Three receive Distinguished Young Alumni Awards

From left, Rajesh Panjabi, Callie Brauel and Richard Martin.

Two founders of international nonprofits and a military officer have been honored with Distinguished Young Alumni Awards by the General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Rajesh Panjabi of Morrisville, Callie Brauel of Chapel Hill and Lt. Col. Richard Martin of Fort Riley, Kansas, received the awards at a banquet Friday, Oct. 17, marking the 26th year the association has bestowed awards recognizing alumni age 40 or younger for bringing credit to the University through their achievements.

“The remarkable accomplishments of many of Carolina’s younger alumni such as Rajesh, Callie and Richard are truly inspiring,” said GAA President Douglas Dibbert.

Panjabi is the founder of Last Mile Health, a nonprofit that trains villagers to deliver health care services aimed at combating life-threatening diseases in remote parts of his native Liberia. He received a chemistry degree in 2002 from the College of Arts and Sciences, a medical degree in 2007 from the UNC School of Medicine, and also holds a master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins University. He is on the medical staff of Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and the faculty of Harvard’s Division of Global Health Equity.

As a child, Panjabi fled Liberia’s civil war with his family and settled in High Point. While an undergraduate at Carolina, he spent a summer studying Alaska’s system for delivering health care to remote areas and used it as a model when establishing Last Mile Health after graduating from medical school. As a medical student, he worked in Liberia helping rebuild the healthcare system following the civil war. By working with Liberia’s government, Last Mile Health has trained workers in more than 40 villages and has a goal of expanding to 300.

Brauel co-founded A Ban Against Neglect, which provides vocational and life-skills training to young mothers so they can support themselves and their children. She graduated from Carolina in 2009 with degrees in business administration from Kenan-Flagler Business School and economics from the College of Arts and Sciences.

During a semester studying at the University of Ghana, Brauel and two of her classmates there came up with a plan for how homeless women could make purses from the discarded plastic drinking-water sachets littering the streets and sell them. Upon returning to Carolina, the New Hampshire native enrolled in the Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Launching the Venture entrepreneurial program to polish the business plan. She then used the $15,000 prize money her pitch won in the Carolina Challenge start-up competition to found ABAN. Now in its fifth year, ABAN meets its $400,000 annual budget through grants, donations and sales of products made by the women in Ghana. ABAN has a staff of four in the U.S., all UNC alumni, and 17 in Ghana, providing training and other services for 20 to 30 women a year.

Martin is the first officer from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Army ROTC program to become a battalion commander. After graduating in 1995 with a sociology degree from the College of Arts & Sciences, Martin went on to lead troops though three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Throughout his career he has been tapped for highly selective programs, including the School of Advance Military Studies and the Command and General Staff College, where he graduated No. 1 in his class of 1,100. He received the George C. Marshall Award for leadership form the Army chief of staff.

When the former Morehead City resident joined Army ROTC as a sophomore at Carolina, he had to travel to Duke University for military classes and training. UNC-Chapel Hill became the only campus to launch an Army ROTC program in the 1990s after Martin inspired enough fellow students to become cadets. Martin served as the cadet officer in charge. Today the program commissions more officers than the campus Air Force or Navy ROTC units and is recognized as one of the top programs in the country.