MHRT 2021-22 Grantees

Ana Juliana Borja Armas 

Ana Juliana Borja Armas was born on the coast of the Ecuadorian Andes and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She received her master’s in teaching history from Bard College and currently is a doctoral student and Holmes Scholar at Syracuse University in the Department of Cultural Foundations of Education. Since 2016, she has taught primary and secondary education. She began cultivating cannabis in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Brooklyn in 2019 and is still a cultivator in the New York State, with most of her work situated in urban indoor farms. Some of her earlier teaching experiences were in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, as well as at migrant shelters in Mexico, where she worked with Central American refugees in transit. Ms. Borja’s work centers on queer Brown and Black communities in efforts to challenge knowledge on education and justice. In the last couple of years, she has started to explore decolonization, Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge, plant-based medicine, and methods for radically reclaiming cannabis in her research. As a research grantee with the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training (MHRT) Program at the School of Nursing and Health Studies at UM, she is working with mentors Dr. Vidot (UM) and Dr. McLaughlin (UWI) in Jamaica. 

Julia Byerly 

Julia Byerly is a senior studying nursing at the University of Miami. She currently works as a patient care technician in a hospital and will further her clinical career as a registered nurse after graduation in May 2022. Ms. Byerly plans to go on to earn Master of Science and PhD degrees in nursing. She is passionate about preventing chronic disease and reducing disparities in women’s health. Her experience in an acute care setting caring for many patients with exacerbations of chronic disease has helped her understand the importance of a preventative focus in health care. She has volunteered with the Women’s Breast and Heart Initiative (WBHI) to educate women about early detection guidelines of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease in underserved communities. She served as a team leader for her WBHI group, going door-to-door to make free mammogram and health screening referrals. Ms. Byerly is excited to participate in the MHRT program this summer in Bogotá, Colombia, where she will help plan prevention strategies for cardiovascular disease under the mentorship of Dr. Eric Brown (UM) and Dr. Diego Lucumi (Universidad de los Andes). 

Jenny Carpenter 

Jenny Carpenter received a Bachelor of Science in cellular/molecular biology from Appalachian State University and a Master of Health Science in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as a Department of Health Policy and Management Certificate in Health Disparities and Health Inequality from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research experience includes bench lab and clinical research projects in forensic chemistry, relationship of Type 1 Diabetes autoantibodies and enteroviruses, Moringa Oleifera diet effects on the microbiome and arthritis, patient perception and behaviors influencing Mohs surgery treatment, and combinational drug therapies for melanoma. She was a medical assistant at a dermatology private practice and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA civic leader in North Carolina, advocating for healthy food access in underserved populations experiencing food insecurity. Ms. Carpenter also volunteered with Johns Hopkins Health Education and Training (HEAT) corps to teach youth about science and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. This summer she will conduct research on tropical bacterial pathogens as part of the MHRT program in Costa Rica with Dr. Chaves-Olarte at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Ms. Carpenter is passionate about improving health care access and treatment to underprivileged communities and would like to pursue a dual medical degree/Master of Public Health degree in hopes of becoming a physician and public health leader. 

Melissa Castillo 

Melissa Castillo is a master’s degree student at the University of Miami, majoring in prevention science and community health. As a MHRT trainee, she was selected to work with Dr. Laura Pla, of UDLAP, in Mexico, on the research project “Evaluation of the health status of the population of marginalized communities for the development of strategies to improve health services. 

