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Graduate Programs Lead Week of Welcome for New Students

The Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences led a week of welcome events for new graduate students. Students attended an orientation, a networking social, a Public Health Student Association meeting, grand rounds, participated in a University of Miami spirit day, and in a faculty and student networking lunch. 

At the orientation, Miller School of Medicine’s David Lee, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate programs, gave welcoming and opening remarks. 

“We are excited that you are here. What we want to accomplish is to develop transformational leaders, individuals that collaborate across disciplines, are passionate advocates for public health, and can apply leadership, organizational, entrepreneurial, and problem-solving skills,” Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Lee set Hansel Tookes, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, as an example. Dr. Tookes, an alumnus of the M.P.H. program, founded the IDEA (Infectious Disease Elimination Act) Exchange, a syringe exchange program that provides resources for people who inject drugs to prevent and reduce the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. People can exchange their used needles for clean ones, as well as get tested for HIV and Hepatitis C.

Viviana Horigian, M.D., M.H.A., assistant professor and director of public health education, also welcomed the new students and emphasized the importance of connecting with faculty and being involved outside of the classroom.

“You will see that we will put out several events that are geared to enhance the educational experience of our students. Look out for those activities, look out for panels, in which you can engage in as a student,” said Dr. Horigian, who is also the director of public health education in the department. “Make sure that you connect and that you explore your interests. You have a unique position to advocate for the things that matter to you. Find opportunities to do that in collaboration with other students and with faculty.”

Katherine Amin, M.D., an M.P.H. candidate and assistant professor of clinical urology at UHealth, said that even though she has an M.D. degree, she was motivated to pursue an M.P.H. degree because she wanted to focus on health literacy in patients with socioeconomic disparities.

“I want to improve health literacy in our community here in Miami. My secondary goal is to use global health initiatives. I plan to go to Uganda to help patients who have had obstetric trauma in Africa and the Sub-Saharan population. I'm looking forward to meeting faculty members and making connections out through the community as well,” Dr. Amin said.

The new cohort has the largest number of first-generation college students, according to Andria Williams, M.B.A., director of admissions at the Department of Public Health Sciences, with 33 percent of the students being the first to attend college. 

There is 13 percent of students who are Asian/Asian Indian, 53 percent who are white, 40 percent who are Hispanic, and 26 percent who are Black/African American. Their average age is 28 and 80 percent of students are female, and 20 percent are male. In the cohort, 13.1 percent are international, 33.3 percent are from other states, and 53.5 percent are from Florida.

“I chose the University of Miami because I love how diverse the institution is. I’m looking forward to being in an academic setting again. In my first class, we had a veterinarian, a doctor, and Ph.D. students and I'm just excited to be inspired by everyone,” said Vanessa Morales, an M.S.P.H. candidate.

Ms. Williams also shared statistics on various categories, including the incoming class’ education, top majors, highest degree earned, schools represented, residency, as well as work, research, and volunteer experiences.

At a glance, there are 34 percent of students who have doctorate degrees and 66 percent who have bachelor’s degrees. They previously studied biology, chemistry, dentistry, medicine, political science, public health and psychology. 

“I want to work with vulnerable populations, both domestically and abroad, ideally through the World Health Organization or through Doctors Without Borders, and I’m excited to do some independent work with my capstone,” added Jeronimo Maradiaga, an M.P.H. candidate who is also an M.D. candidate at the UCLA.   

Following the orientation, there was a networking social, where new students met and engaged with faculty, staff, and current students. Throughout the rest of the week, students learned more about student-run community service, academic, and networking events at a Public Health Student Association meeting, attended grand rounds, which focused on economic-based HIV prevention and treatment, participated in a University of Miami spirit day, as well as in a faculty and student networking lunch.

“We welcome new students to help us build the 2020 vision for the Department of Public Health Sciences, addressing emerging public health challenges and becoming critical players in the process of building healthier communities for a healthier population in South Florida, the United States, and beyond,” said Hermes Florez, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., interim chair, professor and director of the Division of Epidemiology and Population Health Sciences in the department.

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on January 21, 2020