Student and Alumni Stories

Student and Alumni Stories - Student and Alumni Stories

Read stories about students and alumni from all six campuses of UTHealth School of Public Health.

 

Roth and King

Doctoral dissertation research award helps students fund their research projects

Published: March 19, 2018

Ben King, a doctoral student was recently presented with the Fall 2017 Doctoral Dissertation Research Award and Isabel Roth was presented with the Spring 2017 Doctoral Dissertation Research Award from UTHealth School of Public Health. Doctoral dissertation research awards provide students with funding for research-related expenditures that are essential to the conduct and successful completion of their doctoral dissertations and that fall outside of the scope of typical graduate school expenses. [continue reading here]

 

Group photo with Emery in the center

Endowed scholarship created in honor of Emery (alumnus)

Published: March 15, 2018

It was an evening of surprises, health physicist jokes and laughs as close to 100 people gathered at The Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center on Friday, March 2, to celebrate the achievements of Robert “Safety Bob” Emery, Dr.P.H., and his lasting impact on students and fellow colleagues.

Surrounded by family and friends, Emery - known for his preparedness as UTHealth’s vice president for safety, health, environment and risk management, and professor of occupational health at UTHealth School of Public Health - seemed just this once to be unprepared when colleagues announced a new endowed fellowship in his name. [continue reading here]

 

Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben-square

World-renowned Guinea worm disease eradicator to give convocation address (alumnus)

Published: March 12, 2018

Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, Ph.D., director of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program at The Carter Center, will deliver the 2018 convocation address for The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health commencement ceremony on May 11. Ruiz-Tiben is an alumnus of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, having earned his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the school in 1982. [continue reading here]

 

Norma Alicia Perez-square

UTHealth alumna Pérez president of Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools

Published: March 3, 2018

Norma A. Pérez, M.D., Dr.P.H., an alumna of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, has been elected president of Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools (HSHPS). [continue reading here]

 

Photos of four of this year's Schweitzer fellows in one block together with blue lines separating them into squares

Five students from UTHealth School of Public Health named Schweitzer fellows

Published: February 12, 2018

Five students from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health have received the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship for the Houston-Galveston area.

The purpose of the fellowship is to continue the legacy of famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer — pairing students with mentors, field experts and community sites to meet vital local health needs with an immediate and lasting impact in the Houston-Galveston area. Since 2008, more than 100 Albert Schweitzer Fellows have completed projects in the Houston-Galveston area. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Amber MitchellAlumna elected chair of APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section

Published: January 30, 2018

Amber Mitchell, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., C.P.H., has been elected chair of the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Mitchell is an alumna of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, and began serving as chair-elect in December 2017. The official term begins at the end of the APHA Annual Meeting in November 2018 and lasts for one year. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Maria Chang SwartzUTHealth alumna Swartz joins UTMB faculty

Published: January 8, 2018

UTHealth School of Public Health alumna Maria Chang Swartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., has joined the faculty of The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) as assistant professor, tenure track, in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism. Swartz earned her doctorate in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences in 2014 from UTHealth School of Public Health. [continue reading here]

 

Theresa Byrd photoUTHealth alumna awarded APHA’s Distinguished Career Award

Published: December 14, 2017

Alumna Theresa Byrd, Dr.P.H., associate dean and chair of the Department of Public Health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, was selected as the 2017 American Public Health Association (APHA) Public Health Education and Health Promotion Distinguished Career Award recipient. Byrd received her award at the Public Health Education and Health Promotion Awards at the APHA 2017 annual meeting Nov. 7. [continue reading here]

 

Phuc Le profile photo-square

Alumna receives Young Investigator Award from Society for Medical Decision Making

Published: December 8, 2017

Phuc Le, Ph.D. ’13, M.P.H., ’09, recently received the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) for her work “Determining the Optimal Vaccination Schedule for Herpes Zoster: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis,” published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The award was presented at the SMDM’s Annual North American Meeting in Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. [continue reading here]

 

NicholasRodriguez photoStudent profile: Nicholas Rodriguez (Houston campus, dual degree)