Ye Chen 

Ye Chen is graduating May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in global health studies from the University of Miami. She was born in China and has lived in Suriname and the United States. As a result, she has always appreciated diverse cultural experiences and understands the importance of global health, especially as it pertains to minority health. As a chair member of the student-led organization, Healthy U Healthy Me, Ms. Chen coordinated with organizations and committees across Miami-Dade County for Health Week, a week held each spring dedicated to health education and awareness. As an undergraduate, her interest in health care solidified while exploring topics like environmental health, childhood psychology, and medical anthropology. Ms. Chen has conducted research each summer in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Alabama, focusing on Bacillus anthracis to understand the bonding nature for prevention against infectious diseases caused by similar spore-forming bacterium. With her laboratory experience, she became proficient in technically advanced equipment for protein construction and analysis of bacterial constructs, including gel electrophoresis, PCR mutagenesis, and SDS-PAGE. In her last semester as an undergraduate, she is completing an Independent Study on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and early childhood learning and development. Ms. Chen is eager to pursue her career in global health while furthering her research on topics concerning health inequities and continuing to advocate for and tackle disparities in health care. As a MHRT trainee, she is working with mentors Dr. Vidot (UM) and Dr. Reid (UWI) in Miami. 

Taleah Frazier 

Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Taleah Frazier is a Spring 2022 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing. She aims to use her platform as a researcher to advocate for the well-being of minority populations. Ms. Frazier is a former Ronald E. McNair Scholar, current Hillman Scholar, and volunteer doula under the UNC Birth Partners Program. Recently, she began assisting her UNC mentor, Dr. Cheryl Woods Giscombe, with the HARMONY Study: A Culturally-relevant, Randomized-controlled, Stress Management Intervention to Reduce Cardiometabolic Risk in African American Women. Her previous research experience is in topics related to stress and coping among African American women and the mental health of minoritized youth. Broadly, Ms. Frazier’s research interests focus on health disparities/inequities among minority populations. In the future, she hopes to explore the link between stress/coping and maternal mortality in African American women. She plans to use what she gains from her MHRT experience in Miami this summer, working with MHRT mentors Dr. Vidot (UM) and Dr. Reid (UWI), to formulate interventions for health disparities that are applicable to diverse populations in the U.S. and on a global scale. Ms. Frazier will begin her PhD program in Fall 2023. In her free time, she likes to cook, read, and binge-watch TV series.  

Jessica Garafola 

Jessica Garafola is completing her year-long Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of Miami in May 2022. She holds an undergraduate degree in Biology with a Chemistry minor from Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College, and completed her Master of Health Administration at Florida Atlantic University. Initially interested in medicine, Ms. Garafola became captivated with public health policy. This led her to work for the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, where she passed three bills into law as legislative assistant to now-Senator Shevrin Jones. The Infectious Disease Elimination Act (2019) expanded clean needle distribution to all other Florida counties after the University of Miami’s pilot program, The IDEA Exchange, proved positive. The first Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act (2019) guaranteed women hygiene products in Florida's correctional facilities. The subsequent Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act (2020) mandated that incarcerated pregnant people be transported to a hospital for their labor and delivery rather than endure the birthing process in the correctional facility. Ms. Garafola believes that empathy is key to bedside nursing and the research that guides nursing care. She hopes to use her clinical knowledge to help others in the hospital setting and outside of it through research to help communities thrive. As a MHRT trainee, she is working with mentors Dr. Eric Brown (UM) and Dr. Augusto Perez (Nuevos Rumbos Corporation) in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Layan Ibrahim 

Layan Ibrahim is a first-year MPH student and David Satcher Public Health Scholar on the Global Health track at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. In 2020, she graduated with a BS in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) from Emory University. At Emory, she was an undergraduate scholar in the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program, which seeks to increase the diversity of the scientific workforce. Ms. Ibrahim was born in Maryland, and lived in Ethiopia and Kenya for 10 years prior to attending Emory. She has had various research experiences in different fields, such as neuroscience, hematology, and public health education. She is currently working on her master’s thesis, which explores perceptions of epilepsy and the childhood epilepsy treatment gap in sub-Saharan Africa. After graduating with her MPH, Ms. Ibrahim plans to pursue an MD-PhD (with a PhD in epidemiology). Her long-term goal is to achieve neurosurgical equity and educate individuals living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the importance and severity of neurological disorders such as epilepsy. She is excited to be part of the MHRT program this summer in Jamaica, where her research with mentors Dr. Marvin Reid (The University of the West Indies) and Dr. Denise Vidot (University of Miami) will focus on investigating anxiety and depression as potential mediators in the relationship between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease risk among persons living with HIV in Jamaica. 

