Julie Smithwick, Executive Director
Andrea Heyward, Deputy Director
Mike Young, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Sarah Covington-Kolb, Program Manager, EACH Mom and Baby Collaborative
Dom Francis, Training Coordinator
Kim Rawlinson, Community Health Worker Specialist
Melody Meanor, Training Specialist
Alex Scott, Special Projects Coordinator
Dakshu Jindal, Graduate Assistant
Indira Gutierrez, Graduate Assistant
Julie Smithwick has over twenty-five years of experience working alongside communities and families to find solutions to address health and social inequities. Trained as a Community Health Worker in Ecuador, Julie founded and led PASOs, a community-based organization that works alongside community leaders to promote change through collective action. While leading PASOs’ statewide team of Community Health Workers, Julie helped found the South Carolina Community Health Workers Association in 2014. Julie is a member of the state leadership team of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina where she leads the statewide Health Equity Action Team. Julie is also on the Boards of Directors of various organizations including the National Association of Community Health Workers, Cooperative Health, and the Blue Ridge Institute for nonprofit leaders. Julie is passionate about meaningful community engagement, leadership development and addressing racism and health inequities.
Andrea Heyward has over a decade of experience working in the public health and health care sectors. She has supported the efforts of numerous community-based and health care organizations providing expertise in areas of community health, adolescent health, maternal and child health, women’s health, rural health and the integration of evidence-based models to include the Community Health Worker (CHW) model. She is an experienced program manager and capacity-building professional; having established skills as a technical assistance provider, quality improvement coach, and trainer. She is also an experienced grant writer and reviewer. Andrea is most proud of her work as a health educator, working alongside community health workers across the state to improve access to prevention education, resources and health care services. Her passion for health equity and utilizing the strengths of communities to foster change brought her to the Center for Community Health Alignment.
Andrea completed a Master of Health Science degree in Health Education and Health Communication from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2010. She received additional certification in Health Communication with a focus in social and behavior change communication. Andrea is also proud alumni of the University of South Carolina, having received a Bachelor of Arts in Experimental Psychology and minor in Health Promotion, Education and Behavior. She is also a Master Certified Health Education Specialist.
Mike moved to South Carolina from California in 2011 to study cultural anthropology at UofSC and conducted research with remote indigenous communities in the jungles of Guatemala spending almost an entire year living with them participating in typical daily life activities to better understand their experiences. Earning the trust of entire communities, being the only outsider, and collaborating in ways that supported them in ways that worked best for them became second nature. Mike got his masters in 2013 and after reaching ABD status in his doctorate program finishing all his coursework with a 4.0 throughout his graduate school career, he decided to leave academia. Mike wasn’t interested in only studying community, how people connect, share, support, and understand one another. He is passionate about putting these principles into action and positively impact the livelihoods of others. Mike Young is now the Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Center for Community Health Alignment and PASOs under the Arnold School at Public Health at the University of South Carolina.
Previously Mike was the Co-Interim Executive Director and Director of Capacity Building at PASOs where he worked to strengthen South Carolina’s Latinx communities by overseeing and supporting a statewide team of Community Health Workers/Promotores and strengthening networks in their ability to address the strengths and needs of the community through trainings, technical support, and customized support for partners and coalitions. Mike is also a Fellow of the Diversity Leaders Initiative at the Riley Institute, a Board of Directors Member for South Carolina Community Economic Development (SCACED), and a member of several equity and inclusion coalitions, and regularly gets invited by state, regional, national, and local governmental and nongovernmental entities to speak about diversity, equity, inclusion, implicit bias, anti-racism, and other social issues. Other interesting bits of info about Mike– his mom is from El Salvador, he lived in Puerto Rico, he is a poet, he used to keep bees, he has a giant tortoise, he won the okra eating contest at the Irmo Okra Strut six years in a row, and he is the singer of a socially conscious rock band- The Haves.
Dom Francis is the Training Coordinator for the Center for Community Health Alignment within the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. He brings to the table over 4 years nuanced public health experience in areas including fitness, qualitative evaluation, and workforce development. As the Training Coordinator, Dom’s primary role is to develop curricula and facilitate training for the Center’s anchor initiative, the Community Health Worker Institute. The institute currently offers Community Health Worker Core Competency Training which was approved by the South Carolina Community Health Worker Credentialing Council. Dom is excited to spearhead the Institute’s offering of this training and looks forward to developing and delivering specialty track training in the near future.
