a part of the HBCU Wellness Project for two years. He became an SHA  because he wanted to learn and represent his community. Deng is passionate about serving others and feels the Wellness Project gave him the platform to do so. He feels the Wellness Project has opened his eyes to the many health disparities surrounding minorities and low-income families. “I hope to one day eliminate some of these health disparities as a physician,” Deng said. “The Project helped shape the altruistic characteristic in me. I am currently applying to medical school and hopefully, soon I will become a physician.”



Jacquelyn currently serves as the Director of Community Engagement for the national, nonprofit organization, Health Leads. To this day, Jacquelyn accredits the HBCU Wellness program for laying a strong foundation for her career in public health and community engagement. Jacquelyn believes that extracurricular programs like HBCU Wellness, allows students to graduate with hands-on experience that they may not have gained anywhere else.


During her two years in the program, Jacquelyn learned how to conduct a literature review, developed an IRB-approved health intervention proposal, implemented the intervention on campus and at a local community health center. She then went on to analyze the data and give three poster presentations on her work. Jacquelyn also had the chance to advocate for the HBCU Wellness Program in front of the TN Legislative Black Caucus and received the 2013 Belinda Clayborne Student Health Ambassador of the Year Award.

According to Jacquelyn, “values the HBCU Wellness program for what it has done for the careers of my peers and myself. I hope the program continues to grow and that academic leaders see the worth of this and similar programs for years to come.”


Brooklyn was a part of the program for two years. She became a SHA because she wanted exposure in impacting the health and well-being of underserved populations. She wanted to get the firsthand experience from this program working alongside community health organizations and educating the black community on health disparities.

“The HBCU Wellness Project has granted me opportunities of a lifetime,” Brooklyn says. Brooklyn was able to present her research at a conference in Atlanta, GA, as well as star in a docu-series where she worked closely with a television production crew educating college students on healthy habits. In 2021, Brooklyn was awarded the National Health Service Corps Scholarship and she also serves as a Tennessee Area Health and Education Centers Scholar — which will further prepare and train her for her future work in underserved communities.

Brooklyn is currently pursuing her doctor of dental surgery degree from Meharry Medical College. She plans on completing graduate school and working in an underserved area treating those who do not have access to dental treatment. “My dream is to one day have a private practice by the name of  "Sims' Smiles,” said Brooklyn.


Lauren Morris is currently in her first year of pharmacy school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, pursuing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She joined the program because she wanted to learn more about the “in's and out's” of health promotion and disease prevention. Lauren says the Project helped shape who she is by affording her the opportunity of a lifetime. The project gave her the chance to participate in research and expand her horizon while learning new practical skills that she now uses daily within her pharmacy program.


“SHAs are seen as leaders and change agents,” Lauren said. “I would love to leave my mark on this Earth as a leader who used her platform in a helpful manner to benefit those in need. Becoming a SHA helped me build upon my legacy I want to leave behind one day.”



“I’m currently pursuing my graduate degree in MS Biology, at North Carolina A&T State University. Once completed, I plan to work in a research lab for a few years then return to school for my MPH in women and child health. 


The HBCU Wellness Project helped me prepare for graduate school. Although I was one of the few who already knew how to write a project proposal, The Project also opened my eyes to many different paths I could take in my professional career. It shaped me in many ways. It completely pulled me out of my comfort zone and made me a stronger, well rounded student. From the poster presentations at acclaimed conferences and PowerPoint presentations in front of important leaders in our community, to working with other HBCUs and seeing different viewpoints — I grew a lot. Plus, I actually got involved (volunteer) in the community."



“I am a RN Versant Resident in the Emergency Department at North Fulton Hospital in Roswell, Georgia. The HBCU Wellness Project introduced me to the field of Public Health and aroused a feeling of fulfillment from educating the community on my research projects.

I can honestly say that the HBCU Wellness Project played a major role in my decision to pursue a career in nursing. While attending spring symposiums, I was intrigued to learn about the different health disparities.

I want to see the HBCU Wellness
Project continue because it promotes awareness of the inequalities that minority communities face. It creates advocates of health and most importantly, it influences student health ambassadors to be in the medical profession. I am living proof.”




“I am currently pursuing my Masters of Public Health degree from South University (Savannah, GA), and after I graduate (in 2021), I’m planning to attain a Doctorate of Public Health. My ultimate goal is to actively be on the frontlines helping to prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by becoming either a lobbyist , healthcare administrator, or infectious disease outreach educator. 

With such aspirations, I knew I needed to pursue my passion early; and that is why I decided to become a SHA. The HBCU Wellness Project enabled me to network with numerous community partners, gain training on how to create a protocol, participate in community-based service learning, develop effective intervention programs, but most importantly the ability to distinguish underlying causes of health inequalities in communities of color. 


