Undergraduate Health Equity Scholars

Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP) Undergraduate Student Participation Grant

Cal-IHEA supports UC, CSU, and USC students to attend the ITUP conference, participate in workshops, and engage healthcare policymakers and professionals at a networking reception! In addition, in the weeks leading up to the conference, scholars will participate in preparatory webinars and have access to professional development resources on topics ranging from op-ed writing to contributing to the state policymaking process. 

The application for the spring 2021 Health Equity Scholars Program is now closed. Please check back back in late 2021 for next years cohort application.

Check out the 2021 Health Equity Scholars below. Cal-IHEA is proud of our cohort of scholars and looking forward to the ITUP Conference.

Read their reflections here!

2021 Health Equity Scholars

Shane Milan Abbasi

University of California, San Diego

Public Health with Concentration in Community Health Sciences

Shane Milan Abbasi is a third-year undergraduate student at University of California, San Diego pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Public Health with Concentration in Community Health Sciences and double-minoring in General Biology and Health Care–Social Issues. Shane is an immigrant himself, and immigrated to the United States from the Middle East at the age of 14. As immigrants, Shane and his family experienced health disparities in the U.S. health care system and these experiences shaped his passion to study public health. He currently serves as the Fund the UC Coordinator at UCSD. He is a part of Associated Students of University of California, and is passionate about college affordability for anyone pursuing higher education, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. As a public health student, Shane Abbasi is preparing for a future path committed to advancing the health of populations, particularly underserved and vulnerable communities.

Zainab Apalara

University of California, Davis

Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship, and Arabic Language

Zainab Apalara is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis studying Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Entrepreneurship, and Arabic Language. Zainab is an Intern at Global Healthcare & Management Consulting Services LLC., where she works alongside a physician and healthcare executive and learns relevant skills in using several programs/applications and in evidence-based medical practice, digital healthcare management, data analysis, bioinformatics, machine learning, and entrepreneurship. She performed disease-focused analytics, especially during COVID-19, by developing presentations on the pandemic’s spread. She is also a part of a non-profit foundation involved with worldwide assistance provided to the needy and vulnerable communities. She aspires to be an OBGYN and research how socio-economic indices and the burden of chronic diseases and healthcare disparities have taken on minorities.

Joan Ashby

University of California, Davis

Global Disease Biology with an emphasis in Public Health

Joan Ashby is an undergraduate student at University of California, Davis studying Global Disease Biology with an emphasis in Public Health. Growing up in California's Central Valley, Joan observed the gaps between healthcare in BIPOC communities and desired to help mend these gaps in her work. She currently works at the Dept. of Public Health at the UC Davis Medical School researching COVID-19 in nursing home populations and COVID-19 mathematical modeling in university populations. She also aids in teaching an upper division epidemiology course to students at UC Davis. She aspires to utilize her epidemiology background to create equitable solutions to public health crises focusing primarily on low-income and minority communities.


Stephanie Cardona

California State University Dominguez Hills

Healthcare Management

Stephanie Cardona is a first generation, undergraduate student at California State University Dominguez Hills receiving her B.S. in Healthcare Management in Spring, 2021. Born and raised in San Pedro, California, she began to recognize that a lack of diversity could create difficult barriers between healthcare workers and patients who could not speak English. These experiences gave her a unique perspective on diversity, inclusion, and the need to be present in underserved communities. Currently, Stephanie serves as Vice President of Immigrant Student Alliance a student run organization which focuses on bridging the gap for the underrepresented in her school community. She aspires to focus on health policy initiatives affecting the economic and physical security of minorities and immigrant groups.

Aida Regina Castaneda

University of California, San Deigo

Public Health with a conentration in Health Policy and Management Sciences

Aida Regina Castaneda is a senior undergraduate student at the University of California San Diego, enriched in the Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) program with a concentration in Health Policy and Management Sciences. As a young child refugee fleeing post-civil war El Salvador, Regina was aware of the health disparities caused by inequalities in the social determinants of health. At the age of nine, her family moved to the East Los Angeles community and she quickly mobilized to battle some of the same issues with healthcare equity that plagued her latinx community. She dedicated her community college years working to empower the use of healthcare resources at the undocumented student/lgbtq+ center. Recently, she has been admitted to Cornell University MHA Sloan program, as a catalyst for health policy engagement, to increase access to high quality care for underrepresented communities.

