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Leadership Academy for Health and Human Service Professionals

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CHHS Commissions New Corbett Anatomy Lab

The Dr. J. Richard “Dick” Corbett Anatomy Laboratory joins Veterans Hall’s suite of interprofessional teaching clinics, problem-based learning spaces and state-of-the-art equipment to create transformative learning experiences, advance knowledge and serve UNCW’s local and global communities.

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Read the latest stories about CHHS, including student, alumni, staff and faculty accomplishments, research initiatives, new programs and more!

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April 2024 - Zachary Drum, a Master of Social Work student set to graduate in May, was recently awarded the Veterans Affairs Interprofessional Fellowship Program in Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery (PSR) and Recovery Oriented Services in Durham. Drum carries the distinction of being only one of two MSW students to be awarded this honor this year.

This post-graduate training fellowship is designed for early career clinicians interested in recovery-oriented care for veterans with serious mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. This interdisciplinary postgraduate fellowship involves clinical work in the Durham VA’s Mental Health Intensive Case Management program, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, and the Substance Use Disorders Clinic. The purpose of the fellowship is to develop future mental health leaders with vision, knowledge, and commitment to transform mental health care systems in the 21st century by emphasizing functional capability, rehabilitation, and recovery. Additionally, all fellows complete a scholarly project during the training year and participate in a number of didactic experiences.

During the interview process Drum expressed that he “was so anxious because I had interviewed with five people, each with a 25-minute interview. But when I received the offer, I was very proud. My first emotion was shock and then the following was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’” he said.

Dr. Kristin Mapson, interim School of Social Work associate director and MSW program coordinator, said of Dunn’s accomplishment, “We are very proud of Zachary. He will make a phenomenal clinician and will be asset to the fellowship program.”

Drum is looking forward to working with veterans and says of the opportunity, “I want to make an impact and know that I'm making a difference in people’s lives. I've seen it a little bit in my internship already. I think sometimes you do need to recognize that you are contributing to people's lives,” he said.

December 2023 - For the past six years, Novant Health has teamed up with local barbershops to offer visitors crucial health information. Novant staff sets up popup clinics within barbershops that provide visitors with blood pressure checks, physician referrals, vaccines, and other health information. As of 2023, Novant now works with four different barbershops in the Cape Fear area.

Kevin Briggs, senior director of laboratory & respiratory care services, health equity, inclusion & belonging at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center was the brainchild of this collaboration. “We were looking at ways to reach parts of our population where we haven’t been as present,” Briggs explains. “We also know that historically, men don't really care to enter the walls of the healthcare facilities as often and that blacks and other minority groups have historically had trust concerns with the healthcare systems. So, we wanted to meet people where they were, and that really involved going out to the barbershops in an unconventional way to help.”

Briggs describes the importance of barbershops within the community, stressing that “the barber is really like a source of truth, almost like a pastor in parts of our community. We also wanted to focus our efforts in the areas of the community that had less healthcare access. So, we began doing screenings in the barbershops and checking things like blood pressure, while helping connect individuals to other resources in the healthcare realm that they may or may not be aware of.”

In 2022, School of Nursing faculty Drs. Stephanie Turrise and Lisa Anne Bove received $50,000 from the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation for a research project titled, "Promoting Health in African-American Populations through Partnership with Barbershop and Wearable Activity Trackers." The project aimed to help reduce hypertension in the African/Black American and Hispanic/Latino American population by tracking participants’ health information via an activity tracker. After a colleague informed Dr. Turrise of the collaboration between Novant and local barbershops, she became very interested in reaching out. “It wasn’t until I discovered that Kevin Briggs was in charge that I realized it was fate, Dr. Turrise says. “Kevin and I met years ago when I was doing clinicals with nursing students and he offered to give our students a tour of the lab facilities which we had to take him up on! We have been friends and colleagues ever since.”

Cedron Emerson owns and operates Just Cut It, a barbershop located in downtown Wilmington and he has observed first-hand how successful this project has become. “I think it is so great to be able to offer these services to the barbershop, to the barbers, to the customers. It gave them an option. A lot of my clients, they don't have insurance. So, it really brought them awareness and some answers to questions they might have,” he says.

