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Student Spotlight – Mellissa Ungkuldee, Kelly Hall and Jenny Ozor

February 06, 2019

Some small towns are known for producing star athletes; some are known for their theater stars. At the Yale School of Public Health, Saline, Michigan might just have established itself as a feeder for public health. Three students in the Master of Public Health program hail from the town — Jenny Ozor, Kelly Hall and Mellissa Ungkuldee.

Jenny, Kelly, and Mellissa met in grade school, where they fell into the same social circles, played violin in the school orchestra, and participated in Leadership Club. Jenny and Kelly both went to the University of Michigan for their undergraduate studies; Mellissa attended Michigan State University. The three eventually reconnected upon the discovery of their shared interest in public health.

At Yale, Jenny and Mellissa study Health Policy, while Kelly is studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Both Kelly and Jenny are pursuing the Global Health Concentration. Although their academic interests vary, they have all witnessed stark health disparities among Michigan communities and are particularly focused on addressing health equity. Inspired by their own personal intersections of minority experiences in a small Midwestern town, the three are determined to use their public health training to help marginalized populations.

Mellissa, a first generation Thai-American, grew up exposed to the health and economic disparities between the U.S. and the Global South. Her interest in access to medicines and health economics led her to a summer internship at the World Health Organization in Geneva, where she supported the Technology Transfer Initiative’s work on influenza vaccine manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries.

As a Nigerian-American, Jenny also saw first-hand the effects of health disparities present in both countries she considers to be home. Her concern for women’s/maternal health disparities specifically led her to intern with Merck for Mothers, a corporate social responsibility initiative addressing maternal mortality worldwide. Also interested in implementation science, she wants to focus on translating research into policy that can improve health equity not just in the United States but globally.

Kelly’s public health training started young, as she grew up attending health education and advocacy events with her mother, who worked for the American Heart Association. “I grew up with the understanding that health is foundational,” she said. Her summer internship was at the World Health Organization with the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), and she hopes to address NCDs and their behavioral risk factors in her career.

The trio are leaving their mark on the Yale School of Public Health. Together they have been teaching fellows for some half dozen classes, worked as assistants for three research groups, chaired and participated in student government and such initiatives as the Emerging Majority Student Association, Out in Public, Heart Week and Yale’s Social Impact Consulting Group. They all express appreciation for the opportunities the Yale School of Public Health has offered with its close community, conversations in and out of class and mentors. “Everyone is rooting for each other here,” says Jenny.

Submitted by Denise Meyer on January 28, 2019