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Keny and Reese 2021 White CoatRural Scholars Reese Willingham and Keny Murillo-Brizuela at 2021 White Coat Ceremony

New Kenan Primary Care URBAN Scholars

Please welcome our newest cohort of Kenan Primary Care Urban Scholars to the Kenan/ORI family as we look forward to the amazing things they will do in the Urban spaces of our state. Read on to learn more about them and see the great work they did over their summer experience.

Kelli AvalosKelli Avalos grew up in Irvine, Ca but has called The Triangle her home for the past 11 years. She worked at Planned Parenthood following graduation. Prior to medical school, Kelli contributed to research on the treatment of uterine fibroids, the effect of insurance coverage on contraceptive decision making, and mapping contraceptive deserts in North Carolina. As a Kenan Scholar, she hopes to pursue her interests in weight-inclusive health care and reproductive autonomy in addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the needs of her community. Outside of medicine, you can find Kelli glued to her kindle, hiking with her pup, powerlifting, or still trying to finish all the crafts she started at the beginning of the pandemic.

Christina OrantesChristina Orantes grew up outside of Los Angeles in California, but moved to Cary for high school. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2017 with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science- Fitness Professionals and a minor in Biology. With her family immigrating from El Salvador, she had an early interest in global health and took multiple medical mission trips to Nicaragua to assist rural communities. This solidified her desire not only to become a physician, but to focus her career on serving underserved communities both globally and domestically. Outside of medicine, she spends her free time reading, exercising, going on adventures and traveling, with a goal of one new country each year.

Chevonne ParkerChevonne Parker was born and raised in Cary, North Carolina. As an at Yale University, Chevonne dedicated her time to researching urban food deserts, serving as an academic mentor for an after-school program, and providing free blood pressure screenings for her unhoused neighbors. These experiences reinforced her desire to address these social determinants of health through a career in medicine. In her free time, Chevonne enjoys singing, reading, and exploring new eateries in the triangle. As a Kenan Urban Scholar, Chevonne hopes to work for and with urban, underserved populations through research, clinical practice, and social advocacy.

Heather ShamsHeather Shams is originally from Beijing, China, and immigrated to America along with her parents in 2001. She went to Washington University in St. Louis where she served the community working at ALIVE, a non-profit dedicated to finding safe housing for survivors of domestic violence, and Heart for the Homeless, an organization dedicated to helping homeless community members integrate back into the healthcare system. During her gap year, she worked on the Bernie Sanders’ campaign in South Carolina, advocating for expansion of healthcare access and affordability. In her free time, Heather enjoys exercising, eating home-cooked meals, and planning for future travels.

Charlene BrownCharlene Brown completed a BA in Religious Studies at UVA and obtained a Master of Divinity from Duke. She has served as a hospital chaplain, a pastor, and as an executive director of a national organization partnering with colleges and universities to serve Black and Brown students. After an experience as a patient, Charlene was exposed to the many challenges that Black and Brown people face in finding healthcare providers who listen and work with them. Charlene is passionate about working with vulnerable populations, end of life care, and racial and ethnic disparities in and outside of medicine. In her free time, she enjoys weightlifting, cooperative board games, and biking around Durham with her 3 godsons in tow.


The Kenan Primary Care Urban Scholars program, in partnership with WakeMed in Raleigh hosted their second summer of students. This new cohort volunteered preparing apartments for new tenants transitioning from homelessness with Passage Home, brought meals to seniors with Meals on Wheels, and harvested fresh produce for the community with the Camden Street Learning Garden. They explored our partnerships with Oak City Cares, Healing Transitions, SE Raleigh Promise and Interact. They toured the prison and spoke with providers about the challenges of caring for incarcerated individuals. Some got to participate in the Raleigh version of SHAC at Urban Ministries Open Door Clinic (see picture of MS3 KUS students Sophia & Richard with ‘new’ KUS, Christina).

