Spring 2022

Gillings Faculty Give Back

article summary

The Gillings Community is driven by a shared sense of mission. In fact, several faculty members established funds to benefit their students and departments.

A few of the values that make the Gillings School so special are its strong sense of community, its focus on training the next generation of public health leaders and its steadfast commitment to service. For longtime faculty, those values also serve as inspiration to give back.

The Lisa Morrisey LaVange Scholarship in Biostatistics

Lisa LaVange, PhD, professor and chair of biostatistics, first thought of establishing a scholarship fund during the capital campaign in the 1990s and is finally making it happen. She has had a broad biostatistics career with leadership roles in industry, government and academia and is enjoying being back at Gillings leading the department, where she was once a graduate student. In 2019, LaVange put her long-held idea into motion to support up-and-coming public health leaders.

The Lisa Morrisey LaVange Scholarship in Biostatistics is available to all qualified graduate students. Particular attention is given to enhancing the social, economic and cultural diversity of the Gillings student body — for example, by supporting applicants who demonstrate the qualities of enhancing diversity and leadership and show a commitment to advancing the role of women in statistics.

“Every job I’ve had in my career has tied back to Gillings — not just in knowledge and skills but in friendships and connections and professional networks,” LaVange says. “I have supported the School in other ways, but I really wanted to support students who want to become leaders in biostatistics. One of my goals in creating this fund was to connect with alumni and with people who have worked with me over the years, in hopes that they might think of doing something like this, too.”

The Geni Eng Community Equity Award and Lecture

Geni Eng, DrPH, professor of health behavior, is retiring June 30 after 40 years at the School. The former Peace Corps volunteer and renowned expert in community-based participatory research believes communities can come together to solve public health challenges through cultural changes. A new endowment in her name will support students and community partners who are working together to make systemic changes.

The Geni Eng Community Equity Award and Lecture will support a student in the School’s Health Equity, Social Justice and Human Rights Concentration; the Department of Health Behavior; or the Cancer Health Disparities Training Program who has demonstrated equitable collaboration and enhanced understanding and actions toward achieving health equity. It also will fund an honorarium for the community lecturer presenting in partnership with the student awardee. 

“I am so grateful for the many years of being a student and then working with students and communities in North Carolina,” Eng says. “The communities have been like my co-instructors. They are just so key to what our students are producing, and I wanted to recognize their contributions to training the future workforce in public health.”

The Carolina Home State Public Health Scholars Program

For Anna Schenck, PhD, director of the Public Health Leadership Program, investing in the next generation of public health leaders hits close to home. She grew up in Rockingham, N.C., earned her degrees in Chapel Hill, and worked for a local health department and the state before joining a nonprofit focused on improving the quality of care for Medicare patients in the Carolinas. 

Schenck serves on the scientific advisory committee for America’s Health Rankings and laments N.C.'s below-average rankings despite boasting a top-tier school of public health. To help train leaders who could bridge that disconnect, she and her husband, Jim, established the Carolina Home State Public Health Scholars program to support North Carolinians seeking a Master of Public Health degree. 

“As we train the next generation of public health leaders, I’m particularly interested in ensuring some of them are from N.C. and will use those skills in their home state — because we can and should do better,” Schenck says. “And because we think that’s really important, Jim and I wanted to step up to the plate.”  

Gillings friends and alumni are already contributing to these faculty-started funds. If you’d like to add a donation, please contact giving.sph@unc.edu.

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