Eight University of California Students Selected for the Center for Gender and Health Justice Summer Internship Opportunities Program

April 22, 2024

Eight University of California students from four campuses (UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Berkeley) have been selected to participate in the UC Global Health Institute (UCGHI) Center for Gender and Health Justice’s (CGHJ) Internship Opportunities Program. This opportunity not only highlights the caliber of talent students hold at the University of California but also underscores UCGHI’s commitment to fostering future leaders in the field of global health and the CGHJ’s mission to support student involvement in reducing gender and health disparities globally.

The selected students, representing a diverse range of academic backgrounds and interests, will embark on a transformative journey this summer as they work with various health-related organizations and research centers on issues related to gender and health justice. Specifically, their internships will focus on critical areas such as reproductive rights and abortion access; HIV/STI prevention and treatment for youth in Los Angeles and for sex workers in India; minimizing pesticide exposure and supporting work accommodations and/or disability leave for pregnant farmworkers; working with indigenous, mestizo, and Afro-Mexican promotoras to foster women’s economic empowerment in Mexico; and data analysis and program planning for HIV prevention science and sexual and gender minoritized population health.

The Internship Opportunities Program is led by Center for Gender and Health Justice Associate Director, Melissa Smith, MD, in collaboration with the Center’s Coordinator, Taylor Thomas, MPH, MA

“Having an internship experience as an undergraduate played an important role in my own professional career path. This motivates me to want to create opportunities for students to have similar opportunities, especially those who are from underrepresented communities. I am inspired by the passion and dedication of student interns in making a positive impact on critical issues and look forward to seeing the valuable contributions they will make during their internships.” - Melissa Smith, MD

The internship program, in collaboration with Center for Gender and Health Justice leadership and community partners, aims to provide students with hands-on experience, mentorship opportunities, and exposure to career options and to addressing pressing real-world challenges. Students will have the opportunity to engage in research coordination, data analysis, program planning, community outreach initiatives, and more, all geared toward advancing gender and health justice on a local and global scale.

The selected students met virtually in April for a kick-off orientation meeting, where they were able to learn more about each other, the Internship Opportunities Program, and their respective internships.

Group photo from the Internship Opportunities Program kick-off orientation meeting. Left to right: Melissa Smith, Taylor Thomas, Roshni Desai, Stephanie Sumstine-Felice, Natasha Glendening, Michelle Omar, Audrey Shin, Litzy Santibañez, Chris Weir, and Jennifer Ko.

"I was very interested in applying to this program because I'm really passionate about health equity and health rights. I'm really excited for this summer to be able to work on this project and help improve the health for farmworker women." - Litzy Santibañez

The University of California’s strong emphasis on interdisciplinary education and training, research excellence, and social responsibility has played a significant role in preparing the selected students for their roles in positively impacting the global health landscape. Through initiatives like the Internship Opportunities Program, UCGHI and the Center for Gender and Health Justice aim to empower students to become change agents and leaders in promoting health equity and social justice for all.

Meet the 2024 Summer Interns

Audrey Shin, UCLA
Internship Site: ATN CARES

Audrey is a 3rd year Human Biology & Society student at UCLA. Passionate about the intersection of social factors and healthcare, she volunteers in clinic to help address these issues. Through her experience working in a partnership with MCHI through GlobeMed, Audrey developed a strong commitment to decolonizing global health, promoting healthcare sustainability, and advocating for community-engaged projects. In her free time, Audrey enjoys trying new foods, socializing with friends, and doing pilates.

Chris Weir, UC Irvine
Internship Site: MPH Research Internship at UCI

Chris Weir is a Public Health professional and advocate committed to reducing health disparities in the AAPI Queer community. As a mixed-race activist, I am passionate about advancing data disaggregation and CBPR. My main interest is in social epidemiology, particularly addressing health disparities that arise from aggregating identities as a monolith.  My diverse background in research, biotech, and working in an AIDS service organization equips me with a multidisciplinary approach to tackling inequities.

Grecia Garcia, UC Berkeley
Internship Site: GESMujer

Grecia Garcia (she/her) is a first-generation Mexican-Peruvian student who aims to become a medical doctor and is currently a junior LEAP Scholar at UC Berkeley studying Public Health with a minor in Latine/Chicane Studies. She is committed to combatting health discrepancies through community outreach and is interested in maternal, child, and adolescent health. As part of the Center for Gender and Health Justice, Grecia has previously worked as a student ambassador and as a research intern for the Know Your Rights project for indigenous farmworker women.

Litzy Santibañez, UC Santa Barbara
Internship Site: Farmworker Health at UCB

Litzy is a third year Sociology Major at UC Santa Barbara. She is currently a UCGHI Student Ambassador, very passionate about health equity and awareness, and currently participates in an independent study focusing on health and social justice at her home campus. She aspires to create a foundation in health social justice and is very excited for this summer’s opportunity as a CGHJ Intern for Farmworker Health!

Michelle Omar, UC Irvine
Internship Site: MPH Research Internship at UCI

Michelle Omar is a first-generation Afghan American Master of Public Health student at UC Irvine. She is passionate about addressing the health impact of oppression, colonization, and environmental disparities on Afghan and other underrepresented communities. She advocates for implementing Eastern medical practices in Western healthcare, as she values holistic practices of many cultures. Experiencing first-hand adverse effects, she aims to reform the U.S. healthcare system at a systemic and community level.

Nancy Mahmoud, UC Santa Barbara
Internship Site: GESMujer

Nancy Mahmoud is a third year Biopsychology major at UC Santa Barbara. Her interests lie in the healthcare field; specifically, she hopes to become a dentist one day. She is a volunteer dental assistant at the Santa Barbara neighborhood clinics where she helps in providing oral care to low-income and disadvantaged families. On her campus, she does community based research with health and social justice, specifically regarding providing healthcare to farmworker communities. 

Headshot of Natasha GlendeningNatasha Glendening, UC Irvine
Internship Site: Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee

Natasha Glendening is a PhD Candidate in Public Health at UC Irvine. Her research interests focus broadly on global health and infectious disease epidemiology. She also has a keen interest in spatial epidemiology and utilizing remote sensing methods. Natasha’s main dissertation work concerns investigating malaria risk factors and healthcare accessibility at emerging gold mining settlements in Ethiopia.

Headshot of Weena YohannesWeena Yohannes, UC Santa Barbara
Internship Site: Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health

Weena is a fourth year Biological Sciences major and Feminist Studies minor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, seeking a career in women's health and advocacy. She currently serves as a research assistant to Professor Laury Oaks in the Feminist Studies Department, researching reproductive politics, while also pursuing independent research on the Black maternal mortality rate. She is interested in reducing health disparities in marginalized communities, while also providing resources to her local community.