Amrit Chauhan

University of California, Davis

Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Amrit Chauhan is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis working to receive her bachelor's degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior with a minor in Public Health. Originally from Yuba City, California, Amrit grew up witnessing many health disparities within the Punjabi immigrant community. As someone who is Punjabi, she has seen firsthand how language and financial barriers have affected the community in regards to accessing health care. She has been able to advocate and provide health services to this community through her participation in the UC Davis chapter of the Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative (BPSHI). In addition, she has participated in Public Health research about Punjabi mental health, which included developing a community specific diagnostic tool. She aspires to continue advocating for mental wellness, focusing on immigrant and low-income communities.

Rianna Garcia

San José State University

Public Health

Rianna Garcia, a graduating senior at San José State University, is working to receive her B.S. in Public Health, Concentration in Health Services Administration with a Minor in Psychology. As a third-generation Filipina American, Rianna comes from a family of six children. When she was an infant, her family moved from the Bay Area and settled in Stockton, CA, one of the most diverse cities in the nation. Rianna witnessed how various social determinants of health would affect the community on various levels, including environmental safety, local education, and accessibility to mental health services. She seeks to expand her knowledge in clinical healthcare leadership and community policy initiatives to improve access to primary health care and mental health services among underserved communities.

 Jackqueline Gonzalez

University of California, Merced

Public Health

Jackqueline Gonzalez is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Merced working to receive her B.A. in Public Health. Originally from La Puente, California, she currently serves as a student ambassador for the Women’s Health, Gender, and Empowerment COE program. Her interest includes community health, bio-behavioral research and promoting equity in health policies. She aspires to research the health disparities within low-income communities and advocate for accessible, quality health care.

Dominique Hawkins-Jacobs

CSU Dominguez Hills

Healthcare Management

Dominique Hawkins-Jacobs is a Spring 2021 B.S. Healthcare Management candidate at CSU Dominguez Hills. Born and raised in a low-income community, Dominique has experienced inequity in healthcare firsthand. As a first-generation college student, she is also witness to the education disparities that affect minorities across Los Angeles county. Currently, Dominique serves as the Treasurer for the Public Health Toros Association, a student-run organization dedicated to providing minority representation throughout the healthcare realm. Transitioning to graduate school in the Fall, Dominique aspires to focus on health policy initiatives that target maternal and fetal health within underrepresented minority communities. It is her hope to dismantle the barriers of systemic bias, dismissive behavior and lack of autonomy that heavily influences the care women and children of color receive.

Helen Heng

University of California, Merced


Helen Heng is an undergraduate student currently attending the University of California, Merced, and working to receive her B.S. in Biology. Originally from Fresno, California, and the current caretaker of her grandmother, she witnessed the many disparities in healthcare among the elderly in immigrant communities. She is currently applying for MD/Ph.D. programs, and aspires to serve as a Palliative Care Specialist working and conducting research within rural immigrant communities.

Preeti Juturu

University of California, Riverside

Public Policy and Economics

Preeti Juturu is a third-year student at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) studying public policy and economics, with concentrations in health/population policy and urban/environmental policy. Originally from the San Joaquin Valley, Juturu became fascinated by environmental health outcomes, social inequalities and health disparities through her experiences in a primarily rural community. In the summer of 2020, Juturu participated in the University of California Center, Sacramento program and began researching health disparities in the agricultural regions of Inland California using geospatial methods. Juturu is currently an undergraduate researcher for the UCR Center for Geospatial Sciences as well as a research assistant and intern for the UCR Center for Health Disparities Research. Juturu is interested in conducting research that is interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on health disparities, environments, and urban/regional infrastructure.

