The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) National Alumni Advisory Board was created to advise the SHPEP National Program Office on enhancing alumni engagement, identify opportunities to reach the program’s target population, and overall program activities. The Board is comprised of 11 previous participants from the Medical Minority Education Program (MMEP), Summer Medical Enrichment Program (SMEP), and the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP).

The Alumni Advisory Board holds bimonthly conference calls and convenes annually in conjunction with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) annual meeting.

If you have questions or suggestions for the board, please submit them to

Advisory Board Members

Tamana (Bunny) Begay, D.D.S. is a member of the SHPEP National Advisory Committee. Dr. Begay is of Navajo, Seneca, and Mohawk descent and was raised in Portland, Ore., with summers spent on the Northern Navajo reservation.

Dr. Begay began her college career at San Diego Mesa Community College and then transferred to the University of California, San Diego, Revelle College. She graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and minors in art history and psychology.

In 1999, Dr. Begay enrolled in the University Of San Francisco School Of Dentistry’s post-baccalaureate program. Following this program, she began her graduate studies at the University of the Pacific, Dugoni School of Dentistry, in San Francisco. After earning her D.D.S. in 2003, she began working with the Indian Health Service.

Dr. Begay currently works as a general dentist at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, CA. She is involved in several local and national organizations promoting American Indian/Alaska Native students into higher education and professional careers.

Jordan Brown attended SMPEP in 2013 at the University of California Los Angeles.

Mr. Brown is currently a dental student at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. In 2016, he graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Mr. Brown stated that “the abrupt transition from Morehouse to Michigan was difficult, but the resources from the SMDEP eased the transition”. His participation in SMDEP made him determined to work with underserved populations. Because of this determination, he applied and was awarded the National Health Service Corps Scholarship. SMDEP allowed Mr. Brown to concretely determine that dentistry was the correct profession for him. His next step is to complete a General Practice Residency and work with underserved communities in the southern region of the United States.



Felix Contreras-Castro attended SMDEP in 2012 at Yale University School of Medicine.

Mr. Contreras-Castro’s interest in medicine grew as he witnessed the staggering health disparities affecting marginalized communities. He has advocated, conducted research, and raised awareness on minority health as his main field of study. Inspired from his six-weeks at Yale SMDEP, He has attended internships at the National Institute of Health, John Hopkins School of Medicine, and UCLA where he has been published and presented his research across the country.

Mr. Contreras-Castro is extremely grateful for the SHPEP experience and the inspiration and confidence it gave him to graduate with a biology, sociology, and health services associate degrees from Atlantic Cape Community College.  He was then granted a full scholarship to Amherst College where he graduated with a black studies bachelor’s degree with a focus on health disparities. Felix is now an adjunct chemistry and developmental math professor at Atlantic Cape Community College.



Diego DaSilva, M.D. attended SMDEP in 2012 at Duke University.

SMDEP played a crucial role in his early professional development and gave him the tools, which later facilitated his acceptance and transition into medical school. Dr. DaSilva joined the board to help ensure that all eligible students have the opportunity to participate in SHPEP. More specifically, he wants to work on mentorship and guidance for those applying, as well as alumni.

Dr. DaSilva graduated from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 and is completing an internship in Internal Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital. Afterwards, he will be joining the Dermatology residency program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Outside of dermatology Dr. DaSilva’s primary career interests include teaching, healthcare for the undocumented and the underserved community, and mentoring minority students.

Maria Dreeszen attended SMDEP in 2012 at Rutgers University.

Ms. Dreeszen is currently a senior at Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Nebraska. Prior to dental school, she completed her undergraduate at Union College in Schenectady, New York.

Outside of school, Ms. Dreeszen spends time giving back and volunteering in her community, reading and spending time with family and friends. She is excited to have the opportunity to give back to the program and its past scholars.






Barbara Franklin attended SMDEP in 2013 at UCLA.

Ms. Franklin was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Apple Valley, California. She graduated from La Sierra University in June 2016 with a BA in psychology with minors in biology and neuroscience. She recently completed her Master of Public Health-Dental Emphasis degree at A.T. Still University.

Ms. Franklin’s participation in SMDEP in 2013 left her forever changed by the experience. She has since made it her mission to mentor other young minorities and expose them to career-enrichment opportunities. She is passionate about addressing oral health care disparities and currently works as an Oral Health Educator in Southern California, visiting low-income elementary schools educating children about the importance of oral health. Ms. Franklin aspires to attend dental school soon and become a public health dentist.



Karen Morris-Priester, M.D. attended MMEP in 2001 at Yale University and later graduated from Yale University Medical School in 2007.

She is an anesthesiologist practicing in Allentown, Penn. Dr. Morris-Priester gained national attention in 2007 when she appeared as a guest on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” where Ms. Winfrey recognized her for completing medical school as a single mother of five children and as the first grandmother to attend Yale School of Medicine.

