Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Adriana Alvarez wins scholarship for public health studies

Mills River resident Adriana Alvarez is among the first students to receive the inaugural $10,000 Johnson-Baker Scholarship for study in the UNC Asheville-UNC Gillings Master of Public Health school.
"I am pursuing a MPH with a concentration in place-based health which will allow me to further develop the skills needed to connect with different communities," Alvarez said. "While working with various rural communities in WNC, I have learned that developing connections with community members is vital to effectively assist the community. Through fostering these connections, we were able to vaccinate over 100 individuals who would have otherwise not have had access to the Covid-19 vaccines at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"With my degree, my goal is to start a non-profit clinic that provides accessible primary care for low-income populations as well as immigrant and undocumented populations."

Alvarez earned a degree in public health at Agnes Scott College in 2020 before enrolling this year in the master of public health program.

The competitive tuition-offset scholarships are awarded to public health students who have lived or worked in Western North Carolina and have expressed a commitment to serve mountain communities that have been underserved and disproportionately affected by structural biases.

The UNC Gillings Master of Public Health program announced the first 10 recipients of the new scholarship last week. Provided by the Mountain Area Health Education Center, the awards are named in honor of two of the program’s founders who contributed to the health of Western North Carolinians in a myriad of ways. Both died at the height of their careers.

Travis Johnson, the first director of the Asheville MPH program, was a passionate advocate for maternal, child and other public health services in underserved communities. He always sought to “do what is right, love mercy and walk humbly.” In the public health program, he wanted to “partner with local agencies to give students the opportunity to solve cases based on real-life issues in real-time.” 

Melissa Baker was a community health catalyst who enhanced collaboration in caring for children with disabilities and led region-wide quality improvement initiatives in pediatrics and women’s health. She was instrumental in making sure physicians, mental health counselors, schools and law enforcement throughout Buncombe County and WNC understood both the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and how to help people with trauma build resilience skills.