Nilufar Kayhani

University of California, Berkeley

Public Health

Nilufar Kayhani is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley majoring in Public Health. As the daughter of Afghan refugees, she has been her family’s health advocate for nearly all her life. She co-founded Sofreh Salamati, a health initiative investigating healthcare access and health needs of Afghan refugee women. Nilufar aspires to attend graduate school in Public Health and to support marginalized communities to gain representation in the data and the policies that affect them.

Jenny Kwon

University of California, Berkeley

Public Health

Jenny Kwon is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, currently pursuing a B.A. in Public Health with Minors in Journalism, Data Science and Global Poverty & Practice. While they were born in California, Jenny spent the majority of their childhood in Austin, Texas. They currently serve as a Student Coordinator for AAPIHRG (Asian American Pacific Islander Health Research Group), an organization led by students and Bay Area health professionals aiming to raise awareness of AAPI-specific health issues and improve the health of AAPI communities through research, service, and advocacy. Jenny hopes to become an investigative and data journalist reporting on health-related issues. Their goal is to make health policy and public health research more accessible to community members while engaging in community care and mutual aid efforts.

Bella Lalanne

University of California, San Diego

Political Science

Bella Lalanne is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego working to receive her B.S. in Political Science (Data Analytics) with a Minor in Healthcare. Growing up in a rural, low-income, and minority community in the San Joaquin Valley, Bella has witnessed the impacts of a lack of healthcare coverage. She currently serves as a Peer Educator for the Basic Needs Hub at UCSD providing students with the relief resources to combat food, housing, and financial insecurity. Bella plans to work on health policy initiatives that expand insurance coverage and reduce barriers to healthcare for youth.

Sofia Ledesema

University of California, Davis

Human Development

Sofia Ledesema is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis where she is working to receive her B.S. in Human Development with a Minor in Public Health. Sofia grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where she spent most of her early childhood under the care of her Mexican immigrant grandparents. There, she witnessed disparities in access to culturally competent healthcare on a daily basis and was inspired to pursue a career in public health. Sofia currently volunteers at Clinica Tepati, a student-run clinic where she advocates for the uninsured Latinx community in Sacramento. In the near future, she is planning to pursue a career in community health and health administration where she is hoping to address health inequities that affect immigrant and minority communities.

Abigail Mighell

University of California, Davis

Political Science and History

Abigail Mighell is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis working to receive two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and History. Coming from a low-income community in the Coachella Valley, Abigail has experienced first-hand the struggles that many families face in securing affordable, reliable healthcare while dealing with chronic illness and disability. She is especially passionate about advocating for healthcare reform through legislation and has dedicated much of her college career to health policy research. Abigail hopes to attend law school after graduation and to continue adovcating for access to affordable healthcare for low-income families.

Mary Nguyen

University of California, San Diego 

Public Health and General Biology

Mary Nguyen is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego working on her dual B.S. degrees in General Biology and Public Health. She currently serves as Palomar Health’s Pathmaker Internship Director of Administration and Alumni and Health Policy Intern at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Mary aspires to contribute to policy centered around reproductive justice and behavioral health. In any of the work she does she wants to advocate for healthcare as a human right.

Julieta Ornelas

University of California, San Diego

Public Health/ Health Policy and

Management Science

Julieta Ornelas is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego working to receive her B.A. in Public Health (Health Policy and Management Science) with a minor in Human Developmental Science (Equity and Diversity). Originally from San Diego, California, Julieta grew up witnessing the negatives effects of health disparities in the Latinx community. She currently serves as a volunteer for the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic, which provides essential medical services to uninsured individuals. She aims to create policies aimed at decreasing health disparities in underserved communities.