Published: November 15, 2017

Nicholas Rodriguez hails from the border community of McAllen, a great place to grow up, but one also beset by high rates of poverty and poor health. The South Texas community is never far from his mind. Rodriguez’s desire to give back inspired him to become a dentist, and study public health. Now, he’s a third-year dental student in UTHealth School of Public Health’s new D.D.S./M.P.H. program in Houston, and an active student leader — most notably serving as current president-elect of the National Student Research Group of the American Association for Dental Research. He plans to graduate next spring. [continue reading here]

 

Rafia Rasu photo Alumna receives Health Literacy Kansas Trailblazer award

Published: November 8, 2017

Rafia Rasu, Ph.D., MBA, M.Pharm., an alumna of UTHealth School of Public Health and adjunct professor in the Department of Management, Policy and Community Health, recently received the Health Literacy Kansas Trailblazer award from Health Literacy Kansas. The award was presented at the Kansas Public Health Association annual conference on Oct. 10. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Taylor MackayTaylor Mackay, M.P.H., MBA, alumnus (’15, San Antonio campus)

Published: November 2, 2017

Variety is the spice of life for Taylor Mackay, M.P.H., MBA who earned his M.P.H in epidemiology from UTHealth School of Public Health in San Antonio in 2015. Mackay has spent the past decade pursuing a dizzying array of public health opportunities — from conducting medical checks at a local prison and tracking infectious disease on the Texas-Mexico border, to managing health insurance and translations services in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. Currently, he’s an associate in the graduate development program at not-for-profit insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Baltimore, where he’s working to improve the continuum, quality and cost of health care for members. [continue reading here]

 

Christine Jovanovich photoStudent profile: Christine Jovanovic (Austin campus)

Published: October 18, 2017

Christine Jovanovic had always been interested in nutrition and health. But it wasn’t until she returned to the United States after living abroad with her family, that her interest became a full-blown passion. Shocked by the growing problem of childhood obesity in her community, she got involved with her PTA in Round Rock, Texas to improve school meals, plant campus vegetable gardens, and promote healthier school environments. [continue reading here]

 

Student group photo ‘Launch into Public Health’ day of service inspires students to roll their sleeves up

Published: October 13, 2017

Beginning the journey as a graduate student of public health, many students feel inspired and ready to dig in. This year’s orientation at UTHealth School of Public Health encouraged them to just that on its first “Launch into Public Health” day of service. The day of service took place just before Tropical Storm Harvey flooded Houston and delayed the start of classes by a week. The spirit of volunteerism was fully present in the school even before Houston and other areas of the Gulf Coast were in dire need of hardworking solidarity.  [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Safety Bob headed to work after Hurricane HarveyDebriefing Harvey: a conversation with Robert “Safety Bob” Emery (alumnus story)

Published: September 28, 2017

The floodwaters have receded, and Houstonians are busy getting back to normal after Hurricane Harvey. While the event is still fresh in our minds, we debriefed Robert “Safety Bob” Emery, Dr.P.H, professor of Occupational Health and vice president for Safety, Health, Environment and Risk Management (SHERM), for his take on the critical role emergency preparedness and safety plays in public health.  [continue reading here]

 

Photo of the SEIS volunteers on the GRB escalatorSEIS helps during Harvey

Published: September 20, 2017

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, a team of students with the Student Epidemic Intelligence Society (SEIS) quickly launched into action.

They were ready. Over the summer, the organization’s leadership worked aggressively to strengthen relationships with local health departments. They offered their support during emergencies, as they had nearly 12 years earlier when Hurricane Katrina evacuees sheltered in Houston. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Nelson GonzalezStudent Profile: Nelson Gonzalez (Brownsville campus)

Published: August 11, 2017

Public health is personal for Nelson Gonzalez, an M.P.H. student studying epidemiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Brownsville. Growing up in Edinburg, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, he saw friends and family struggle with heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems. Now, he’s working to address the gaping health disparities that plague border communities like his own. Gonzalez graduates in May 2018 with plans to attend medical school in Texas. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Puja Ghandi receiving award from Emery and Warner