Dom also serves as an active member of the South Carolina Community Health Worker’s Association and is a part of the SCCHWA Annual Conference Subcommittee. Dom is a two-time Gamecock. At USC, he received both his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters in Public health: Health Services, Policy, and Management emphasis. With a passion for studying and addressing public health issues within his home state, Dom fully supports the center’s mission of “Working together to magnify equitable health.”
Kimberly brings over ten years of experience to CCHA in health disparity reduction by fostering community outreach and engagement in underserved and rural communities in South Carolina. She has spent most of her public health career working with academic and community-based organizations coordinating and conducting cancer-related community outreach programs. As the Community Health Worker Specialist, Kimberly’s primary role is to coordinate a community-based research project centered on meaningful community engagement, assist with integration of the community health worker (CHW) model into organizations and health systems, and provide support to CHWs and organizations.
Kimberly is a graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, where she received a Master’s Degree in Public Health. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Tuskegee University.
She enjoys working for and collaborating with organizations whose focus is to improve health equity for all people. It is through the CCHA that Kimberly believes that she can bring about change and help to bring a voice to those who are most affected by health inequities.
Melody was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Currently, she resides in Columbia, SC. She has a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in health care administration. Melody developed a passion for helping others in her childhood. She saw many people in her personal life as well as her community who were affected by health and social disparities which ultimately shaped her career path. Professionally, she spent the first seven years of her career working in the field of social services working in psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment facilities for youth, department of social services, memory and skilled nursing care, and medium security correctional institution.
In 2011, she transitioned her career to the health care industry by working for multiple affiliates at Planned Parenthood as well as working privately for a local OB/GYN office. Additionally, she spent most of her life volunteering and most recently she has had the opportunity to serve for AmeriCorps Vista program for the service year of 2019-2020 at ReGenesis Health Care. During her AmeriCorps service she was provide support in the areas of quality, risk management, and community-health programming. She is excited to be apart of University of South Carolina School of Public Health – Center for Community Health Alignment (CCHA) and to work with such a passionate and dedicated team.
Cartia Higgins is a Community Health Worker Researcher for the Community Health Alignment Center (CCHA) within the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health. She has over a decade of experience working in the healthcare field serving in several communities helping the underserved population. She is an experienced Community Health Worker who has developed a passion for helping others. Cartia is a training facilitator for CCHA and has been working in this capacity since 2020. She is also a member of the SC Community Health Worker Association and the National Association of Community Health Workers.
Additionally, Cartia sits on the board for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization in the upstate. Cartia is passionate about community engagement, building relationships, making connections, and having that authentic relationship with the people she engages with.
Jemia was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. Although higher education temporarily took her away, she always knew she would return to her roots and give back to the village that helped her become who she is today.
Inspired by her high school physical education teacher, Jemia found an interest in the field of health and wellness. She merged her passion of helping others with her love of health, to explore what the field had to offer. As various health disparities continue to plague minority communities, Jemia is on a mission to help educate others on living a healthy lifestyle. She has helped to organize community health fairs, testing sites, and screenings for the underserved populations. Jemia especially enjoys working with youth and teens, as she feels it is a population that is often overlooked.
Jemia currently conducts physical activity and nutrition research with youth. She is a former middle/high school health and physical education teacher. Additionally, she has also worked in maternal and child health education with Palmetto Healthy Start. Jemia is always looking for new opportunities to educate and lend a hand in her community. She is excited about working with CCHA!
Jemia holds a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education from the University of South Florida, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health/Wellness from Winthrop University. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging with her family, cooking and traveling.
LaShandra Morgan is a health educator who works with the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control-Lowcountry Community Systems Team to assists communities in reducing the incidence and prevalence of chronic disease and to work on policies, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry, a Master of Public Health degree, and is currently finishing her Doctor of Education degree.
