Public Health Graduate Students Showcase Their Work

Special to UM News

Showcase Group Photo

The winners of the showcase with Interim Dean Laurence B. Gardner, in white coat, and, to the left, J. Sunil Rao, interim chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences.

MIAMI, Fla. (March 3, 2017)—A select group of graduate students at the Miller School of Medicine had the opportunity last week to highlight their efforts to tackle some of the world’s most pressing and complex public health problems.

The 46 students took part in the 2017 Annual Public Health Graduate Student Showcase and Reception, held at the Don Soffer Clinical Research Center. It was the fifth year for the event, which provides a stage for the students to display posters that represent highlights from their field experiences, capstone projects, and thesis projects.

The participating students were this year’s recipients of the prestigious Springboard, Global Health Scholar, Public Health Travel, and Miami, Israel, Science and Health (MISH) Fellowship awards, and nominees from the Department of Public Health Sciences. The students are part of the Public Health Department’s M.D./M.P.H., M.S.P.H, and M.P.H. programs.

Winners were selected from each category based on content, methodology, and oral presentation.

The winners are:

  • Global Health Scholar Award— Sarah Simko, M.D./M.P.H. Class of 2019
    • Project: Community Analysis and Patient Education in Bocas del Toro, Panama
    • Advisor: Nick Cuttriss, M.D., M.P.H.
  • MISH Award— Nadia Abouhana, M.P.H. Class of 2017
    • Project: Raising Awareness About Women’s Heart Disease in Israel
    • Advisor: Tatiana Perrino, Psy.D.
  • Public Health Travel Award— Xeniamaria Rodriguez, M.S.P.H. Class of 2017
    • Project: Assessing Perceptions of Healthcare Professionals on the Warning Signs Associated with Dengue in Pediatric Hospitals in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    • Advisor: Viviana Horigian, M.D.
  • Springboard Award — Karyn Meshbane, M.D./M.P.H. Class of 2017
    • Project: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice Toward Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Among Women Experiencing Homelessness
    • Advisor: Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H.


Department of Public Health Sciences Special Recognition:

  • Layla Bouzoubaa, M.S.P.H. Class of 2017
  • Aliyah Gauri, M.S.P.H. Class of 2016
  • Vivek Singh, M.S.P.H. Class of 2016
  • Roxanne Williams, M.P.H. Class of 2016


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Shalala Named Legend in Leadership

UM News


Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of The George Washington University, left, and Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College, right, presented Donna E. Shalala with the Legend in Leadership Award for Higher Education.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 29, 2017)—Former University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, the longest-serving U.S. secretary of health and human services who has headed three institutions of higher learning over her illustrious career, received the Legend in Leadership Award for Higher Education at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute’s Higher Education Leadership Summit last week.

Presented by Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita of Wellesley College, and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of The George Washington University, the award recognized Shalala for being “an inspiring, highly accomplished, and revered leader across sectors, political parties, generations, and communities.”

“In each institution she has led, she has profoundly enhanced its performance, its integrity, and its educational vitality,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, which hosted the summit. “She has also been one of the greatest mentors developing platoons of rising leadership talent.”

In addition to her 14 years as UM’s fifth and first female president, Shalala also led Hunter College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison—where she was the first woman to head a Big 10 university—the Children’s Defense Fund, the Clinton Foundation, and, for eight years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, serving in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet. Now Trustee Professor of Political Science and Health Policy at UM, she remains president of the Clinton Foundation.

At UM, she was responsible for increasing the average freshman SAT scores by more than 100 points, raising $3 billion in funding, and drawing star researchers to enhance the University’s profile. Under her leadership, UM rose from No. 67 to the top 50 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

During the invitation-only Higher Education Summit, Shalala joined distinguished higher education presidents and board chairs from across the U.S. in lively, candid discussions on this year’s theme, “Winning Back Hearts & Minds: Leading Higher Education Beyond the Bubble.”



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Nominate Outstanding Students for Laurel Awards by March 16

The Division of Student Affairs is seeking nominations for the Laurel Awards, an annual celebration that recognizes outstanding Student Affairs staff members and student employees who exemplify outstanding job performance and exceptional work on behalf of students. Nominations are due no later than Thursday, March 16.

In addition to awards that recognize the individual contributions of professional and student staff, a new award has been added to this year’s lineup to recognize collaborative efforts between Student Affairs and other departments across the University. The Outstanding Collaborative Departmental Initiative Award recognizes two or more departments within or outside of Student Affairs that take a collaborative approach to positively affecting the student experience through new or enhanced programming or service. Members from such departments are encouraged to nominate their programs for this award.

The full criteria and descriptions of all awards as well as the nomination form is available at www.miami.edu/laurelawards.


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Activities Director Receives NACA Legacy Award

By Andres Tamayo
UM News


Joshua Brandfon

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 22, 2017)—The National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) recently recognized Joshua Brandfon, the University of Miami’s director of student activities and student organizations, with its NACA Legacy Award for both his longtime volunteer service to the organization and future volunteer aspirations.