Minh Pham

University of California, Los Angeles


Minh Pham is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Biochemistry. Originally from Vietnam and as a Vietnamese American and son of a refugee, Medi-Cal recipients himself who immigrated to the United States ten (10) years ago, Minh experienced many personal and academic obstacles. Minh spoke little to no English and had difficulty communicating with others at the beginning. Through several Vietnamese community service programs, tremendous experiences working with various communities, especially the medically underserved community, Minh realized he was not alone; he found others who he can relate to, particularly the struggles of another immigrant and first-generation college students. Since then, he has been working tirelessly as a volunteer and community organizer from various nonprofit, private, and public sectors to advocate for our underserved, minority, and low-income communities in Orange County for better healthcare services and the voice of our community's youth. Minh aspires to become a community physician.

Ariana Pineda

University of California, Merced

Public Health

Ariana Pineda grew up in a low-income minority neighborhood in San Jose, Calif., where she attended schools that performed below state standards and saw violence nearby. From an early age, she witnessed and experienced inequalities that affected her community. It made her realize how your neighborhood environment can affect your health. Ariana is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Merced, where she is studying to receive her B.A in Public Health. She believes Public Health is the instrument through which she can create change. She recently finished a local mission trip with a nonprofit organization in San Jose, where she helped distribute millions of dollars of financial aid to 299 extremely low-income families that experienced job losses and/or contracted COVID. She aspires to focus on gaining skills to effectively address health disparities that affect communities with program implementation and health policy.

Oscar Ramos

University of California, Berkeley

Public Health 

Oscar Ramos is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley studying Public Health with a Minor in Public Policy. Oscar is involved with research through the Data Science Education Program, studying the effects of COVID-19 shelter-in-place policy on mental health and online search behavior at the intersection of epidemiology and information, and previously, was involved with the East Bay Day Laborer Study focusing on the social determinants of health affecting day laborers in the East San Francisco Bay Area. Growing up in California’s Central Valley as a Latinx and LQTBQIA+ individual, and in a low-income immigrant household, has fueled Oscar’s aspiration of increasing health equity in health systems and addressing health disparities among vulnerable and rural populations. He is interested in the intersection of public health, technology, and policy and is eager to receive his MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics or MPH in Health Policy and Management.

Nikki Ramsy

University of Southern California


Nikki Ramsy is an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California majoring in History and minoring in Culture, Media, and Entertainment. After she graduates, Nikki is planning to pursue a degree in Public Policy with a focus in health policy. As someone who grew up in a Coptic Egyptian immigrant community in Orange County, she has seen firsthand the toll mental health stigma can take and hopes to learn more about different methods by which to demystify these issues. Nikki ultimately plans to use her education in history and communications, as well as her own personal experiences, towards a career in intersectional policymaking that addresses how factors like race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, size, and ability influence people’s healthcare quality and access.

Sofia Reyes

University of Southern California

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Sofia Reyes is an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, B.S. Born and raised in Chula Vista, Sofia grew up as a first generation Mexican American surrounded by the narrative and disparities of a border town. Currently, Sofia serves as a leader for the student run organization, Latino Students in Medicine at USC, which aims to mitigate the gap of latinx professionals in healthcare services. Sofia has also gained critical exposure interning with the Office of Binational Border Health, where she has been able to further understand the disparities of immigrant, low-income and minority communities in San Diego county through a public health lense. She aspires to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant and expand her knowledge studying epidemiology to help serve refugee, migrant and asylum seeking populations in the US and abroad.

Brissa Reyes

University of California, Berkeley


Brissa Reyes is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley receiving her B.A. in English and a Minor in Public Health. She grew up in the Central Valley, near Fresno, where she witnessed health disparities that affect low-income individuals and families, especially immigrant communities. She served as an officer for Comunidad for Health Equity, a student-run organization that provides resources to the local Latinx and underserved populations in the Bay area. Her future goals are to explore how healthcare, through Health Policy and Management, can improve health and provide equitable care in the future.

Giselle Reyes

University of California, Merced

Public Health

Gisselle Reyes is an undergraduate student at the University of California Merced, working to receive her B.A. in Public Health. Originally from Los Angeles California, Gisselle grew up in a low income community and saw how health health disparities affected her and other low-income community(s). She currently serves as the Director of Academic Affairs for The Associated Students of the University of California Merced (ASUCM) a student-run organization dedicated to building student success by providing opportunities for students to thrive and a strong build a strong campus community. She plans to focus on health policy initiatives that will help low-income communities overcome the health disparities that exists within Latinx communities.

