Meet the Scholars

Increase font size
Decrease font size

Elizabeth Allen

Mentor: Dr. Anna Beeber
Research interests: reducing rising incidence of health concerns associated with aging through improved care

E Allen (2)Elizabeth Allen of Raleigh, N.C., is involved in UNC Chapel Hill Association of Nursing Students and is a member of the National Student Nurses Association. She participated in Duke University Hospital’s Professional Nursing Assistant Program and has served as a volunteer to the N.C. Women’s Hospital Nursing Unit and N.C. Memorial Hospital Surgical Waiting Unit. She is a member of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity, where she serves as the Policy and Standards Board Chair. Her research interest is in the area of improving the quality of care for geriatric population with special emphasis on reducing the rising incidence of health concerns associated with aging. Ms. Allen is a member of the 2015 cohort.

Sallie Allgood

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Leeman
Research interests: health care related decision making in chronic diseases 

Sallie AllgoodSallie Allgood of Durham, N.C., earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Campbell University in 2000 and a Master of Science in Biology from Wake Forest University in 2005. Since 2005, she has worked at Duke University; explored the mechanism of action of chemotherapeutics for the treatment of leukemia in preclinical and early phase clinical trials; assessed the potential of chemotherapeutics for leukemia treatment in preclinical studies; and studied familial genetics in leukemia. Sallie is interested in exploring ways to help patient’s make informed decisions on their treatment through improved patient education and teaching critical thinking skills. She is also interested in translating bench science to inform patient treatment. Ms. Allgood is a member of the 2014 cohort.

Katherine Busby

Mentor: Dr. Marcia Van Riper
Research interests: chronically ill children and their families

Katherine BusbyKatherine Busby of Chapel Hill, N.C., has served as a lab assistant at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center and is a certified Nursing Assistant II. Her independent research has centered on her daughter’s rare congenital disorder, hypothalamic hamartoma. She was her daughter’s care provider and advocate, and her advocacy helped contribute to a hospital policy change after a medication overdose. Her research focus is in the area of chronically ill children and their families while finding ways to enhance resiliency for families of chronically ill children. Ms. Busby is a member of the 2015 cohort.

Laura Britton

Mentor: Dr. Beth Black
Research interests: health policy, health disparities, and reproductive health in the context of chronic illness management


Laura BrittonLaura Elizabeth Britton of Chapel Hill, N.C., earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences in 2005 from Wellesley College. She has a strong background in reproductive health research and direct service. At Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, she provided patient education and birth control counseling and worked as a study coordinator on clinical trials. At UNC Student Wellness, she provided birth control counseling to students, presenting educational programming to student groups, and conducting a campus-wide needs assessment as a Carolina Health Education Counselor of Sexuality. Her experiences galvanized her passion for patient-centered care and reproductive justice. While pursuing her BSN at the UNC School of Nursing, she completed an Honors project entitled “The Impact of Abortion Policy on Patient Safety: How Is It Measured?” in which she analyzed the content validity of measures used to evaluate policy impact. She also worked as a research assistant on a qualitative study entitled “Abortion provision under Women’s Right to Know laws: How a new restrictive law affects abortion providers in North Carolina” with physicians from the UNC School of Medicine. Her goal is to examine how reproductive health policies influence the care given to women with chronic illnesses and to design interventions that improve integration of family planning services into chronic illness management. Ms. Britton is a member of the 2013 cohort.

Martha Grace Cromeens

Mentor: Dr. Mark Toles
Research interests: transitional care in burn patients


Martha GraceMartha Grace Cromeens of Bryan, Texas, earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of St. Thomas in 2002, a Master of Arts in History from Baylor University in 2007 and a Juris Doctorate from the South Texas College of Law in 2008. Her Master’s thesis was titled “A Fifty-Year Retrospective on a German Cold War Tragedy, 1953-2003.” In addition to being a licensed attorney, she is a certified phlebotomist and certified nurse aide. Prior to applying to the Hillman Scholars Program, she worked as a tutor at Texas A&M University and as an instructor at Blinn College, teaching courses in history and government.  Ms. Cromeens is a member of the 2013 cohort.

