Staff Inducted into James F. Merritt Million Dollar Club


10/21 – Leah Mayo, coordinator for the College’s Center for Healthy Communities, has been inducted into UNCW’s James F. Merritt Million Dollar Club. Mayo’s role is centered on building relationships with the surrounding communities and identifying what their needs are to make connections with faculty, staff and students and to create collaborative funding opportunities.

The James F. Merritt Million Dollar Club is an exclusive club of more than 100 scholars and researchers who, due to their commitment to excellence, are on the cutting edge of research, teaching and service, reaching $1M in total external funding during the fiscal year. The club is named after Dr. James F. Merritt who procured over $14,000,000 in grants in contracts during his 34-year tenure at UNCW (1973-99).

“This induction is really an honor,” Mayo said, “but it’s not about me. It’s more that this funding has been able to support the health and well-being of the Southeast region and has really been driven by what the community has identified as needs versus what my personal thoughts are for the needs of the community. I see this as an award that the CHC and our community received and not necessarily one that I can take full credit for. It really was and continues to be a collaborative effort.”

Mayo and her team are working on several projects that collectively exceeded the one-million-dollar mark. The projects are a combination of external grants and contracts to support community-based work, including Medicaid Transformation and COVID-19 response support for Bladen, Robeson and Columbus counties; local focus group facilitation, assessment and evaluation projects; and professional development opportunities for public health professionals. Funding for these initiatives has been provided by Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina, Health Resources and Services Administrations and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   

Mayo said the projects have allowed the CHC to grow by working with faculty and staff across the university to leverage expertise and resources to support the health and wellbeing of the surrounding communities. Currently, the Center for Healthy Communities is exploring what innovative and interdisciplinary projects look like in the future and how the college and university can work with the community to identify mutually beneficial projects that help to support the mission of the college.

“I think it’s going to open up more opportunities to help address health equity and some of the health inequities that we see in our area,” Mayo said.