Jahn Jaramillo 

Jahn Jaramillo, MPH, is a first-year PhD student in the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health at the University of Miami. He is part of an NIH-funded training program known as Culturally focused HIV Advancements through the Next Generation for Equity (CHANGE). CHANGE aims to train the next generation of HIV behavioral scientists with skills to address persistent health disparities in HIV treatment and prevention in Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities. Mr. Jaramillo has over 10 years of public health experience in the areas of HIV prevention, infectious disease surveillance, and communications. He worked with CDC CGH in Guatemala City and Atlanta as a PHI/CDC Global Health Fellow from 2018-2021, the World Health Organization in Thailand and the Philippines, RTI International in Seattle, and at an HIV/AIDS community-based organization in New York City. He was also a Fulbright Scholar in Thailand, where he taught English to Thai youth. His research interests include the health of sexual and gender minorities, the application of identity and cultural considerations to health promotion and HIV prevention strategies, and the development and testing of HIV interventions to deliver medically appropriate and culturally competent care to diverse populations. As a MHRT trainee, he is working with mentors Dr. Eric Brown (UM) and Dr. Augusto Perez (Nuevos Rumbos Corporation) in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Cassandra Michel 

Cassandra Michel is a junior at the University of Miami, double majoring in psychology and community and applied psychological studies, with minors in biology and creative writing. She is passionate about integrating her interests in research, service, and minority communities to understand structural factors that influence health disparities related to criminal justice and mental health. Ms. Michel is an undergraduate research assistant at the Health Promotion and Care lab, Research Engagement and Community Health (Equity) lab, Mobile Communication for Adherence Education and Support lab, and Miami Health and Justice lab. The experiences she has gained through research, volunteering, and academics have intensified her interest in conducting interdisciplinary research addressing psychosocial factors that negatively impact the lives of formerly and currently incarcerated individuals. In future, she hopes to pursue an MPH and a PhD in psychology. Ms. Michel aspires to use her research findings to develop culturally competent, evidence-based interventions tailored to address health disparities found among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. She is exhilarated to further her research experience through MHRT this summer, working alongside Dr. Roger McIntosh, director of the BREATH (Brain Respiration Embodiment Affect & Translational Health) Lab at UM, to determine whether HIV and/or pre-hypertension has an additive or interactive effect on cardiovascular reactivity. 

Nicole O’Dell

Nicole O’Dell is interested in the intersection of biological science and public health practice. She earned her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Brandeis University and is completing her Master of Science in Public Health from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Ms. O’Dell was previously a research assistant in the COMPASS Study, a stud sponsored by the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, working on a SARS-CoV-2 prevalence study. She is currently a graduate research assistant in the Innovative Collaboratory for Advancing Research with the Underserved and Stigmatized (ICARUS) lab in the Miller School’s Department of Public Health Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Adam Carrico. At ICARUS, she works on projects related to understanding the role of stimulant use during HIV infection. She also participates in a student rotation in the Pahwa Immunity in Aging and Infections Lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, assisting with blood processing and conducting assays for her master’s thesis. Her current research focuses on understanding the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on HIV infection. Ms. O’Dell hopes to pursue a career centered on reducing infectious disease burden, especially for underserved and under-resourced populations. She plans to apply for PhD programs focused on infectious disease and health disparities. As a MHRT trainee, she is working with mentors Dr. Vidot (UM) and Dr. Reid (UWI) in Jamaica. 

