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Lehman College

Interns 2014 - 2015

Akiko Matsunaga

Akiko Matsunaga is currently majoring in Community Health at Hostos Community College. She has always had an interest in health, considering that it is fundamental and essential to living a full and productive life. Since moving to the U.S., Akiko learned about the significant health disparities between the US and Japan and became motivated to understand how and why these differences continue to exist. When asked what issues were most important, she noted that affordable health care as well as social equity were key to improving current outcomes.

Exposure to the stark contrast between the rich and the poor in New York City inspired Akiko to deepen her understanding of health disparities and the role that public health plays in reducing its effect. Through her internship at the CUNY Institute of Health Equity, Akiko will work on the South Bronx Birth Outcomes Study in order to further her interests in the field of public health. Additionally, she hopes this experience will enable her to advocate for others in various parts of the world.

Makeda Dawkins

Makeda Dawkins is a 4th year B.S. / 1st year M.D. student at The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, City College of New York (CCNY). Ms. Dawkins is passionate about Women’s Health, specifically Maternal-Fetal Care. As a Leonard Davis Community Service Fellow, she worked in the Women’s Health Department of Harlem Hospital Center (HHC), educating mothers about and assisting new mothers with breastfeeding. Through her volunteerism at HHC, she became interested in the biologically and environmentally-elicited differential birth outcomes predominant in underserved populations. She has worked on numerous community-based research projects at The Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), focused on increasing awareness about the long-term effects of smoking on health status and pregnancy in HIV-positive individuals. Ms. Dawkins has presented her work to the HIV/AIDS and Cancer Collaboration Community Advisory Board. Currently, Makeda Dawkins is a Health Justice Fellow at The Office of Student Success at The Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership. Her interests include investigating the biological and environmental factors that impact pregnancy and birth outcomes. As part of her fellowship, Makeda is interning at the CUNY Institute for Health Equity (CIHE). She is involved in the continuation and data analysis of The South Bronx Birth Outcomes Study.

Vilma Lantigua

Vilma Lantigua is a Pre-Health student at Lehman College who will be interning with CIHE through the remainder of the academic year. Like many of our interns, Vilma has professional experience and holds another degree. She obtained a bachelors degree in psychology at Stony Brook University, and hopes to pursue a masters degree in Physician Assistant Studies. She also currently works for a private medical clinic in the Bronx. Previously, Vilma has worked for various public health and social service organizations such as the Westchester County Department of Social Services, and the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS where she focused on capacity building and advocacy among marginalized communities. When asked what her primary interests are in a health-related career, she does not hesitate to explain. “Equal access to health services, resources, as well as creating an interest in and awareness of the importance of our health among underserved communities is a vision I share with CIHE, and is an essential part of my work in healthcare. “ Combining her interests in health equity and women’s health, Vilma’s internship project entails the development of a fact sheet for the Women of Color Health Initiative. The creation of this material will help to direct future work the Institute undertakes in this important field.

Faith Lambert

Faith Lambert is a recent graduate of Ithaca College, where she earned a B.S. degree in Health Sciences with a Nutrition concentration. She came to CIHE as an intern from the Columbia University Medical Center Summer Public Health Scholars Program.

During her studies, she received training in health research and analysis, and gained skills in various research methodologies. She put these skills to use during her internship by studying the perception of environmental stressors of women living in the South Bronx.

Gilda Caputo Hansen

Gilda Caputo Hansen has an extensive and successful professional portfolio in business and management. She earned her undergraduate degree from Lafayette College and an M.B.A. from Rutgers University Graduate School of Management. She is now pursuing a degree in public health at Lehman College, and undertaking her internship with CIHE. Building on her interests in homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth, Hansen's internship at CIHE entailes analyzing social and policy factors that may contribute to the increase of homelessness among this population. For her capstone project, Hansen plans to interview practitioners about the growing needs of LGBTQ youth in order to develop a potential family level intervention.

Jessica Alvarez

During her internship with CIHE, Jessica Alvarez worked on the Food Justice Healthy Vending Machines Initiative. The research she undertook entailed a policy analysis of national vending machine initiatives. This analysis will help to direct future expansion of the Healthy Vending Machine Initiative that the Institute undertakes in the coming months.


Nicholas Acabeo

Nicholas Acabeo started interning with the Institute earlier this summer in order to gain experience with public health work. His internship focused his attention on policies that affect Latino Men across the United States. His work is integral to the work of the Latino Men’s Health Initiative, a project funded by the Kellogg Foundation.


Oxana Kraynyak

For her internship project, Oxana Kraynyak developed a survey that assessed students’ nutritional knowledge; their exposure to the Healthy Vending Machine Initiative; and their interest in workshops concerning healthy eating. This work will help to inform next steps for the initiative as the year progresses. Upon completing the internship in August, she plans to work in a clinical or community setting.

Shiyun (Sophio) Cao

Shiyun (Sophia) Cao is currently a Hunter College undergraduate student majoring in Community Health Education. Cao used the internship to assess gender and age differences in snack choices and how stress may be a driving force in these differences. In the future, Cao wants to study to be a public health nurse and focus on health disparities and health education among low socio-economic communities.