Minot State pilots Health Equity Ambassador Program

MINOT, N.D. – Minot State is the first university to implement the North Dakota Department of Health’s new Health Equity Ambassador Program (HEAP).

“Health equity is making sure everyone has access to health resources and reaching out to those vulnerable populations who need just a little more help,” said Danielle Reinisch, Minot State nursing assistant professor and HEAP co-supervisor. “That’s one of the biggest differences between equity and equality. With equity, we’re reaching out to those who need a little more assistance. With equality, everybody is getting the same thing regardless.”

The NDDoH’s Health Equity Office (HEO) works to understand and reduce health disparities among all North Dakotans, defining health equity as giving everyone the same opportunity to the highest level of health care that meets their needs.

“While our first event is promoting the COVID-19 vaccine clinic on campus Jan. 21, we’re not restricted to keeping activities on campus,” added Heidi Super, Minot State biology professor, medical laboratory science program coordinator, and HEAP co-supervisor. “Our ambassadors are go-getters who already have a lot of ideas and are taking the lead, which is really exciting.”

Four health equity ambassadors — biology majors Achille Tenekeu Djauken and Paolo Panales and senior nursing students Shaena Richard and Stefani Thomas – will host a total of eight campus or community events throughout the program’s one-year period.

The events will primarily focus on disease prevention and health promotion while preparing the health equity ambassadors for future jobs, fellowships, and internships.

“We received a lot of valuable help from Amy Armstrong (Minot State University Office of Sponsored Programs director) through the grant process,” said Super. “Beverly Ijeoma Anaele (NDDoH Healthy Equity CDC public health associate) has also been very helpful.”

As the first student-led program from the NDDoH’s HEO, HEAP was established to bridge the gap between student outreach and public health education with ambassadors serving as grassroot liaisons, leaders, and community change-makers.

“Public health impacts all of us,” said Reinisch. “It’s the air that we breathe, it’s the food that we eat, it’s the water that we swim in, it’s the vaccines we promote. Public health surrounds us on a daily basis.”

Bringing the nursing and biology departments together for the program is proving beneficial for not only the students, but Super and Reinisch as well.

“I hate to use this cliché, but the cross-pollination of working together, the possibilities have always been there to collaborate with nursing, but this is a really good initiator of that,” said Super.

"I agree,” added Reinisch. “This opens the door to a lot of fun, future projects.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/19/22   

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