Luka Ojemaye 


Luka Ojemaye was born in Nigeria and migrated to the United States when he was 12 years old. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from Southern Methodist University and his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Currently, Dr. Ojemaye is a first-year PhD student in the Human Health and Performance Department at the University of Houston, where he and works with Dr. Joyce Olushola Ogunrinde, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. Dr. Ojemaye’s current research focuses on understanding and promoting mental health well-being with underserved collegiate student-athlete and interscholastic athlete populations. He also has a passion to address racial disparities in health and well-being in the continent of Africa as well as for people of the African diaspora. Through the MHRT program, under the direct tutelage of mentors Dr. Reid and Dr. Vidot in Jamaica, Dr. Ojemaye hopes to gain a greater understanding of and apply the global health disparities framework to create and promote proper mental health and well-being interventions that can alleviate these issues in the underserved community of the African diaspora.  

Franklin Saeteros 

Franklin Saeteros from Queens, New York, graduates from Dickinson College in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry, molecular biology, and neuroscience and a health studies certificate. His interests in public health and biomedical research strengthened at Dickinson, where he first began conducting research on auto inflammatory disease mechanisms with Professor Tiffany Frey in his junior year. The goal of his current project is focused on further characterizing the cellular location(s) of CD14 following isoprenoid depletion and investigating which isoprenoid compounds play a role in the trafficking of CD14 in macrophages. Last summer, Mr. Saeteros conducted biomedical research on cardiovascular disease at Penn State College of Medicine, examining whether mutations to the essential light chain of the myosin protein have an effect on the contractile performance of the heart. This summer, he will be part of the MHRT program in Costa Rica, to conduct research with Dr. Eugenia Corrales-Aguilar at Universidad de Costa Rica on “Antibody neutralization profiles in human and wildlife sera against arboviruses.” Mr. Saeteros is excited to apply his research skills from both the lab and MHRT program for graduate school and his postgraduate career addressing health disparities within public health, research, and medicine.  

Kerri-Ann Scott 

Kerri-Ann Scott is an undergraduate nursing student at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, minoring in Spanish and international studies. She was selected as a MHRT trainee to work in Mexico under the supervision of Dr. Patricia Porras of Universidad de las Americas Puebla (UDLAP) on the project “Use of endemic foods from Puebla to improve the diet of children, pregnant women, chronic patients or older adults. 

Kimberly Thomas 

Kimberly Thomas is a first-year medical student at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. Growing up in Belzoni, Mississippi, a small town in the Mississippi Delta, she saw firsthand the devastating effects of inaccessible health care, nutritious food options, and health education. During her last year of high school, she became fascinated by the field of medicine and the vital role physicians play in improving health outcomes in their communities by providing prevention strategies, outreach and education, and more. Since then, Ms. Thomas has strived to engage in numerous service projects geared towards reducing the prevalence of chronic disease and providing affordable healthcare for people in her community. She received a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Mississippi State University. While studying in the Dominican Republic her sophomore year, she realized she wanted to have an impact on health care globally as well as in her local community. In the future, she hopes to conduct research and provide medical services to the fields of maternal and infant health, adverse childhood experience prevention and recovery, adolescent health, and chronic disease prevention and management. As a MHRT trainee this summer, Ms. Thomas is returning to the Dominican Republic to work alongside researchers Dr. Johis Ortega (UM) and Dr. Zahira A. Quiñones at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra; her project focuses on both electronic cigarette use among college students and the knowledge and attitudes physicians share regarding the product.  

Deanna Uddin 

Deanna Uddin is a University of Miami sophomore majoring in neuroscience and minoring in microbiology and immunology, social science, and medicine. She grew up in northern New Jersey, where she volunteers as an emergency medical technician in the emergency department when she is home. She currently resides in Miami, where she is conducting research in the Applied Quantitative Lab investigating functional connectivity in Alzheimer's disease as well as Lasso regression and missing data. Ms. Uddin was part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute lab at UM and is a sister in UM’s Tri Delta sorority, dedicating her time to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This summer she will be part of the MHRT program in Jamaica, conducting research under UWI’s Dr. Marvin Reid and UM’s Dr. Denise Vidot. Her program will focus on measuring and studying the mental health effects on people with HIV in Jamaica. Her future plans include attending medical school to become a child psychiatrist. She aspires to continue learning and contributing to the world of science and uncured diseases.