2021 urban scholars
Scholars at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
2021 urban scholars 2
2020 Scholars Richard Beckett-Ansa & Sophia McFarlane with 2021 Scholar Christina Orantes at Urban Ministries Open Door Clinic
This summer’s scholars explored projects ranging from vaccine hesitancy in SE Raleigh, to the use of PrEP to address HIV/AIDS in impoverished communities. We look forward to being able to see posters highlighting some of these projects at the upcoming Info and Poster Session at the end of September!


We are pleased to have made it to the end of another successful summer clinical immersion experience. Per our usual model, we had students place throughout the state from the mountains to the coast. Read on to learn about the amazing preceptors who hosted our students and see some of the posters the scholars presented as part of their experience. Do you know of a potential summer preceptor-please drop it below as we are looking to grow our preceptor pool.

UNC FM HillsboroughWoodward Burgert
Hodges Family Practice AshboroDrs. Francisco and Beth Hodges
Piedmont Health ServicesDr. Caroline Roberts
Granville-Vance HDDr. Shauna Guthrie
Vance Family MedicineDr. Benjamin Dieter
Blue Ridge HealthDr. Rivers Woodard (Kenan Rural Scholar turned Preceptor!!!!)
Cherokee Indian HospitalDr. Winona Houser
Foothills Medical AssociatesDr. Jeff Viar
Bakersville Community Medical CenterDr. Nicole Allen
Burgaw Medical CenterDr. Mostafa Rezk
Harris Family CareDr. Johnathan Motts

The highlight was working with Dr. Motts and going to the farmer’s camp ground with Vecinos. I really enjoyed working with Dr. Motts who I thought was extremely competent and willing to teach; Vecinos was a wonderful opportunity to work with a population that speaks to my sense of purpose and why I want to practice medicine – to serve marginalized communities.” Keny Murillo-Brizuela

Dr. Rezk and the rest of the medical staff made me feel at home as if I was an honorary member of the medical team, which I greatly appreciated. After spending the past year doing medical school with very little patient interaction, spending this summer working with patients in a new community revitalized my energy and motivation for studying to become a doctor.” Natalie Browne

Bryan Obika’s Summer Project Poster

Bryan Obika Project Poster

Kenny Murillo-Brizuela’s Summer Project Poster

Murillo-Brizuela Project


The Undergraduate Rural Medicine Pathway Program (RMPP) is a collaboration between the UNC School of Medicine and the Carolina Covenant program seeking to increase the number of minority and under represented students from rural NC applying to and being accepted to UNC medical school. This opportunity provides academic and professional support in negotiating a successful pathway to medical school. The program provides financial support for a summer community engagement project, ideally in a Scholars home community, as they learn more about rural medicine and pursuing this as their career. Read on learn how RMPP was instrumental in Kainat’s journey to medical school.

Student Spotlight from RMPP

Kainat AaslamKainat Aslam (MS1) is a prime example of the great work being achieved through the partnerships that make up the RMPP. Mentored by Drs. Jean and Peter Desaix, she completed her summer project at High Point Community, a free clinic for residents of Guilford County. While there she helped the clinic and patients transition to new streamlined clinic policies for more efficient use of resources. She also assisted with gathering information for a grant to fund providing free medication for hypertension to patients, and analyzed available qualitative and quantitative data on clinic operations to determine areas of unmet need. Following the completion of this project she received consistent and unwavering support from the RMMP mentors Jean and Peter Desaix and the Office of Rural Initiatives, who offered scholarships, networking opportunities and support with the medical school application. This experience motivated the rest of her undergraduate experience and desire to work with underserved populations. She hopes to continue this work through a leadership position at SHAC Clinic and by pursuing the MD/MPH track.


Check out all the amazing opportunities for job placement assistance and way to get involved in community events.

Hispanic Heritage Flyer

Community Health Fair Flyer

UNC Health Physicians Flyer

NC Office of Rural Health Placement Services Flyer

  • Kenan Primary Care Scholars Virtual Open House with reps from all 3 campuses Tuesday October 26 5:30p-7p
  • Kenan Urban Scholars Poster Walk and info session TBD: check our Twitter page for latest updates
  • Kenan Luncheon (for Kenans of ALL cohorts) Tuesday October 5th 12p-1:30p (email Kewana for link to RSVP)