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babauta and faasoa headshot
Samantha Birmingham-Babauta (left) and Dejah Faʻasoa (right)

Two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies students have been awarded an American Public Health Association (APHA) scholarship and fellowship, respective, both of which are funded by a grant from the Kaiser Permanente (KP) National Community Benefit Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation.

Samantha Birmingham-Babauta, a PhD candidate in public health (community-based translational research), is one of eight doctoral candidates nationwide awarded the 2022–23 APHA KP Community Health Scholarship. She will receive a $20,000 tuition award for three years to support her research on decolonizing research and designing health services to align with cultural ways of being.

The 2022-23 APHA KP Community Health Scholarship, part of the Community Health Leadership Program, is an initiative to create a group of diverse, underrepresented public health leaders who are committed to improving the health of our most vulnerable communities and supporting achievement of health equity for all in the nation.

“I am both thrilled and humbled to be awarded the APHA KP Community Health Scholarship. Being selected as a scholarship recipient is inspiring because it makes me feel that my community in the Northern Mariana Islands, and others like mine, are heard and supported on this journey to heal from within,” Birmingham-Babauta said. “For a long time, researchers have been trained to be unbiased by removing who they are from the work they are doing—however, for Indigenous researchers, I do not believe we can, nor should we, remove ourselves from our work. To address human issues, which are the core of public health, we must approach our work with emotion and forgo the notion that we can separate these worlds.”

Dejah Faʻasoa, a recent master of public health (social and behavioral health sciences) graduate, was awarded the 2022–2023 APHA Kaiser Permanente Community Health Fellowship. She will receive a $120,000 stipend and will join Kaiser Permanente Hawaiʻi as an APHA KP fellow to support and lead projects, programs and partnerships to address upstream determinants of health/social health across Kaiser Permanente-served communities.

The APHA KP Community Health Fellowship aims to build a group of diverse, underrepresented public health leaders committed to improving the health of our most vulnerable communities and supporting achieving health equity for all.

“I feel honored and blessed to be awarded the APHA KP fellowship and it would not have been possible without the guidance and support of the Office of Public Health Studies, the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, and the Pacific Islands Primary Care Association,” said Faʻasoa. “The skills that I will gain through this opportunity will allow me to become a competent public health professional to better serve the communities that I identify with as a first-generation Samoan woman and the Hawaiian islands I call home.”

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