Since then, Dr. Morris-Priester has traveled the country as a motivational speaker encouraging her audiences to follow their dreams. She also acts as a mentor to young people who aspire to become physicians. Serving as Chair of the alumni advisory board, Dr. Morris-Priester hopes to use her time to develop a process that will allow alumni to reach back to assist current participants in their journey to becoming aspiring physicians.



Chandni Patel attended SMDEP in 2015 at Duke University.

Chandni graduated from the University of Florida in May 2017 with a dual bachelor degree in microbiology and cell science and in food science and human nutrition, with a specialization in nutritional sciences on the pre-medical track. She is currently working on her master’s degree from the University of Florida in microbiology and cell science with a concentration in medical microbiology and biochemistry.

The rigorous six-week SMDEP program gave me an idea of what medical school would be like and gave me the tools and experiences that would aid me in the future. As a SMDEP scholar I gained patient interaction skills, shadowing experience, multiple networking opportunities, more knowledge about healthcare disparities, study skills and a strong base in science courses. Through the weekly shadowing opportunities and guest speakers, I got a feel for what a variety of the different specialties are like. The SMDEP program was one of the best experiences in my life! As a national alumni advisory board member, I want to help improve the program and help reach more students. By encouraging and aiding more students in the application process, more student will gain the tools and experiences they might not receive otherwise. I want more students to gain what they need to become successful healthcare professionals. By becoming a national alumni advisory board member, I want to reach more students so that they can gain everything that I have from the program!


N’dea Moore-Petinak attended SMDEP in 2015 at Yale University.

She credits the program with helping her understand her passion for public health equity in a real-world context. She received a dual undergraduate degree in Political Science and Public Health Science from Santa Clara University. During her time there, she was a member of the University Honors Program, a Panetta Congressional Intern in Washington D.C., and a Hackworth Ethics Fellow. Ms. Moore-Petinak also studied global health and development policy in Geneva, Switzerland at the School for International Training.

To further her health disparities research experience, she participated in L.E.A.P. at Stanford University and developed a program with physicians to help increase HIV prevention among at-risk groups. She then completed her Master of Science in Global Health at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland where she wrote her thesis, “Legislative Barriers to Universal Health Care in the United States.”

Ms. Moor-Petinak is currently a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, where she is starting her doctoral studies in Health Services Organization and Policy. She very much looks forward to setting the health policy agenda for the next generation and helping to create a more equitable and efficient national health system.


Andy Tang attended SMDEP in 2010 at the University of Washington.

Mr. Tang received his a BS in biology and environmental health from the University of Washington in 2014. He is currently a research scientist in the Department of Radiology, Body Imaging Section at UW Medicine where he participates in ontological imaging research and provides tumor response assessments for patients enrolled in clinical trials.

My personal commitment to serve on the SHPEP National Advisory Alumni Board is grounded in the belief of improving the health and well-being of medically underserved patients and communities. Our pursuit of this goal may be met by establishing a culture of health through the alignment of a diverse, inclusive, inter-professional team that informs and improves high quality patient, family, and community centered care. As such, I believe the educational pipeline through SHPEP and engagement of our alumni is critical to achieving this goal. Serving on the Alumni Board propagates my passion of reducing health and health care disparities, ensuring that the doors to medicine are wide open to those marginalized and those working towards reducing health and social inequities in health care delivery systems.”


Jazmin Villavicencio attended SMDEP in 2008 at the University Of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE. She is a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe and of Mexican origin.

Ms. Villavicencio graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in public health, Mexican-American studies and Spanish translation and interpretation from the University of Arizona in May 2011.

In 2010, Mrs. Villavicencio was selected as one of eight students for the Four Directions Summer Research Program (FDSRP) at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, MA. The FDSRP focused on training the next generation of Native American leaders in health care.

In 2017, she completed a Public Health Training Certificate for American Indian Health Professionals from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ms. Villavicencio currently works as Tribal Liaison with the First Things First, Arizona’s Early Childhood Agency, which partners with families and communities to support the healthy development and learning of young children.

She is honored to serve as part of the National Alumni Advisory Board and hopes to be a voice for many other alumni that have participated in this great program.

Rosemary Vergara attended SMDEP in 2014 at the University of California Los Angeles.

Ms. Vergara describes her experience in the program as, “a life-changing experience that really motivated me to envision a career in medicine.

Ms. Vergara grew up in the Bay Area in California. In 2016, she received her Bachelor of Science in biology with a double minor in biotechnology and public health science at Santa Clara University. After graduation, she had the amazing opportunity to join a lab at the Stanford University School of Medicine as a Life Science Research Professional.

Ms. Vergra currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer for MiMentor and has volunteered in K-12 Outreach with Latinas in STEM. She has also worked as an Emergency Department scribe for Vituity and serves as a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar. Her role models include her parents and her little sister. In the future, she plans to attend medical school and work in an underserved community.