Skip to main content

Learn more about the new group of Kenan Scholars. These outstanding students have made a commitment to serving in North Carolina’s rural and underserved communities.

Learn more about the new group of Kenan Scholars. These outstanding students have made a commitment to serving in North Carolina’s rural and underserved communities.

Meet this year’s group of scholars:

Adam_Safiyya.jpg Safiyya Adam is from the small town of Murphy, located at the westernmost tip of the state. She spent her undergraduate years at UNC- Chapel Hill volunteering with elderly populations and working as a Nursing Assistant. She enjoys birding and reading during her free time. Growing up in a rural community, seeing the health care shortage firsthand, and having incredible support from community members and mentors, has inspired her to work in rural North Carolina.
Ben Atkinson Ben Atkinson grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania before moving south with his family to Waxhaw, NC in middle school. As an undergraduate at UNC- Chapel Hill, he studied business and economics and then worked in management consulting in Atlanta, GA for just long enough to realize that big business and city life weren’t for him. He rediscovered his passion for health and medicine and dove headlong into his journey to UNC School of Medicine after completing a Master’s in Physiology at NC State. As of today, he is interested in general surgery, but plans to embrace the twists and turns of medical training. He hopes to practice in a small NC town and use his experience to actively invest in the development of the surrounding community.
Kyle Bingham Kyle Bingham is a Fullerton Scholar from Rutherfordton, NC. He spent his undergraduate years at North Carolina State University studying Chemistry, Biochemistry and Human Biology with minors in Philosophy and Political Science. Geriatrics and sports medicine are particular areas of interest for Kyle and he plans to practice in his hometown in the future.
Luke Ford

Luke Ford was born in Georgia, but raised in Durham, NC. Despite growing up in a suburban area of Durham, Luke has known that he wanted to live and work in a rural area since he was young. Addressing the lack of access to healthcare in rural North Carolina has been something that he has been passionate about since becoming interested in medicine, and the Kenan Rural Scholars Program provides a great avenue to pursue those interests. In his free time, Luke likes to spend time outdoors fly fishing, hunting, and backpacking.

Sarah McShane

Sarah McShane grew up between Delaware and Virginia before moving to North Carolina in 2012 to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. Since then, she has spent time working with underserved communities as a student and a doula, and has developed a specific interest in serving women and children. She is passionate about finding innovative ways to connect communities with quality and affordable medical care and is looking forward to her journey with the Kenan Program.

Mary Shell Mary Shell grew up in Bryson City, North Carolina, just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She began her undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, but after spending her summer working as a raft guide she decided to transfer to UNC-Asheville, where she majored in psychology. Since high school, she has been interested in psychiatry, and prior to entering medical school worked as a behavioral health technician at an inpatient psychiatric facility. Mary sees herself practicing in a rural area of Western North Carolina in the future.
Meagan Watkins Meagan Watkins grew up in Aberdeen, North Carolina and is a member of the Lumbee Tribe. She plans to go into primary care and work for Native American communities, and specifically, the Lumbee Tribe. Her passion to support her community is anchored in knowing how her community has shaped her into the person she is and it is her turn to return the generosity. Meagan is also interested in public health disparities among minority and rural populations and is committed to understanding more around public health to serve future patients. Meagan knows there is a lot to be found in rural towns and things that you can only discover by talking to local people which she enjoys. In her free time Meagan likes to read outdoors, workout, and play instruments
Susan Zhao Susan Zhao was born in Tennessee and grew up in North Carolina. She fell in love with rural patient populations while studying Biology, Chemistry, and Medical Humanities at Appalachian State University. As she volunteered with various mental health organizations and community clinics in Boone, she developed a keen interest in improving access to mental health services and providing holistic care for underserved patients.

Rim Mehari is of Eritrean descent and was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She and her family moved to the U.S. as political asylees and settled in Apex/Cary, NC. Her experience as a first-generation immigrant sparked her passion for eliminating social and institutional barriers to resources and opportunities. While at Duke University, she studied Psychology and Global Health, engaged in community-based research on childhood nutrition and cognitive development in Kenya, served in disease prevention campaigns in rural Nicaraguan communities, and volunteered to help increase health insurance enrollment in NC. After graduation, she worked at the NIH on a prospective study examining biopsychosocial factors contributing to pediatric obesity. All these formative experiences helped her to focus on eliminating health disparities through a career in medicine. As a Kenan Urban scholar she hopes to deepen her understanding of the factors shaping the lived experiences of the underserved in Charlotte and to learn the collaborative practice of providing quality, complete, and accessible care to the underserved, such that she is ready to meet the needs of her future patients and communities and ultimately help them attain and maintain healthy and well lives.

Rob Short Rob Short grew up in Concord, North Carolina. Before medical school, he studied psychology and chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. As an undergrad, Rob participated in HIV research and helped form a student organization that connects food-insecure community members to meals and local resources. He now volunteers as a care manager at SHAC and works on a hotspotting team with social work students. Rob is interested in working on patient-centered interdisciplinary teams to address social determinants of health, such as homelessness and transportation. As a physician, he hopes to work for underserved patients in an urban setting, with a particular focus on HIV care and LGBTQIA+ communities.