Hillman Scholar Mentors

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Our Hillman scholars are embedded in the research of a mentor or mentors beginning with their Honor’s Project and moving through to completion of dissertation research. The scholars have been matched with the following mentors based on their areas of scholarly interest and the mentors’ research expertise, program of research, and/or connections to interdisciplinary partners in clinical practice, health systems and policy.

“The amount of support available through the program is phenomenal. If I ever need help, all I have to do is ask. From peer support to faculty support, there are always people available to help me move forward. I am amazed at how busy the professors at the school of nursing are, and yet, most will always make time to help students.”
-Esita Patel, Hillman Scholar


Meet our Mentors:

Dr. Anna Beeber Mentee: Elizabeth Allen

Dr. Anna Beeber
Mentee: Elizabeth Allen

Anna Beeber, PhD, RN, is an associate professor at the School of Nursing. Dr. Beeber will expose  Elizabeth Allen to her interdisciplinary research projects aimed at improving the quality of care in long-term care settings. Dr. Beeber is working with colleagues on a quality improvement program to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in long-term care settings, an intervention to help family caregivers of older adults with Alzheimer’s Disease manage medical illnesses, and a national study of nurse and direct care worker staffing, service availability, and resident outcomes in residential care/assisted living.


Dr. Gwen Sherwood and Dr. Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Bentley

Drs. Gwen Sherwood and Margaret Bentley
Mentee: Adria Spinell

Gwen Sherwood, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Nursing, and Margaret (Peggy) Bentley, PhD, is the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Global Health at the Gillings Global School of Public Health at UNC. Drs. Bentley and Sherwood will link Adria Spinelli with research teams conducting comparative analyses of nutrition, health, and food supplies among Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Dr. Sherwood’s scholarship focuses on quality outcomes and global leadership, and she is co-leader of the national Quality and Safety Education for Nurses initiative. Dr. Bentley’s research focuses on women and infant’s nutrition, infant and young child feeding, behavioral research on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and community-based interventions for nutrition and health.


Drs. Diane Berry and Shawn Kneipp Mentee: Bill Smith

Drs. Diane Berry and Shawn Kneipp
Mentee: Bill Smith

Diane Berry, PhD, ANP-BC, FAANP, and Shawn Kneipp, PhD, ARNP, associate professors at the School of Nursing, are mentoring Bill Smith in community research that can improve health of undeserved groups of people. Dr. Berry’s research focuses on management and prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes using community-based research.

Dr. Kneipp is studying the social, policy and economic determinants that impact the health of disadvantaged populations – particularly in relation to welfare policy, employment and women’s health.  Findings from her research have the potential to impact policy at the national level to improve the health of disadvantaged women.


Dr. Beth Black Mentee: Laura Britton

Dr. Beth Black Mentee: Laura Britton

Beth Black, RN, PhD, is an assistant professor at the School of Nursing. Laura Britton will join Dr. Black’s study of end-of-life care at the Center for Infant and Maternal Health at UNC Hospitals, where she is looking at how pregnant women and their partners understand and experience severe fetal diagnosis, prognosis, and end-of-life care as well as the factors that contribute to their decision to accept or decline end-of-life care. Dr. Black also received funding to examine how reproductive losses, such as infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth, impact lesbian couples.


Dr. Cheryl Giscombé Mentee: Esita Patel

Dr. Cheryl Giscombé
Mentee: Esita Patel

Cheryl L. Woods Giscombé, PhD, RN, is an associate professor at the School of Nursing. She is mentoring Esita Patel, who wants 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. Dr. Giscombé’s program of research focuses on understanding and reducing stress-related health disparities among African Americans. Dr. Giscombé has a particular interest in the potential of integrative approaches to reducing mental health-related disparities among African Americans.


Dr. Eric Hodges Mentee: Leah Morgan

Dr. Eric Hodges
Mentee: Leah Morgan

Eric Hodges, PhD, FNP-BC, is an associate professor at the School of Nursing. He will embed Leah Morgan in is his research that explores the roles of parent and child characteristics and parent-child feeding interactions in the development of obesity in early childhood. He is studying how well teaching American Sign Language to infants, commonly known as baby sign language, enhances a child’s ability to indicate to their caregivers whether they are hungry or full.



Cheryl Jones

Dr. Cheryl Jones
Mentee: Gillian Litinsky

Cheryl Jones, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the director of the UNC Hillman Scholars Program and chair of the Health Care Environments division at the School of Nursing. She is mentoring Gillian Litinsky, who is interested in global public health, specifically health inequalities between the rich and poor of the world. Dr. Jones is a recognized leader in nursing and health services research, having devoted her career to improving understanding of nursing workforce issues and their influence on the organization, delivery, quality and financing of nursing and health care.



Jennifer Leeman

Jennifer Leeman
Mentee: Sallie Allgood

Jennifer Leeman, DrPH, MDIV, is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing. She will provide opportunities for Sallie Allgood to learn more about translating bench science to inform patient treatment. Dr. Leeman’s funded research examines ways to effectively translate, disseminate and implement obesity prevention research into practice. She is the co-leader of a CDC-funded Center that provides training and evidence to support public health practitioners’ obesity prevention efforts nationwide (Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation, 2004-2014).


Dr. Mark Toles Mentee: Martha Grace Cromeens

Dr. Mark Toles
Mentee: Martha Grace Cromeens

Mark Toles, RN, PhDis an assistant professor with clinical experience in transitional care, behavioral health and nursing management. He will embed Martha Grace Cromeens in his research that is expanding the understanding of transitional care for older adults and their family caregivers. With funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, he is developing an intervention to improve transitions in care for older adults and family caregivers who transition from skilled nursing facilities to home.



Dr. Marcia Van Riper Mentee: Katherine Busby

Dr. Marcia Van Riper
Mentee: Katherine Busby

Marcia Van Riper, PhD, RN, FAAN, is professor and chair of the Family Health Division at the School of Nursing with a joint appointment in the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. Dr. Van Riper will embed Katherine Busby in her program of research, which focuses on the family experience of being tested for and living with a genetic condition, with special emphasis on families of individuals with Down syndrome. Dr. Van Riper and her international colleagues are conducting a mixed-methods, cross-cultural study designed to address existing gaps in knowledge concerning how cultural scripts and a variety of family factors contribute to adaptation and resilience in families of individuals with Down Syndrome.