Chiamaka Okonkwo a third year Levine Scholar from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has been advocating, researching, and assisting in the delivery of health care throughout her undergraduate career. In addition to working with the local health department with their investigation of HIV/STD prevention and treatment, she has worked with patients at the Levine Children’s Hospital and a local community health clinic. Chiamaka continues to address challenges in the provision of affordable health care through the presentations of her scholarly work with the local health department and the founding and leadership of Health Care Justice at UNC Charlotte.
The summer after my freshman year, I had the incredible opportunity to intern with my local health department. I explored everything from low-cost clinics to HIV testing centers, experiences that introduced me to the ways by which community health initiatives address inequity and empower the under-served. The following fall, I became involved in the HIV/STD research group of the Academy for Population Health Innovation (APHI). With invaluable mentorship, I currently help to identify populations that are at highest risk for HIV infection and have begun developing curricula for workshops that aim to better educate the community about sexually transmitted disease. As a Spanish major, I enjoy applying my language skills by translating at a low-cost clinic that caters to a primarily Latinx population. At a local children’s hospital, I coordinate events specific to the needs of Spanish-speaking patients and their families. And now, as a member of a statewide coalition that advocates for a single-payer health care system, I have become particularly invested in stimulating conversations surrounding access to care and the institutional roots of health disparity. As I pursue a career in medicine, I firmly believe that addressing inequities within community health is key to building healthier populations.