Health Equity Scholars and Mentors Gather at Sunnylands

The historic California estate was the backdrop for a special HES retreat where students, mentors and experts gathered in supportive community, dedicated to improving the world through their work.

The inaugural cohort of Health Equity Scholars (HES) participated in a two-day retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California during the first rainy weeks of January this year. The retreat offered scholars a chance to learn from experts in their fields and participate in essential conversations about social and public health issues. The prestigious Sunnylands estate, known for hosting world leaders and heads of state, provided an inspirational backdrop for the event.

Thanks to the philanthropy of the Annenberg Foundation Trust and Gregory and Regina Weingarten, the retreat brought together scholars, mentors and program leaders for a series of workshops. The goal? To cultivate the next generation of public health leaders, dedicated to achieving health equity for all.

“This unique experience offered a remarkable opportunity for students and their mentors to strengthen and create new meaningful relationships,” said Rosenny Taveras, director of the Health Equity Scholars program. “Having momentous conversations in a historical space like Sunnylands really highlighted the importance of the work being done and the central role our program plays in addressing health disparities.”

The retreat began with workshops on professional development. Scholars then dove into conversations on race, identity, leadership, and health inequities. Through panel discussions, mentors shared their experiences and advice, while students broke into groups to tackle the challenge of misinformation in public health.

“ Having momentous conversations in a historical space like Sunnylands really highlighted the importance of the work being done and the central role our program plays in addressing health disparities. ”


The mentor-mentee relationship can be a vital advantage in the professional space. The HES program, first conceptualized by Dean Ashish Jha, places a high emphasis on pairing students with a network of mentors and peers. These mentors offer encouragement and direction to the scholars, aiding them in determining and accomplishing their career goals.

Frank Williams, co-founder of the health care services company, Evolent Health, joined the scholars at Sunnylands in his role as mentor. “These incredible scholars are our future leaders,” he said, “and they will have a huge impact on elevating health care in their communities and beyond. It’s an honor to be a part of their journey and I’m excited to see the good work and meaningful change they will bring.”

workshop at Sunnyland
Rosenny Taveras leads a workshop at Sunnylands. Credit: Lani Garfield

“The retreat was a special experience,” said Kathryn Kempton Amaral, who has grown close to the HES scholars through her role as senior director of public health leadership. “The discussions between and among students and mentors were genuine and honest. At the end of the retreat, students added their names to the guestbook alongside innovators, diplomats, and heads of state. It gave our scholars a broader vision of the potential spaces they can occupy and the possibilities that lie ahead for them. It served to reinforce and expand their sense of potential and possibility.”

The first cohort of HES scholars graduates in May 2023, and the second will begin their research assistantships and internships through the Applied Practice Experience in Brown’s MPH program. The HES program plans to admit 17 new scholars for the upcoming academic year and will organize a kick-off retreat to promote community and engagement. A peer-mentoring program also begins in the fall to help scholars exercise skills they’ve learned in their bi-weekly HES leadership-development classes.

The HES program is helping to develop the next generation of public health leaders and cultivate a supportive and collaborative community of scholars. With guidance from mentors, scholars are advancing through their studies and preparing to improve the world through their work.

Credit: Lani Garfield

Your support can grow the HES program

Donor contributions have built the HES program into an incredible leadership opportunity for MPH candidates who are committed to advancing health equity. This year the program added two additional tracks alongside those for HBCU graduates: graduates from Hispanic Serving Institutions and scholars from Rhode Island who are interested in centering their work in the state post-graduation.

“All donor funds go directly to student support and their research experiences,” said Taveras. “In addition to full tuition remission, the HES program provides scholars with funding to pursue internships and research assistantships, which are key components of the program. We look to secure consistent and continued support via endowment so we can be confident that Health Equity Scholars will continue to thrive long into the future.”

To donate to the HES program and ensure that it continues to grow and to equip and support the next generation of public health leadership, contact Patrick Schaefer at

Interested in Becoming a Mentor?

We believe that students thrive when they have access to a wide variety of career paths and experiences. That’s why we invite mentors from all corners of public health to participate in our program. 

Are you a public health professional looking for a meaningful way to give back? The School of Public Health is excited to build a mentor pool that connects MPH students with experienced professionals who share their interests.

By joining the mentor pool, you’ll not only be able to connect with an exciting cohort of students—and potential future leaders—in your field, but you’ll also have the opportunity to build your own network of like-minded professionals. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to join HES mentors Dr. Vivian Asare, Craig Jackson and Denys Symonette-Mitchell in making a difference. Help shape the future of public health leadership!

Contact Kathryn Kempton Amaral at for more information.