“I’m thankful to have been nominated for this award and appreciate being recognized for my contributions to the association,” Brandfon said. “NACA helps us better serve UM students by providing us with the knowledge, research, and resources we need to do our jobs well.”

As the director of student activities and student organizations, Brandfon is responsible for setting an overall vision and defining the co-curricular experience through campus programming. He directly advises UM’s homecoming program and student funding board (SAFAC).

“Josh is one of our innovative minds ensuring that we are anticipating future student trends and student union needs and is a major contributor to the Division of Student Affairs’ efforts to drive student engagement,” said Gail Cole-Avent, executive director of Student Life.

Over the years, Brandfon and his staff in Student Activities have volunteered their time to help plan programs and events for NACA. Brandfon, who has been heavily involved with the association since his days as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, has served in both regional and national roles.

Currently, Brandfon serves on the NACA Research and Scholarship Group and was recently part of a committee that helped develop NACA’s new strategic plan. He’s a candidate for the NACA Board of Directors and works closely with fellow NACA professionals, agents, and artists to share and implement ideas on how to enhance student engagement on campus.

Brandfon is happy with what he and his team have accomplished over the years. “I look forward to continuing to give back to an organization that has given so much to me throughout my career,” he said.

For more information on the Department of Student Activities and Student Organizations, visit the website.

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Toppel Center Recognizes Champions

Members of the University of Miami community and UM partners recognize those who support career readiness with the Toppel Awards

By Jennifer Palma
UM News


From left are the Toppel Center’s Executive Director Christian Garcia, Director of Employer Engagement Alicia Rodriguez, benefactor Patricia Toppel, and awardee Shirelle Jackson.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 22, 2017)—Students, recruiters, employers, and three employees—Shirelle Jackson, Ann Helmers, and Justin Tatman—were honored last week for their dedication to impacting the future careers of UM students through the University of Miami’s Patrica and Harold Toppel Career Center and beyond.

As Christian Garcia, associate dean and executive director of the Toppel Career Center, was quick to mention, “career services are everyone’s business at the University of Miami.” While he and his team  lead the way on various career-based initiatives, Garcia attributed much of the center’s success to career champions both on and off campus. The Toppel Awards were created to honor and recognize the outstanding achievements and tireless efforts of the many champions from the past year.

Jackson, the assistant athletic director for student athlete development, who likes to say she tries to prepare athletes to go from the locker room to the boardroom, received the Distinguished Administrator Award for making “sure every student has a Plan B to ensure their future.”

Helmers, the director of career services and alumni relations in the College of Engineering, received the inaugural Patricia Toppel Award for an unsung administrator who consistently makes an impact on the work Toppel does.

Tatman, a lecturer in the School of Education and Human Development’s Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, received this year’s Excellence in Career Education Award for enlisting the Toppel Center’s help in preparing students in his Athletic Training course.

Other categories and honorees included the following:

Student Group of the Year

Noted for their continuous support of career-focused events, Delta Sigma Pi was awarded Student Group of Year. The coed business fraternity was recognized for its commitment and passion for career readiness by hosting their own career events, alumni panels, and workshops throughout the year. The fraternity’s endeavors often include non-members and have had a great impact on the UM community.

Graduate Student of the Year

Among the many “career champions” in attendance, Miller School of Medicine graduate student, Celeste Amadei, echoed the importance of mentors as she accepted the award for Graduate Student of the Year.

As a Ph.D. student in biochemistry and molecular biology, Amadei took it upon herself to fill a void for children in Miami-Dade County. In an effort to provide education, outreach, and mentorship to children interested in science, she founded Women in Biomedical Science. The organization encourages children to explore career options in science-related fields and provides mentoring and support along the way.

Undergraduate Student of the Year

As a student who has benefitted from the support of mentors during his time at UM, Malik Bibby stressed the importance of giving back during his acceptance of the Toppel Award for Undergraduate Student of the Year.

“I encourage you to give as much as you can to everything around you,” he said as he thanked everyone who offered support during his time as a student.

Bibby, a senior in the School of Education and Human development and a medic in the Florida National Guard, was praised for his unique leadership abilities that inspire those around him. In his numerous roles on campus, Bibby is consistently recognized as a student who empowers other students to be the best version of themselves in every aspect of life.

In addition to recognizing student career champions, the ceremony also celebrated the partnerships across and beyond campus that have been essential to Toppel’s success. The awardees for the 2017 Toppel Awards are listed below:

Student Group of the Year

Delta Sigma Pi

Student of the Year (Graduate)

Celeste Amadei

Student of the Year (Undergraduate)

Malik Bibby

Alum of the Year

Kara M. Cavuto

Recruiter of the Year

Catherine Rodriguez, U.S. Department of State

Employer of the Year (Private)


Employer of the Year (Public/Not-for-Profit)

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Local Employer of the Year

Northwestern Mutual

Inaugural Patricia Toppel Award (Employer)

Kathleen Cymbaluk, Federal Bureau of Investigation






























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