Student presented with Excellence in Public Health Award at MD/MPH orientation

Published: August 3, 2017

In May 2017, student Puja B. Gandhi, along with classmates Romero N. Santiago and Arianna Fresquez were announced as 2017 recipients of the Excellence in Public Health Award from the United States Public Health Service. On hand for the UTHealth School of Public Health M.D./M.P.H. dual degree program orientation this July to present Gandhi with the award in person was Cmdr. James Warner as well as School of Public Health faculty member and USPHS Lt. Cmdr. Robert “Safety Bob” Emery, Dr.P.H. Gandhi is a student in the M.D./M.P.H. program between UTHealth School of Public Health and the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Warner is a U.S. Public Health Service physician for the U.S. Coast Guard in Galveston. [continue reading here]

 

Jitesh Shewale photo

Jitesh Shewale wins 2017 James Emerson Award for Outstanding Teaching Assistant (student story)

Published: July 20, 2017

Jitesh Shewale, B.D.S, M.P.H., has been selected as the winner of the 2017 James Emerson Award for Outstanding Teaching Assistant (TA) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. The UTHealth School of Public Health Student Association gives the award annually to an outstanding TA who has demonstrated the following qualities: knowledge of the subject and competency in the area of expertise; interest/enthusiasm for teaching; interest in an understanding of the students; responsiveness to student questions and encouragement of independent thinking; and accessibility to students. [continue reading here]

 

Archer intern photos together in a square

Five students selected for Archer Center internship

Published: July 5, 2017

Five students from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health have been selected for The Archer Center Graduate Program in Public Policy, a summer internship program in Washington, D.C. The program gives graduate students from The University of Texas System an opportunity to practice what they have learned through coursework, out-of-classroom learning and faculty mentorship. Archer Center Graduate Fellows spend 12 weeks interning in a Washington, D.C. organization of their choosing based on their own professional and academic goals and interests. They also take classes on the policy making process from UT System faculty members. Fellows earn nine credit hours for their experience. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Mark and Matt 1 week post transplant

M.P.H. student donates kidney

Published: June 26, 2017

Mark Biscone, Ph.D., looks like the typical mid-career student at UTHealth School of Public Health, as he buzzes between his classes and internship at Harris Health System. He’s full of energy and purpose. It’s hard to believe that just two months ago he was in a hospital bed, recovering from major surgery. In April, Biscone took a break from his studies in healthcare management and policy to donate his left kidney to a family friend. The surgery was a success, and saved the recipient, Matt Aklan, from a life dependent on dialysis. Now Aklan is running, cycling and spending time with his 10-year-old son, and Biscone is back to the busy life of a student and health care professional. Three scars on his abdomen are the only visible evidence of his sacrifice. [continue reading here]

 

Katelyn Jetelina photo

Alumna profile: Katelyn Jetelina, Ph.D., M.P.H. (Dallas)

Published: May 23, 2017

As a child, Katelyn Jetelina, Ph.D., M.P.H., saw firsthand how bullying hurt her friends and savaged their self-esteem. Her experiences inspired her to pursue a career in public health focusing on violence prevention and injury among vulnerable populations. After studying physiology at the University of Arizona, she earned her M.P.H. and Ph.D. in epidemiology from UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas. Earlier this month, she was made an assistant professor of epidemiology. [continue reading here]

 

Umair Shah photo

Alumnus profile: Umair A. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., Executive Director, Harris County Public Health

Published: May 11, 2017

An interview with Umair A. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., Executive Director, Harris County Public Health; UTHealth School of Public Health alumnus, Master of Public Health, Health Management and Policy, 2001

No day is the same for Umair A. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of Harris County Public Health (HCPH) and this year’s spring commencement speaker. One moment he might be speaking about health-related innovation to the Texas Legislature, the next sending out a tweet about Zika. And that’s how he likes it. “I’m someone who enjoys variety. It’s part of my personality,” he says. Shah’s distinguished career reflects his affinity for diverse experiences. Before joining HCPH, he earned degrees in philosophy, medicine and public health; interned at the World Health Organization (WHO); worked as an ER physician at Houston’s Michael E. Debakey VA Medical Center; and served as chief medical officer for the Galveston County Health District. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Charanya KaushikStudent Charanya Kaushik receives Fulbright award

