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The Peer Support Advocate Program is composed of 14 students per phase, who are selected annually by their classmates to be advocates and serve as peer counselors based on their records of service, diversity, and good academic standing. Advocates serve for a one-year term and are assigned to one of 7 advisory colleges so that they can participate in Advisory College lunchtime sessions, coordinate social aspects of the colleges, hold informal support sessions, and invite confidential inquiries. Peer Support Advocates receive guidance from College Advisors, veteran advocates, School of Medicine Wellness Coaches, and the Office of Student Affairs so that they can help their peers resolve common academic, administrative and personal problems.

What can I expect?

  • Respectful and validating conversation
  • Social and emotional support
  • Linkage to on-campus and community resources
  • Privacy
  • Being met where you are at
  • A response within one business day

What should I not expect?

  • Professional counseling
  • Medical advice
  • Emergency help

Requesting Peer Support

Use the Peer Support Submission Form to submit a request for Peer Support through the Peer Support Advocate Program. After submitting the form, an advocate will reach out to you within 24 hours during normal business hours (M-F 8AM-5PM). Please refer to the information above for what type of support you should expect to receive. The form is Onyen protected and requires you to log in to view it.

Your Advocates

Foundation Phase

Co-Chief Advocates

Danielle Kapustin

Hi all! My name is Danielle, and I am so excited to be serving alongside Sam as Foundation Phase Co-Chief Advocate. I grew up in Charlotte, NC, and got my undergraduate degree in philosophy at Duke (which I have been recently informed must be referred to in this town as “UNC Durham”). I spent a gap year before medical school living in New York City, working for a head and neck surgeon. A fun fact about me is that I was a camp counselor for several years and am likely too much of a sucker for ice-breakers. I am so grateful to be in this role and to have the opportunity to help build community amongst my classmates. I look forward to working with the college advocates to host fun events for our medical school community.

Samuel Orenstein

Hi! I’m Sam, and I’m one of your Chief Advocates! I grew up in Chapel Hill, so hit me up for recommendations from a local yokel! I graduated from Brown in 2020 with degrees in Spanish and Chemistry and came back to Chapel Hill for a few gap years of private tutoring and chemistry research at UNC. Outside of class, I love jumping rope, taking care of my plants, and experimenting in the kitchen.

Cefalo College

Michael Penny

Hey! I’m originally from San Diego and graduated from UCLA with a degree in Classical Civilizations. I spent my gap years working as a Chief Scribe in Santa Monica and playing gigs with my band in Hollywood! I’ve found an incredible support network at UNC and I’m so excited to extend that warm welcome to the next class of med students and be an advocate for all of my peers in Cefalo. Go Heels!

Alexandra Nelson

Hey everyone, my name is Alexandra and I am absolutely thrilled to be a peer advocate for Cefalo College! A bit about me – I originally grew up in a small town in South Florida and relocated to the Chapel Hill area once I started undergrad at UNC. After graduation, I completed my MS in Physiology at NC State and worked as an EM scribe and Dermatology medical assistant before returning to UNC for medical school. Outside of the SOM, I am a coffee addict, avid football watcher, and frequent golfer. I cannot wait for the events to come, including the good food that will be featured. Feel free to reach out to me at any time. I look forward to continuing on this journey with all of you!

Cross College

Ashley Ho

Hi everyone – my name is Ashley! I grew up in Ohio but went to NCSU for undergrad and have been in the area for about 7 years. I moved around a lot as a kid and having a good support network made the biggest difference in my life and I hope I can be the support that someone else needs. I am so excited to serve as a peer advocate for Cross College and can’t wait to help plan events and help out wherever I can!

Nandan Patel

Hi everyone! I’m Nandan and I’m originally from Gibsonville, North Carolina. I graduated from Yale in 2021 with a degree in Molecular Biology. I spent my two gap years in New York City as a researcher and volunteer EMT. Outside of school, I love to play basketball and ultimate frisbee as well as cook and bake. I’m super excited to be a Peer Advocate for Cross to help put on events and create a community for students to excel.

Dent College

Abigail Sharkey

Hi, I’m Abigail Sharkey and I’m excited to be your Peer Advocate! I grew up in Northern Virginia, went to Baylor for undergrad, worked as a scribe and then a scribe trainer for UNC Physicians Network before starting med school, and I’ m hoping to go into primary care. Feel free to reach out to me any time!