Gillian Litynski

Mentor: Dr. Cheryl Jones
Research interests: global public health, specifically health inequalities between the rich and poor 

Gillian LitinskyGillian Litynski of Niskayuna, N.Y., is double majoring in Global Studies. She has experience working with HIV/AIDS in a Middle East research project and was an English teacher to Sudanese refugees living in Israel. She has volunteered at the UNC Institute of Global Health and Infectious Disease and is a member of the Baddour North Carolina Leadership Academy. Ms. Litynski is also captain of the UNC Chapel Hill fencing team. Her research focus is on global public health, specifically health inequalities between the rich and poor of the world. Ms. Litynski is a member of the 2015 cohort.

Leah Morgan

Mentor: Dr. Eric Hodges
Research interests: pediatric care and improving patient-family experiences in the pediatric population

Leah MorganLeah Morgan is originally from Charlotte, N.C., but moved to Chapel Hill at beginning of her undergraduate career. She is a traditional first-degree Bachelor of Nursing Science student. Upon being admitted to the nursing school, Ms. Morgan has become involved in Undergraduate Student Governance Council, Association of Nursing Students, and Careers Beyond the Bedside. She is also a nursing school ambassador and is interested in pursuing a career in pediatrics. Ms. Morgan is a member of the 2014 cohort.

Esita Patel

Mentor: Dr. Cheryl L. Giscombé
Research interests: models of maternal care delivery in the US and impacts on health care costs and outcomes

Esita PatelEsita Patel of Charlotte, N.C., earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology, with a minor in chemistry, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. She earned highest honors for her thesis work on the tumorigenic effects of ASC on medulloblastoma. During her time at UNC, Ms. Patel was a microbiology intern, Carolina Research Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Future Scientists and Clinicians (HHMI-FSC) fellow, member of Phi Sigma Pi and Tri-Beta National Honors Societies, and a volunteer doula. Prior to applying to the Hillman Scholars Program, she lived and worked alongside an indigenous midwife in Tecpan, Guatemala, through funding earned from the Carolina Experience Enrichment Scholarship fellowship. Her current research interests are driven by the disconnect between poorer birthing outcomes in obstetrical care in the US compared to other developed countries, despite the US spending more on this care compared to other countries. She hopes to explore models of care for low-risk pregnancies in the US that optimize costs while improving health care outcomes for the mother and baby. Ms. Patel is a member of the 2014 cohort.

Bill Smith

Mentors: Drs. Diane Berry and Shawn Kneipp
Research interests: improving health of underserved populations in the community setting

Bill SmithBill Smith of Durham, N.C., earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Allegheny College in Meadville, Penn., in 2006. He completed a thesis focused on service learning and its effects on narcissism and pro-social inclination in undergraduate students, and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology for Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2008. During his time at Allegheny College, he was an AmeriCorps Bonner Leader, completing 900 hours of service with at-risk youth, volunteered at a community-based, consumer-driven organization focused to better the lives of those with mental illness, and was the Community Service chair for Allegheny College’s chapter of Psi Chi – the International Honor Society in Psychology. Mr. Smith was recognized with Allegheny College’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 2006. He has worked as a clinician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, where he was nominated for Clinician of the Year in 2009. In North Carolina, he worked in regional mental health administration, designing and implementing service programs and establishing and strengthening partnerships with local, state, and national stakeholders. He established a patient assistance program to assist individuals without insurance in accessing needed medications and established a primary care clinic at a local crisis services center to ensure a more integrated approach to care and aftercare for people in a behavioral health crisis. Mr. Smith is a member of the 2014 cohort.

Adria Spinell

Mentors: Drs. Gwen Sherwood and Margaret (Peggy) Bentley
Research interests: childhood obesity and childhood malnutrition

Adria Spinell

Adria Nicole Spinelli of Racine, Wis., earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from Baylor University in 2011. During her time at Baylor, she was a member of the Honors College and studied abroad, focusing on international law and organizations. Prior to applying to the Hillman Scholars Program, Ms. Spinelli served as a Center Director for the Appalachia Service Project, a non-profit home repair organization working with impoverished communities in West Virginia. As Center Director, she managed a $50,000 budget and oversaw more than 500 volunteers. Ms. Spinelli has extensive international experience, including time spent studying in Cambodia and teaching in Spain. Ms. Spinell is a member of the 2013 cohort.