Last year, funds from a New Hanover Community Endowment grant went towards purchasing blood pressure cuffs for people who have a high blood pressure reading or a prior diagnosis of hypertension. “Part of the battle in controlling hypertension is knowing you have it, knowing your numbers, and then working with the healthcare team to get it under control,” Turrise says. “However, people need the knowledge and equipment to manage their health. Raising awareness of the needs in our communities, going to the communities where they live, work and play is key to making a difference. We could not do it without our partners, the barbershop owners, barbers and stylists working in the shops who really are the leaders, who embraced this idea and welcomed us in.”

Dr. Turrise says the program has been very well received by the shop owners, their patrons, and the community at large. Partnerships have been formed with Novant Heart and Vascular Institute, the YWCA Lower Cape Fear, New Hanover County Health and Human Services, and other organizations that have a mission to improve cardiovascular health, particularly in high-risk populations and those who may be underserved. Churches and community organizations focused on mental health are interested in participating with similar operations at their locations. “Ultimately we would like to expand the initiative to other counties that Novant and UNCW serve,” Turrise says.  

November 13, 2023 – Over the weekend of November 4, Bachelor of Social Work student, Amaria Rankins, was presented with the Community Impact Student Award by NC Campus Engagement for her outstanding commitment and contribution to civic and community engagement. Rankins was selected as the award winner by UNC Wilmington administration after careful consideration of the students who made a lasting impact on their campus. She was honored for her efforts and achievements at the NC Campus Engagement biennial CSNAP Student Conference.

Amaria Rankins holding a CISA certificateSince 2006, the Community Impact Student Award recognizes an outstanding, full-time undergraduate student service leader from each NC Campus Engagement member campus. Award winners are selected by campus leaders and honored during the biennial CSNAP Student Conference. This year, CSNAP was held at NC State University with the theme, “Rising Together: Students Depolarizing North Carolina.”

Rankins was selected as the UNCW CISA winner because she demonstrates a strong commitment to community service and student empowerment. Holding pivotal roles such as President and Community Service Chair of UNCW's Black Women's Association, Rankins has played an instrumental part in constructing an exceptional executive board, programming, and opportunities tailored for Black women and femme presenting individuals. Through her work, Rankins consistently aims to foster a sense of belonging for students within the UNC Wilmington community.

Rankins's role as a mentor for the Excellence Project Mentorship Program within the Upperman African American Cultural Center has been instrumental in recruiting and supporting new first-year students, contributing significantly to the expansion of resources and fostering a vibrant community. Her dedication and influence extend beyond these roles, evident in her active involvement in the UNCW Psychology Department Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and her research assistantship with Smart Start of New Hanover County.

Rankins's commitment to continuous advocacy work, particularly during the challenges posed by the pandemic, exemplifies her resilience and commitment to academic excellence while encouraging and supporting her peers to overcome obstacles. Rankins’s drive to pursue the holistic betterment of the community and her exceptional leadership skills position her as a significant contributor to campus life at UNCW.

Rankins graciously accepted the Community Impact Student Award as the UNC Wilmington winner, among 14 other students representing colleges and universities across North Carolina.

North Carolina Campus Engagement (NCCE) is a collaborative network of colleges and universities committed to educating students for civic and social responsibility, partnering with communities for positive change, and strengthening democracy. The NC Campus Engagement state office fosters connections between campuses, shares best practice information and resources, recognizes outstanding work, and champions civic and community engagement in higher education. To learn more visit

November 10, 2023 - Marlo Brooks has been named the College of Health and Human Services’ new assistant dean for administration and resource management and will begin December 4.

In her new role, Brooks will oversee the Business Core Services Team, which is responsible for supporting many administrative functions, including financial, human resources, facility and event management activities for CHHS. She will work closely with the college leadership team to provide data analysis and other insight to support decision making.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Brooks said. “It will allow me to draw on my previous experiences, while working in a college where my work will be closely tied to UNCW’s mission and strategic goals.”

Most recently, Brooks served as the director of finance and administration for the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and as assistant dean for administration and finance of the College of Art and Design at Lesley University. She brings extensive knowledge of budget development, finance and resource management and strategic planning.

Brooks earned her master’s degree in counseling from Salve Regina University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island. She is also a certified associate project manager.

November 8, 2023 - On October 27, the Greater Wilmington Business Journal hosted its annual Health Care Heroes Awards at the Wilson Center and two College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) students each received a $500 scholarship.

