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Meet the 2018 Emory Alumni Board Scholarship Winners

Two women were awarded $10,000 each for their passion and commitment to their communities.

By Emory Staff

Elizabeth Ayangunna 19PH and Claire Barnes 19C

This year, the Emory Alumni Board has awarded two women with a $10,000 EAB Scholarship. The first, Claire Barnes 19C, is an undergraduate student, working at the intersections of art, health, and culture. The second, Elizabeth Ayangunna 19PH, is a graduate student from Nigeria who is interested in learning how to improve the healthcare systems in her home country.

While their fields of study are wildly different, they both are passionate about their work and improving their communities, both at Emory and in the world.

“We are both working to improve lives,” says Ayangunna when asked about what common factors she and Barnes might share. She adds that as the first of five children, all girls, she is a firm believer in female empowerment. “If you empower the woman, you empower the nation and the world at large.” 

“My food at home was diverse,” says Barnes, who sees the similarities as well, noting that her work is also grounded in her childhood and my background. “It relied on fast and prepared foods, which lead to my connection to the Slow Food movement.”

Please meet Elizabeth Ayangunna 19PH and Claire Barnes 19C.

Elizabeth Ayangunna 19PH

Elizabeth, formerly a practicing physician in her native Nigeria, is a first year student in the health management track at the Rollins School of Public Health. She is interested in improving healthcare outcomes for people in developing countries.

During her more than four years as a physician at a maternity hospital in Lagos, Ayangunna led a clinical team of five that was able to achieve a remarkable zero maternal and infant mortality rate.

Ayangunna was expected to manage the systems as well as the patient and it was moving fast. “I would see more than 50 patients a day, but they would come back over and over again,” she says. “I wanted to learn why and also find a way to solve it in an affordable way.

As practitioner she realized management skills were not taught in Nigerian medical schools so she “came to Emory to bridge the critical knowledge gap in managing patients and managing health systems physicians in low income countries often face.”

She says that the common thread between Nigeria and the United States is that “We both have health problems we need to solve, and they are different, but we have the same passion to solve them.” And both countries have the ever rising costs of healthcare.

Ayangunna was a member of Nigeria’s youth service program, where she helped devise a schedule to more efficiently provide medical service to villagers, and was also involved in organizing health education outreach to schools. She intends to pursue a PhD in health services research in order to develop models to improve the lives of women and children in low income countries.

“I’m particularly interested in maternal and child health because the woman is the backbone of the family,” says Ayangunna. “If you can get to the woman, you can get to a family. And if you can get to a mother, you can get to a nation.”

According to Dr. Moyosore Makinde, Medical Director of the Soteria Maternity & Hospital in Lagos, Elizabeth “was always creative in addressing difficult cases and demonstrated a high degree of leadership within the hospital community, making a lot of positive impact [with her] strong critical thinking skills. She is an excellent candidate for the leadership scholarship program.”

Claire Barnes 19C

A California native, Claire is majoring in religion and philosophy with a minor in sustainability. She is passionate about food sustainability, climate justice and interdisciplinary education.

As a first year student, Barnes served as the Sustainable Food Intern for the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, where she produced and restructured the team’s newsletter. She refounded Slow Food Emory and has been its president for the last 2½ years.

“The Slow Food movement advocates good, clean, and fair food for all,” says Barnes. “I’ve been drawn to an understanding about where my food comes from and what good food actually is.”

Barnes received a grant to help create Emory’s Lexicon of Sustainable Food, a series of informational artworks highlighting Emory’s sustainable food commitments which is now being showcased on the construction fence surrounding the campus life center.

“A lot of my work also focuses on how Indigenous peoples are using food to reclaim their cultures and their identities,” says Barnes. “A lot of food reclamation comes from health disparities…and so there the connection between food and health. There is the connections between disciplines and my work is at the intersections.”

She is also involved on campus through the IDEAS Fellowship (Interdisciplinary Exploration and Scholarship) and Multicultural Greek Life. Last fall Barnes was a delegate to the UN’s 23rd Conference of Parties Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, where she represented Emory and conducted her own independent research. As an RA in Hamilton Homes, Claire spearheaded “Art for Impact,” organizing construction of a window mural expressing support for hurricane survivors and victims of Las Vegas shooting.

According to Hilary King 12G 17PhD, Sustainable Development Fellow, “Claire Barnes could be a verb. [Her] level of leadership, activism, and ability to bring together her peers has provided untold benefit to the Emory community.”

“I’m always trying to do something that has purpose not only for myself, but is appropriate for the community,” says Barnes when asking about being a verb. “I want to impact the community in a way that is necessary and needed, so maybe that is Clair’ing.” And adds, “But who knows, I’m sure it’s always evolving, as I am.”