Mercy Mumba posing in a nursing lab

Leaders in Black Health and Wellness

In honor of Black History Month, The University of Alabama proudly celebrates the Black students, alumni, faculty and staff who have shaped UA’s history and legacy through their extraordinary contributions and accomplishments.

To join in the celebration of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s 2022 Black History Month theme that focuses on Black health and wellness, UA recognizes several faculty and staff who have made significant contributions to the wellbeing of Black communities.

A headshot of Pamela Payne-Foster
Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster

Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster is a preventive medicine/public health physician who currently serves as professor in the UA department of community medicine and population health. She is also deputy director for Community Outreach in the College of Community Health Science’s Institute for Rural Health Research. Payne-Foster’s teaching, research and service are heavily focused on social justice and health equity in health, as well as partnerships with community organizations and leaders.

While Payne-Foster is primarily responsible for teaching and supervising third- and fourth-year medical students and graduate students in the college’s master of science in population health sciences program, she also mentors UA undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students, as well as junior faculty, across campus.

Payne-Foster has served as a mentor for Tide Together, the Institute for Rural Health Research Junior Faculty Development Program, as well as faculty advisor for several health and civic-related University undergraduate organizations including Project DiET, the West End Health Project (Community and Medicine Club) and Ignite. Many of these mentoring relationships have been with students who are underrepresented in their fields as women and/or minorities.

“I am most proud of the mentoring role I’ve had in the development of students and trainees, and to see them develop into future colleagues and leaders,” said Payne-Foster. “These include those who have gone on to serve as faculty members at UA and other institutions, those who now work for health organizations and others who have gone on to forge new and innovative roles in private ventures in health. To me, that is the greatest return on my investment in the lives of students.”

A headshot of JoAnn Oliver
Dr. JoAnn Oliver

Dr. JoAnn S. Oliver, a tenured professor of nursing and Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing has been a faculty member at UA for more than 20 years. In addition to primarily teaching in the nursing graduate programs, Oliver has a substantive, sustained and outstanding impact in the areas of service, research and mentoring. Her research and service are focused on addressing cancer health disparities, cancer screening uptake, social support and cancer survivorship.

Oliver has established and maintains ongoing relationships within many Alabama Blackbelt communities that span over 10 years, focusing on helping to address concerns that are deemed important by the members of the involved community. Oliver is also a leader, nurse scientist and mentor with the African Caribbean Cancer Consortium, or AC3, a collaborative National Cancer Institute supported network of diverse researchers that focus on the study of viral, genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors for cancer in populations of African descent. Oliver serves on the AC3 Research Ethics Committee and chairs the colorectal working group, further demonstrating her commitment to improving health outcomes and addressing health inequities.

Oliver currently serves on the Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition as chair of the Early Detection Committee. Oliver along with other coalition leaders, in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Public Health, recently contributed to revising the Alabama Cancer Control 5-year Plan.  She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Eta Xi Omega chapter, and serves as Theta Sigma Chapter’s UA faculty adviser and mentors undergraduate student members.

Oliver is most proud of her accomplishments as an educator, the positive impact of her cancer health disparities research and community service along with mentoring of others.

“I consider my mentoring of both students and new faculty as a privilege and another opportunity for me to give back,” said Oliver. “It is an amazing feeling to witness and celebrate the many successes and achievements of those I have help mentor.”

A headshot of Mercy Mumba
Dr. Mercy Mumba

Dr. Mercy Ngosa Mumba is an award-winning scientist and philanthropist who serves as an associate professor and founding director of the Center for Substance Use Research and Related Conditions in the Capstone College of Nursing. Her research focuses on substance use disorders, addictive behaviors and their comorbid mental health conditions. She is particularly interested in the impact of social determinants of health and the role of health disparities in preventing, treating and managing these conditions.

Mumba is passionate about improving the human condition through evidence-based initiatives and interventions and is a strong advocate for health equity, especially as it relates to minority health. She has been involved in several community-engaged projects in the Blackbelt region of Alabama that seek to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of older African Americans.

As a professor, she enjoys transferring knowledge to the next generation of nurse clinicians, nurse educators, nurse leaders and nurse scientists. She is an exceptional researcher, and her intra-professional research lab is home to several undergraduate and graduate honor students from various professions and disciplines, including nursing, medicine and biochemistry, among others.

Mumba is a servant leader who believes in the power of advocacy to affect policy changes that result in positive population outcomes. She serves on many boards and committees locally, nationally and internationally, including the International Organization of African Nurses.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mumba would take a group of nursing students to Zambia, Africa, where she was born and raised, on medical mission trips. The group set up mobile clinics in rural areas, providing free healthcare services to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in Zambia. This is something she is especially passionate about and prioritizes because it is her way of giving back to the communities in which she grew up. Mumba hopes to resume these summer trips when the COVID-19 situation improves.


Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,