Bachelor of Social Work student Amaria Rankins and Bachelor of Respiratory Therapy student Rainey Fish were nominated by their respective school leadership team and recognized as students who are considered exemplary due to their growing impact on health care delivery and their continued involvement in the community and field of health and human services.

“I was honestly shocked and honored to be the student recipient of the Health Care Hero student scholarship,” Rankins says. “I hope that I can continue to make CHHS proud and will forever be grateful for this experience.” She plans to pursue graduate school after completing her studies at UNCW in 2025.

After receiving the award, Fish says, “I felt honored to be selected as the recipient of the Health Care Heroes student scholarship. It is truly a privilege and means a lot to me because my goal is to become a successful healthcare worker. I believe that I have a calling to help others, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to pursue my calling of helping others through a career in respiratory therapy,” she said.

Fish further pointed out that she is grateful to CHHS for helping her “develop the skills needed to succeed in her future career. “I want to thank Assistant Dean for Student Success Sheri Shaw for her guidance and mentorship. She has been an amazing mentor and role model, and I am grateful for everything she has done to help me achieve my academic and career goals.”

September 2023 - Alexandria Payton '22 is among the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency’s unprecedented global evacuation in March 2020. The Peace Corps suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alex Payton Headshot“I look forward to experiencing what life has to offer outside the United States. Additionally, I am looking forward to actualizing my passion for service and health advocacy abroad,” said Payton. “I hope to build lifelong connections with my volunteer cohort, host family, and Peace Corps staff and advance my skills and knowledge in public health and Spanish.”

Payton is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a bachelor’s degree in public health. She will serve as a volunteer in Peru in the health sector.

The volunteer cohorts are made up of both first-time volunteers and volunteers who were evacuated in early 2020. Upon finishing a three-month training, volunteers will collaborate with their host communities on locally prioritized projects in one of Peace Corps’ six sectors – agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health or youth in development – and all will engage in COVID-19 response and recovery work.

Currently, the agency is recruiting volunteers to serve in 59 countries around the world at the request of host country governments, to connect through the Peace Corps’ grassroots approach across communities and cultures. Volunteers have already returned to a total of 57 countries around the world. The Peace Corps continues to monitor COVID-19 trends in all of its host countries and will send volunteers to serve as conditions permit. Americans interested in transformative service and lifelong connections should apply to Peace Corps service at

August 2023 - Leah Mayo 10’ has been named assistant dean for community engagement and health equity after serving as interim assistant dean during the 2022-23 academic year. Mayo previously served as Center for Healthy Communities coordinator in the College of Health and Human Services and co-director of the North Carolina Public Health Training Center.

Leah Mayo smiles with her arms folded.“I’m very excited for this opportunity. Community engagement has done a lot of valuable work for the college and I’m proud of everything that we’ve done. As we adapt and change to meet the needs of the college and the community, I welcome any feedback or ideas about this role or unit in order to continue to support the mission of the college,” Mayo said.

Looking to the future of her new role, Mayo says “Growth may be uncomfortable, but growth is necessary.” She has a number of goals she plans to tackle. Mayo explains, “One of my goals is to educate faculty, staff, students, and community partners about the services the community engagement team can offer. Then we can establish a closed loop process that will provide a positive experience for our faculty, staff, and students, whether that means resolving a problem effectively, acknowledging praise or suggestions, or answering an individual’s questions,” she said. “A closed loop process can offer the opportunity to demonstrate in a direct and personal way that feedback is important and that you care about the outcome.”

Mayo also stressed the importance of sustaining and increasing visibility of signature programs and events within community engagement, including the Center for Workforce Development, Center for Healthy Communities, Health Equity Bonner Fellowship, and MentorCHHS.

Dr. Jack Watson, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, says of Mayo’s appointment, “We are thrilled to have Leah Mayo as our new assistant dean for community engagement and health equity. Community engagement is an essential part of CHHS and Leah has developed and maintained strong relationships in the community. She has very successfully demonstrated the skills and mindset necessary to advance our college-wide initiatives into the community. Further, her research and programming initiatives are strongly geared towards promoting health equity in our community. Her plans for the future are very exciting and match well with the needs of our college. I look forward to seeing the impact of her leadership on this office and the College of Health and Human Services.”