Published: May 4, 2017

Charanya Kaushik, a second-year M.P.H. student at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Research Award. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the United States and partner countries. Fulbright grant recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential. [continue reading here]

 

photo of the graduatesCongratulations to all 2016-2017 UTHealth School of Public Health graduates

Published: May 19, 2017

Faculty, friends, family and honored guests gathered to celebrate UTHealth School of Public Health graduates at the annual commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12 at NRG Center. This year, the school celebrates 296 Master of Public Health, 13 Master of Science, 14 Doctor of Public Health, and 48 Doctor of Philosophy degrees on its six campuses in cities across Texas. Congratulations to our 2016-2017 School of Public Health graduates and thanks to all who were able to attend the celebration in Houston. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Manasi ShahUTHealth study finds association between specific gut bacteria and colorectal cancer (alumna story)

Published: April 19, 2017

Specific strains of bacteria in the gut are significantly associated with colorectal cancer, according to a new study by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. The study, which also identified a less invasive and less expensive way to screen for colorectal cancer, was recently published in the journal Gut.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-associated death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Previous studies have found associations between gut bacteria and colorectal cancer, but this is the first to link several studies to identify specific strains and species that are associated with the disease: Parvimonas micra ATCC 33270, Streptococcus anginosus and multiple members of the phylum proteobacteria. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Wesley McWhorterStudent profile: Wesley McWhorter (Dr.P.H. program, Houston)

Published: March 31, 2017

Wesley McWhorter grew up near Mobile, Alabama, where downhome southern cooking reigns supreme, and many locals give healthier dishes the side-eye. McWhorter loved good food just as much as the next guy, but wanted to avoid his family’s legacy of heart disease. So as a teenager, he set out to learn all he could about nutrition — a journey that would take him through culinary school and on to become a dietitian.

Now, McWhorter is a doctoral student majoring in health promotion and behavioral sciences and minoring in epidemiology, and a teaching associate with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at UTHealth School of Public Health’s Dietetic Internship Program. [continue reading here]

 

Palak Jalan photoStudent profile: Palak Jalan (Houston)

Published: February 27, 2017

Originally from Ahmedabad, India, Palak Jalan trained in dentistry before launching her career in public health at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. Last summer, she taught menstrual hygiene to low-income Indian girls. They often miss school during their periods because of the stigma surrounding menstruation. Jalan graduates in May with plans to tackle health disparities locally and globally. [continue reading here]

 

Velasquez photoAlumna receives national honors

Published: February 24, 2017

UTHealth School of Public Health alumna Mary Marden Velasquez, Ph.D. (1997) recently received two national honors. In November, she took home the 2016 Betty Ford Award at The Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This prestigious award is given annually to an individual who has had a significant impact on the field of alcohol and drug use, particularly with regards to women’s issues, substance abuse education and recovery. [continue reading here]

 

Palvinder and Hariharan photosTwo students named Schweitzer Fellows

Published: February 17, 2017

Two UTHealth School of Public Health students have been named Schweitzer Fellows by the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship for the Houston-Galveston area. The fellowship continues the legacy of famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer — pairing students with mentors, field experts and community sites to meet vital local health needs with an immediate and lasting impact in the Houston-Galveston area. Since 2008, more than 100 Albert Schweitzer Fellows have completed projects in the Houston-Galveston area. [continue reading here]

 

Photo of Jose Medina

Alumnus earns spot in FDA Center for Tobacco Products

Published: January 4, 2017

José L. Medina, an alumnus of UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, recently began working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). Previously, Medina was a Tobacco Regulatory Science Fellow at the FDA. The fellowship was sponsored by the FDA CTP and the National Academy of Medicine. Originally from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Medina earned both the Master of Public Health (M.P.H. ’09) and Doctor of Public Health degree (Dr.P.H., ’13) from UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, one of six campuses across Texas that are all part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. His dissertation title was, “Something real: a social marketing approach to smoking prevention among Montevideo youth.” The School of Public Health aims to train the next generation of the public health workforce to improve the health of the population through prevention and better health outcomes. [continue reading here]