Barbara Rodriguez

California State University of Dominguez Hills

Health Science/ Healthcare Management

Barbara Rodriguez is an undergraduate student at the California State University of Dominguez Hills. She is currently working to receive her B.S in Health Science with a concentration in Healthcare Management. She will advance onto graduate school to earn her Masters degree in Public Health and Policy. She has single-handedly experienced the hardship of affording health care coverage. Barbara aspires for change in our healthcare system and will focus on ways to improve. She advocates for a healthcare system where everyone can have access to healthcare coverage more economically. She has served as a volunteer for the Public Health Toros Association, a student-run organization dedicated to health science majors and promoting health. She is a firm believer of equality and fairness for everyone.

Mariella Sanding

University of California, Merced

Public Health

Mariella is a third year UC Merced undergraduate pursuing a B.A. in Public Health and a Minor in Psychology. She is currently a Student Ambassador at UC Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise on Planetary Health. She is also an active member of Delta Epsilon Mu’s Theta Chapter, a pre-health professional co-ed fraternity on campus. She has previously interned with Penumbra Inc., a global healthcare company based near her hometown in the East Bay Area. Her interests include racial health equity and environmental racism. She hopes to pursue a career in public health policy, specifically advocating for the improvement of health access for underrepresented and low-income communities.

Prem Saroya

University of California, Merced

Public Health

Prem Saroya is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Merced working towards a B.A. in Public Health. As a resident of Ceres, California, and daughter of low-income immigrant parents, Prem is familiar with the inaccessibility to equitable healthcare in her community. She is currently a research volunteer under Dr. Andrea Lopez and Dr. Nancy Burke for the STOP COVID-19 Project which seeks to mobilize academic-community partnerships across the State of California to work on COVID-19 prevention, vaccine trial information, and vaccine readiness particularly among the hardest hit populations of the Central Valley. She also volunteers with The Jakara Movement’s COVID-19 team to bring culturally relevant and accurate information on vaccines and testing to the Punjabi community of California. She aspires to obtain an MPP/MPH to effectively address inequitable healthcare access for under-resourced populations in the San Joaquin Valley through health policy initiatives.

Daphney Saviotti Orozco

University of California, Berkeley

Public Health

Daphney Saviotti Orozco is currently an undergraduate at UC Berkeley looking to major in Public Health. As a first-generation Latinx student, Daphney has personal experience with the flaws in health-care. She is lucid of the disproportionate issues that face low-income and minority communities, as she grew up only a few yards from an active refinery. Sensitive to the fact that families are often unaware of the toxic effects of poor city planning, she strives to uplift underrepresented communities. As Student Leader of Project 4H2O, she worked hard toward protecting her community from unhealthy drinking habits and fought for clean drinking fountains at her school. Her biggest aspiration is to become the first doctor in her family. Daphney also loves anything creative, and is an avid artist. From making murals for underrepresented communities to running her own Art Club, she's passionate about finding innovative and creative methods to serve her community.

Christy Seguritan

University of California, Los Angeles


Christy Seguritan is the first child of immigrant parents, and grew up in a culturally diverse part of Los Angeles, known as the San Fernando Valley. Christy went through her years in high schools volunteering for various NGO's throughout Los Angeles with focus on addressing the homeless crises. She is now currently studying as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, working towards a B.S in Psychobiology with hopes to attend medical school afterward. At UCLA, Christy continues to serve her community as a volunteer and board member for UNICEF at UCLA, an organization dedicated in advocating and serving for children's health, education, and safety on both a local and global basis. Building on her experiences as an active volunteer in her community, Christy aspires to address and deliver healthcare services to vulnerable populations, with focuses on the homeless population, in order to help reduce health disparities in the Los Angeles area.