It is imperative that the HBCU Wellness Project continues; because it’s a trailblazing initiative providing aspiring African American health care professionals the chance to conduct impactful research and engage with community partners. I am humbly grateful for this project, for it has enhanced my readiness to tackle worldly epidemics and pandemics — and more students of color deserve this opportunity, too."



"I’m currently pursuing my Doctor of Chiropractic at the Life University College of Chiropractic. Once I graduate, I plan to open my own chiropractic clinic. I initially applied for the program because I was interested in bringing awareness to the health disparities plaguing my community. Being involved, I was able to grasp an in-depth understanding of public health; and I honestly believe the program expanded my knowledge about the various careers in the healthcare field.


The HBCU Wellness Program increased my confidence to speak publicly about health disparities. I also learned how to host a wellness event and network with vendors from the community. I’m sure these skills will assist me in building partnerships for my own clinic. 


I’ve always been passionate about bettering my community (by any means) and the HBCU Wellness Project helped convey messages to my community in a delicate, authentic and appropriate way."




"After graduating from Meharry Medical College in 2018, I attended the University of Tennessee Health Science Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program at Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Care Center (as the first year residents from 2018-2019). While completing my residency program, I earned my dental license for the State of Tennessee. After completing my residency program, I sought private practice for several months and later decided on corporate dentistry. Currently, I am the Lead Provider at Nashboro Village Family Dental in Antioch, TN.


During this journey, my wife and I got married and we have two children; a boy and girl, Preston III and Kairi. We currently reside in Antioch, TN. 


I’m reminded each day of the impact the health and wellness program had and how it prepared me for my current profession. Since my time in the program, I believe access to proper dental care has improved; however, its importance to overall health is still scarce. Efforts to improve oral health will still require policy initiatives. My future plans are to practice ownership, and obtain my cosmetic and implant dentistry certifications.



"I am currently attending The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and pursuing my Master in Public Health degree. I’m concentrating in community health education and obtaining a health policy certificate. I’ve also worked as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Institute of Public Services, where I oversaw their Serve Healthy (Worksite Wellness Program) Initiative. Additionally, I have served as the Public Health Graduate Student Association President, on UTK's Department of Public Health's Equity and Diversity Committee, and a summer evaluator for the Center for Disease and Control Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health’s Rape Prevention Education and Evaluation.


The program empowered me to take charge of my health, and empower others to take charge of their health, too."




"The HBCU Wellness Project has shaped me into becoming a legal advocate for my community.  Since graduation, I have been a Co-Chair for Community Advisory Council (CAC) for the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Center Coalition for the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) project (2015) in Memphis, TN. The project is affiliated with various hospitals in the Memphis area and focused on the minority communities in the city. I was selected to be on the Council because of my background with the HBCU Wellness Project and more specifically, my research on diabetes awareness, maintenance, and prevention. Additionally, I have been an aerobics instructor, as well as help run health fairs at my church in the Whitehaven, Memphis,TN community. With such passion for my community, I found I wanted to fight for them in a legal manner and changed my career path from medical to law. 


During law school, my experience in the health field and my background from the HBCU Wellness program helped to propel me as a licensed student attorney.  I was able to connect both my passion for health and law together to help those in need of justice dealing with health disparities.  Currently, I work at a civil litigation firm, Spicer Rudstrom, PLLC, in Memphis, TN.  With my background from the HBCU Wellness program, it has given me confidence to help speak up for others in various settings.  This experience even helps when discussing medical and health issues with those in the firm dealing with cases.

The biggest benefit I received from the HBCU Wellness Project is that it helped me find out who I am and what my real passion is. That passion is being an advocate and fighting for those who don’t have a voice or the knowledge of what to do.

While I was participating in the project it brought me joy when those I had worked closely with, told me how grateful they were for my help. They received education and resources they never had, nor were offered. I want that feeling to continue with other students and the community. The minority community needs this Project because it provides so much benefit to community members. The HBCU Wellness Project is vital for the minority community and with consistent hard work, we can help to lessen the health disparities in our community. I’m proud to say I was a part of such an exemplary program and hope it continues far into the future.”



“I am currently pursuing a dual degree for my Masters in Business Administration and Health Administration at the University of Phoenix. I also work as a chemist for Georgia Pacific. One of the main facets of my position deals with public health. I am constantly taking in account of environmental dangers which are also public health dangers. The accountability I place on myself for my community’s health and wellness stems from my time as a Student Health Ambassador.

