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Deepening Community Engagement through the 2023-2024 HEALTH-RCMI Student Cadre

Updated: Feb 5

For Immediate Release: December 11, 2023 

It didn’t take long for University of Houston pre-med student, Taylor Jones to say “yes” to another year as a member of the HEALTH-RCMI Student Cadre.  Jones was an enthusiastic original member of the inaugural 2022-2023 Student Cadre. This pioneering group of visionary students was recently awarded a NEXT G.H.E.N. grant through the City of Houston. 

“I love it. It’s a good energy, a good vibe. Everyone here has the same goal and the same initiative,” Jones said. “That’s what I really love about the Student Cadre. What inspired my interest was just community engagement and creating a strong bond with community leaders. I love every aspect of it.” 

This year’s 2023-2024 Student Cadre embraces new energy and creativity with the introduction of members – including Samuel Borromeo, Sara Michael, Ivy Manalo, Abigayle Truong, and returning members, Taylor Jones and Kim Ngyuen.  Through the mentorship of Community Engagement Core Director Dr. LeChauncy Woodard, the HEALTH-RCMI Student Cadre [PI: Dr. Ezemenari Obasi] was formed to help students learn and understand more about the community they will be directly serving to improve health outcomes.

Samuel Borromeo 

Samuel Borromeo is a UH sophomore pursuing a B.S in Biochemistry. In the future, Samuel would like to pursue MD/PHD programs in Neurology to be a strong advocate between clinical research and community engagement.  


“I joined the Student Cadre to completely immerse myself in the community experience side of research and connect with the Houston population,” Borromeo said. “A lot of my experience in research is quantitative and by participating in community-based research, it helps me create a balance between the two,” Borromeo said. 


Sara Michael  

Sara Michael is a UH post-baccalaureate student who hopes to attend medical school and study primary care. Michael is passionate about bridging the gap between research and health equity. During her undergraduate career, she did not have the opportunity to engage in a community health student organization and was motivated to apply as a Student Cadre member to gain this experience.   

Through the Student Cadre, Michael has assisted the HEALTH-RCMI’s H-Town CHAT where she enjoys “interacting with the community to help spread health awareness and resources”.  

Michael acknowledged how community events and their collective impact offered a great opportunity to connect with different health care professionals and public health initiatives in the Houston area. 

Ivy Manalo  

Ivy Manalo is a UH senior pursuing her B.S. in Biology and aspires to earn a MD/PhD, where she hopes to become a surgeon and complete biomedical engineering research. After immigrating from the Philippines ten years ago, she noticed several health disparities within her community. Witnessing this, she was motivated to “be a part of the resolution” and applied to the Student Cadre.    

When attending community events, Manalo emphasizes the importance of “having all ears open” to fully gauge “firsthand experiences and perspectives.” This allows her to listen to others’ needs, provide resources, and spread health awareness to people. Manalo is most excited to learn more about HEALTH-RCMI research projects since this is part of the resolution in addictions research. 

“Student Cadre opportunities will help me talk to my [future] patients,” Manalo said. “I’ve been talking to the people and listening to their firsthand experiences, and that’s what matters.” 

Abigayle Truong 

Abigayle Truong is a UH senior pursuing a B.S in Biology and Public Health Minor. Troung aspires to become a PA and active advocate for underserved communities. For Abigayle, volunteering is a passion with roots as far as her childhood.  


“I have been volunteering since I was a young child, whether at charity events with my family or independently for fun!” Truong said. “Being in the Student Cadre not only helps me follow my passion but provides an opportunity to learn hands-on from Houston communities about health challenges”  


Abigayle is most excited to be part of the HEALTH-RCMI’s H-Town CHAT program as it provides a combination of community research and outreach.  


“[H-Town CHAT] breaks the barrier between technical research and community engagements,” Truong said. This project engages not only science, but people as well.” 


Taylor Jones 

Joining the Student Cadre has been a true journey of the heart and mind for UH pre-med student, Taylor Jones. In fact, it's been an experience that's literally entailed an enlightening internship in Tanzania to help create clean, fresh water for communities. 

"This research project was 1 in a million," Jones said. "When we went to Tanzania, then it was time to put in the humanitarian aspect of it. We had to find a filter that was highly efficient but low-cost." 

Candidly, Jones expressed that the Student Cadre has been such a growth experience, that she wishes to continue her contribution beyond her senior year.  

 "The Student Cadre has made me more well-rounded," Jones said. "This experience is so unique. Something I will carry with me is empathy...the humanitarian aspect of being a doctor. Being a doctor is beyond treatment—it’s a relationship with your patient. I want to be an advocate for my patients." 


Kim Nguyen 

When UH pre-med student, Kim Nguyen, first joined the HEALTH-RCMI Student Cadre, she discovered how much work collaborating with the Community Engagement Core truly inspired her.  

"They (Community Engagement Core) gave us a lot of autonomy and independence for our project," Nguyen said. "They also gave us a lot of career advice too. Dr. Woodard gave us a tour of the UH Medical School which was informative. We all want to be physicians in the future, so we appreciated the experience." 

The inaugural Student Cadre participated in a grant writing experience to fund a community engagement project to help Houston's Third Ward and was successfully awarded a NEXT G.H.E.N. grant through the City of Houston. 

"It was our first time writing a grant. So, we were all surprised in the end when we got this! The NEXT GHEN grant awards grassroots projects to serve the community," Nguyen said. "To really know about a community's needs, you need to go into the community and be able to forge connections with people." 

If you are interested in joining the 2024-2025 HEALTH-RCMI Student Cadre, applications will open in April 2o24. To submit your application, please apply here. 

Alison Medley, Jayda Martinez, Arlette Chavez 

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Alison Medley at 713.320.0933 or email 






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