LaShandra believes that everyone deserves to have the best quality of life possible regardless of who they are, where they are from, or their level of income. For this reason, she makes sure to weave health equity into every project she takes on.
LaShandra is proud of the collaborative work she has done with the Bamberg County Community Rural Arts Work League (CRAWL) to improve the health of those that live in Bamberg County, SC through pedestrian planning, park revitalization, etc.; the Healthy Tri-County Diabetes Coalition to help expand the National Diabetes Prevention Program into the rural pockets of the Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester Counties, and her drug/tobacco prevention work through Smoke-Free Lowcountry and the Berkeley County Prevention Board.
LaShandra is most proud of her work with healthy food access. She has been able to achieve increasing healthy food access with low-income and rural populations by helping to establish and a non-profit organization called Growing COB who has teamed up with Eat Smart Move More SC, the Tri-County Health Network, and the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development (SCACED), various libraries, as well as others to increase healthy food access through community gardening in low-income communities and food deserts. LaShandra has also had experience with starting food pantries and transforming food pantries into “healthy” food pantries. LaShandra explains that while food pantries are in the business of alleviating hunger, they simultaneously increase people’s risk of chronic disease and decrease health outcomes because a lot of the food that is donated and distributed is unhealthy. Because of this phenomenon, LaShandra links food pantries with local farmers and coordinates gleaning efforts so that food pantries can give away fresh produce.
Whitney Davis is from Hartsville, SC and graduated from Mayo High School for Math, Science, and Technology in 2004. From there she went to college and attended Coastal Carolina University, graduating in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science with a minor in Communications. Whitney previously worked with Teen Pregnancy Prevention in Chesterfield, SC. There she gained experience with youth, reproductive health education, contraceptive use, and planned and unplanned pregnancies. Whitney is currently a member of the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health Community Health Worker Ambassador Program and a graduate of the 2019-2020 Leadership Hartsville Class. In addition, she is the Community Health Manager and lead Family Planning Health Worker for Darlington County First Steps in Hartsville, SC.
Whitney is passionate about working with and advocating for the community and providing needed resources with a special emphasis on connecting with mothers.
Dakshu Jindal is a doctoral student in the department of Health Services Policy and Management at the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina. She received her masters and bachelor’s degree in Economics and has over 4 years of work experience in health policy and financing in developing countries such as India and the Philippines. Her research interest includes tobacco cessation, maternal and child health, community health and spatial access to health services.
Sarah has a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For over nine years, she managed the implementation, training, and research for the Centering Pregnancy model of group prenatal care for over 400 groups in Greenville, as well as more than 20 practice sites around the state. She has gone on to provide training and technical assistance for group prenatal care with Group Care Global in Paraguay and China.
She loves all aspects of public health work, with many communities and agencies. Before Centering Pregnancy, she managed a health collaborative for the Durham County Health Department, coordinated large refugee relief programs in the US and Africa with the International Rescue Committee, led international education seminars in Europe with International Uddannelses Center, conducted research in Mexico with Milenio Feminista, and assisted Prospect Hill Community Health Center with farmworker health outreach.
Her specialties are facilitative training and education, research coordination, supporting teams through systems change, data collection and analysis, grant writing and reporting, and program implementation. She speaks Spanish and is particularly interested in eliminating health inequities for communities of color here in the US.
She lives in Greenville with her family, too many cats, a garden she always needs to weed, a dance class she has to get to, and many bookshelves.
Indira Gutierrez is a doctoral student in the Health Promotion Education and Behavior department in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at North Carolina State University where she conducted research on hunger and homelessness. Her research interests include social determinants of health, nutrition, and cognition. She is currently a graduate assistant on a few research projects:
1.The Duke Endowment funded Social Determinants of Health Community Pharmacy Capacity Building Project lead by CCHA.
2.The Investigacion sobre Redes Interpersonales y Salud (IRIS) project to address cancer disparities among Latinos by leveraging sociocultural processes that increase the effectiveness of communication interventions lead by Dr. Jim Thrasher.
3. A Food Policy Study focused on identifying which nutrition policies most effectively promote healthy eating for Mexican Americans leveraging data from the International Food Policy Study (IFPS) lead by Dr. Rachel Davis.