I feel that no one can take care of their community better than the people that live in the community. For example, my undergraduate college is in a food desert in South Memphis, and I can attest that no one else knows the concerns of the community more than the students and people that live there. The HBCU Wellness Project demonstrates how we can better evaluate, administrate and solve problems for our own community."




"I am currently a Doctor of Dental Surgery and Doctor of Philosophy student in the Oral and Craniofacial Sciences Department at the University
of California-San Francisco. The HBCU Wellness Project allowed me to explore my initial interest in health care. As a sophomore, the project put me in a health care environment where I was able to get hands on experience and learn how health disparities affect America. 

The experience I gained truly helped me in the application process for graduate school. The Project even encouraged me to pursue translational research

for my doctoral degree. Ultimately, I want to practice, conduct research and teach at a dental school; and if possible, back in the state of Tennessee."



“I am currently awaiting acceptance to Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Nursing Program. As I wait, I’m enjoying my role as a Customer Service Coordinator for BMG Minimally Invasive Surgery (Memphis, TN). There’s just something about being the first contact person a patient speaks to and sees — I feel like I can bring them joy, or a sense of peace as they await surgery or test results. These moments are also why I chose to become a SHA. I always envisioned myself working in the healthcare field, and I wanted to be able to educate my community on issues related to health.

The biggest benefit of participating in the HBCU Wellness Project is that I was able to learn how much goes into educating a community on health disparities. Another vast benefit was being able to put on a community event, with education and surveys, then taking that data to see where the work is further needed to make a healthier community. Being in the program also showed me that representation matters. The work does not stop, nor should we."




“I am currently a third-year doctoral student at Meharry Medical College in the School of Graduate Studies and Research Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, and I truly can’t say enough about the HBCU Wellness Project. It is an experience that molded me personally and influenced my professional goals.

I was relatively naive and just starting to learn in- depth about the field of public health. Being that most issues in public health require an interdisciplinary approach, I appreciated the opportunity and accessibility to learn from many local leaders and experts, who came speak on different ways to tackle health disparities. Observing, first hand, the different roles of politicians, dentists, medical doctors, lawyers, researchers, and social workers all working together in our community made me realize that it was also possible for me to be just as dynamic and industrious when tackling issues within health disparity prevention."



"The HBCU Wellness Project actually changed my career trajectory. As an undergrad, I had my sights set on becoming a physician. However, when I became a Student Health Ambassador, I was introduced to public health, and felt I could impact more lives through a public health role. This is not to say that I would not have impacted lives as a physician, but public health fit better in terms on my personality, my health interest and as a non-traditional student. Once I realized my new path, The HBCU Wellness Project helped
me advance my goals."




“My experience as a Student Health Ambassador truly influenced my decision to attend graduate school, and upon receiving my doctor of pharmacy degree, I accepted a full-time position as a Pharmacist.


The HBCU Wellness Project enhanced my resume and

my pharmacy school application as I was able to document my knowledge in ethics, health disparities, policy, health communications, health promotion, and medical research. Additionally, the training I received through The HBCU Wellness Project encouraged me to confidentially complete a research program that resulted in the development of two manuscripts that sought to determine if health disparities exist among Medicare part D beneficiaries."



“I graduated from LeMoyne Owen College with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Social Work, and I am currently enrolled in Master of Social Work program at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS.


The HBCU Wellness Project has inspired me to become a change agent in the African American community. As a health ambassador, I discovered a passion for educating young women on infant mortality. My long  term goal is to decrease the high rates of infant mortality and teen pregnancy through psycho-educational groups. I plan to facilitate groups comprised of teenage girls who will be educated on prevention methods of infant mortality and provided with educational resources."




“Once I graduated, I continued to volunteer with one of my favorite community outreach non-profit organizations, which also happened to be the same organization I collaborated with during my time as a Student Health Ambassador. After a year’s time, this organization, PEAS INC (Partnership to End AIDS Status) granted me the opportunity to work as their Program Director. Also, I am currently consulting with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a Community Outreach Recruiter.

As cliché as this may sound, the truth of the matter is that the HBCU Wellness Project’s biggest benefit for participants, like myself, is opportunity. The evidence speaks for itself. If ever there is a program that will allow HBCU students to be nurtured, groomed and released to do great things in the community, it is the HBCU Wellness Project."



“I am currently working as a Program Manager for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. Since graduating from Fisk, I have received my M.Ed. and I am currently a Ed.D. Candidate at Tennessee State University.


The HBCU Wellness Project taught me the importance of academic and community partnerships. As an undergraduate student, I was focused on completing my matriculation and moving forward to the next phase in my life. Prior to participating in the project, I understood the importance of community involvement but I did not know I could truly influence the lives of people in my community. As a Student Health Ambassador, I realized institutions of higher learning possess an abundance of resources that could potentially help the community."


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