Nina Westcott

Hi everyone! My name is Nina Westcott and I’m from Winston-Salem, NC. I went to college at Wake Forest University and after graduating, I dedicated 2 years to research on addiction at the NIH. In my free time, I like to run and practice yoga. I’m currently learning medical Spanish through the CAMPOS program at UNC. I’m excited to organize fun events through Dent college and serve as an initial point of contact for my peers!

Dimock College

Gabby Sahyoun

Hi! I’m Gabby and I grew up in New York City. I went to undergrad at Barnard College and graduated in 2021 with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. After graduating, I spent two years doing basic neuroscience research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Outside of class, I love knitting/crocheting, reading, listening to music and cooking. I am so excited to serve as the Dimock advocate for the coming year!

Tanvi Saran

Hi Everyone! My name is Tanvi! I am originally from Norman, Oklahoma and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2022. I love reading, watching TV, listening to music, spending time outside, and adventuring with my friends/family. I believe that medical school and any life phase is always better when you have a great support system behind you. I am always down to listen, vent, offer advice, or just do a fun activity. I look forward to meeting you all and never hesitate to reach out!

Simkins College

Emma DiLavore

Hi everyone! My name is Emma, and I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana! I went to college in Cleveland at CWRU, and moved down to Chapel Hill to work at UNC Family Medicine after graduating in 2021. I am so excited to be an advocate for Simkins college and to help facilitate some non-academic bonding among and between our Foundation Phase classes. A fun fact about me is that I can do a back flip!

Stefani Aleman

Hello Everyone! My name is Stefani and I am so excited to be your Simkins college advocate and to welcome you to the UNC SOM! I am looking forward to meeting you and supporting you during your first year of medical school (and beyond). As an advocate, I hope I can be a source of support and nonjudgmental presence for you. Together we will continue to foster a compassionate, inclusive, and supportive environment to help you grow as a medical student and individual. A little about myself, I grew up in Oregon but have lived in the Midwest and the East Coast before moving to North Carolina. Prior to medical school, I worked as a data analyst and epidemiologist, and love all things public health! Outside of school, I enjoy reading (non-fiction/sci-fi), sharing time with my loved ones, and hiking.

Smithies College

Jane Brown

Hello! My name is Jane and I am thrilled to serve as a College Advocate – go Smithies! I hail from Raleigh, NC and am pleased to be back in the Triangle at UNC after attending college in Princeton, NJ and spending a gap year in DC. When I’m not wearing my College Advocate Hat, I enjoy dancing, running and spending time with my poodle, Holly. Looking forward to helping you get the support you need. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Kit Sturm

Hello! My name is Kit and I am from Davis, CA. After graduating from Stanford University in 2021, I took two gap-years as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Asheville, NC. Outside of class, I practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and am learning how to crochet. I am excited to plan events and get to know all of you. Please reach out if you need anything!

Williamson College

Morgan Johnson

Hi everyone! My name is Morgan. I am from Pikeville, NC and attended UNC for undergrad and graduated in 2021. A fun fact about me is that I was an au pair in Germany for a summer. As a peer advocate, I can’t wait to get to know each of my Williamson classmates better and help cultivate a sense of community!

Isibel Caraballo

Hi! My name is Isibel, and I grew up an army kid who refers to Fayetteville, NC as home. I graduated from Duke University in 2019 and spent 2 years working in oncology research then 2 years working as a medical scribe/Spanish interpreter. As an advocate, I am here to provide support and plan events that encourage community and inclusivity!

Your 2023-2024 College Advocates Chief Advocate Cefalo Cross Dent Dimock Simkins Smithies Williamson
Application Phase Brianna Ramirez Arjun Juneja
Katherine Poulos
Annie Bright
Katherine Li
Nina Mehta
Kelsey Rich
Sierra Parkinson
Sean Lafata
Emily Huber
Odai Mansour
Katrina Bootes
Ryan Trate
Spencer Saunders
Hyoungjun Sim
Sara Jacob
Individualization Phase Harini Sridhar Andrew Bouffler

Haejung Yoon

Will Hoffert

Peter Said

Kate Watkins

Jacylin Ticatic

Ria Das

Julia Kessel

Annu Singh

Adelaide Cooke

Imani Bazemore

Jason Lee

Bina Amin

Kimberly Fernandez