Isaac E. Avila-Vargas (He/Él/They)
I am a proud, gay son of immigrant farmworkers from Mexico and am representing my hometown of Atwater, California – a small town in the rural-agrarian communities of the San Joaquin Valley. Growing up, I experienced the consequences of living in an underserved region and a disadvantaged household. These experiences ignited my passion to understand how inequity has come to pervade vulnerable populations and, most importantly, how to alleviate it. As the first in my family to attend college, earning a degree in public health from UC Berkeley in 2019 has allowed me to better understand the interplay of the social determinants of health and their relation to health and disease outcomes. This education, paired with my own lived experiences, influence my commitment to addressing health disparities in our nation and around the globe. I am thrilled to continue my pursuit of higher education as I will be starting medical school in the fall of 2023! As a key stakeholder in the area of HIV/AIDS, I am passionate about leveraging my influence as an advocate, leader and future physician to create change. It is thanks to support systems like ViiV Healthcare, the National Minority AIDS Council and the Youth Initiate Program, that I feel empowered to continue my trajectory towards making my impact.
Zabrina Garcia joins us as a Youth Initiative Scholar. She has been working as a certified Medical Assistant for the past 3 years. She is currently working as the Status Neutral Medical Assistant for the Valley AIDS Council (VAC) on the U.S/Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Her position at VAC specializes in retention of care for people living with HIV (PLWH) and clients with increased vulnerability to HIV acquisition on PrEP in the Latinx community. She develops rapport with patients who are new or have been non-adherent with their appointments via phone call, text messages and via zoom or in person. She also participates in multiple community engagement events to offer free HIV testing and spread awareness of the services offered at VAC. She has prior experience working with PLWH when she worked at a federal detention center where she administered anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to detainees and educated them on adherence to medication and their diagnosis. She plans to further her education and become a nurse and enroll in the ACRN program to hold the title of HIV/AIDS Certified Nurse. Zabrina is excited to have been selected to be a part of NMAC and to help end the epidemic against HIV/AIDS!
Lara Negrón Ocasio (she/ella)
Raised in Northern Virginia with roots in Puerto Rico, Lara is a passionate health educator and social justice advocate driven to serve the communities she belongs to and those around her, striving toward equity in all forms. Lara currently works at Grassroots Health: a community-based organization that was founded in 2012 with the philosophy that sexual health education must begin in classrooms, happening concurrently with active prevention and treatment options for those living with HIV. In 2018, Lara began as a volunteer; in 2021, she was hired to start as a Program Coordinator serving as the main point of contact for stakeholders of the organization. Lara is excited to showcase how Grassroots Health engages middle school students in conversations around health - conversations that might seem too taboo or mature at that age. Lara looks forward to learning from the nation’s leading HIV scholars and advocates on how to best implement current strategies to enact change in Black and Brown communities. She is excited to see how her takeaways from the program will inform and guide her organization’s work and her personal trajectory during a critical time for health education. Lara holds a BA in International Affairs and Latin American Studies from George Washington University, though she actively pursues interests in public health, community organizing, and education. ¡Viva Puerto Rico libre!
Carter Oselett (he, they)
Carter Oselett (he/they) is a queer researcher working at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. He was born and raised in Metro Detroit, Michigan and moved to Chicago, Illinois after graduating with a degree in Social Relations and Policy from the James Madison College at Michigan State University. While studying in East Lansing, Carter took interest in housing, environmental, and health policy. In 2021, he joined a team of researchers led by Dr. Louise Jezierski and Dr. Sejuti Das Gupta on a project investigating how the COVID-19 pandemic affected women and caretakers involved in Michigan’s informal economy. At the AIDS Foundation, Carter works on the Research & Evaluation team, providing support for a range of projects that involve clients living with HIV/AIDS, those experiencing mental health and substance use issues, and people experiencing homelessness. Currently, he is working on the Resilience Project, an NIH-funded research project to learn more about how life experiences impact gay, bisexual and queer Black men living with HIV through the HIV care-continuum, from diagnosis through treatment. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends, collecting vinyl records, reading about history, and long bike rides along the shore of Lake Michigan.
Jordan Patrick (He/Him)
Jordan Patrick joins us as a returning Youth Initiative Scholar. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida. With a strong background in HIV/STD advocacy, testing, treatment and prevention, he currently works at the nation’s national health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He also collaborates with the University of Miami’s Psychology Department (SHINE) to conduct research on Black women living with HIV and their relationship with mental health variables. His previous experience with the Youth Initiative was insightful, and he looks forward to gaining new experiences and opportunities throughout the next year.
Rachel Phillips (She/her)
Rachel Phillips is a senior at Penn State University majoring in Biobehavioral Health with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She is currently enrolled in an integrated Master's in Public Health through Penn State College of Medicine with a concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She recently interned at the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, PA as a Health Access Intern. During this internship, Rachel assisted refugees from Afghanistan and other countries gain access to healthcare. This included medical appointments, insurance, and eye care. She has been a research assistant at Penn State exploring factors related to health policy and the Affordable Care Act. In the future, she plans to work towards a career to help minimize health disparities. Rachel is excited to join NMAC to help educate and fight the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Isabella Warmbrunn (She/Ella)
Isabella Warmbrunn is the Data Analyst for the Detroit Health Department (DHD) in the Division of HIV/STI. In her role, she reviews clinical and demographic data from 14 Part A/MAI funded agencies across Metro Detroit. She works with agencies individually to improve viral load suppression, retention in care, and medical visit frequency metrics. Her goal is to increase access to care and clinical outcomes utilizing data. In 2022, she became a member of Michigan HIV/AIDS Council where she frequently collaborates with individuals statewide on HIV prevention and care topics. Prior to her role at DHD, she completed her M.S at Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSUSOM). During her graduate studies, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Wayne State University Prevention Team (W’SUP) in the WSUSOM Family Medicine department. At W’SUP she worked on the MESA project, which investigated the impact of a behavioral intervention on ART adherence in adolescents living with HIV. She has presented work from W’SUP at the Wayne State University Graduate Symposium and for DHD at the 2022 National Ryan White Conference. Her HIV research contributions have been published in Springer. Isabella is honored to be part of the 2022-2023 Youth Initiative Program!
Abigail Williams (She, Her, Ella)
Abigail Williams (she/her) is a fourth year, Biobehavioral Health student at Penn State University. She is also pursuing minors in Human Development and Family Studies as well as Global Health. Abby is an aspiring Physician’s Assistant planning to focus on the women’s health field. She is currently interning in the Emergency Department of Hershey Medical Center, as well as providing direct patient care at Wynwood House Assisted Living Facility. One of Abigail’s goals is to decrease health disparities and ensure that all people have access to adequate health care and the support they need so that they can thrive.