Public health graduates hundreds eager to improve the well-being for all

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“Just so there is no confusion, there are plenty of jobs for undergraduates,” said Kay Perrin, PhD, an associate professor and assistant dean of undergraduate studies in the USF College of Public Health.

To demonstrate her point, she shared dozens of job titles from Florida’s People First website with the Class of 2013—who have an overall 3.01 GPA—and their families.

Every semester, the college recognizes the academic achievements of soon-to-be graduates with a reception in their honor. And, every semester, friends, family, faculty, and staff gather in mass to join in the celebration.

On lucky Friday, December 13, more than 100, Bulls descended on the College of Public Health for the first of several graduation festivities.


Grad reception

Members of the Class of 2013 celebrate graduation with family, friends, and colleagues.

For family members still grappling with what public health is, Dr. Perrin attempted to connect the dots.

“Within our college we have five academic departments. Here is a sampling of top news stories from 2013 that represent public health.”

  • The blizzard that currently has parts of the US paralyzed and the typhoon in the Philippines are natural events that students in disaster management are trained to handle
  • The aggressive flu and new norovirus that emerged this fall are ripe opportunities for disease detectives a.k.a. epidemiologists
  • Hundreds of people in Bangladesh and India died due to substandard workplace conditions. For graduates in occupational health, it’s their job to correct and prevent tragedies like this from occurring
  • For examples in health policy, there are probably none greater that this year’s budget sequester the Affordable Care Act
  • And, one that may be less obvious is the City of Detroit filing for bankruptcy. When the tax base shrinks, social services shrink in community and family health


Jamilla Cooper

Jamilla Cooper is the first student accepted into the college’s BSPH/MPH fast track program

“To learn the value of four years, ask a graduate,” said Jamilla Cooper.  A fast Track MPH student, Jamilla graduates with a bachelor and master of public health degrees in the spring of 2015.

One of several speakers who addressed the undergraduates, Jamilla shared several gems with the soon-to-be alumni.

“Although some of us took four years and others five, we all got here the same way—through hard work, dedication, and perseverance.”

“If you find a job you truly enjoy, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Wise words of advice for the 115 undergraduates,100 masters, and 13 doctoral students graduating on Saturday, December 14.

Graduate gifts

* * *

Members of the Class of 2013 are doing some awesome things to advance their practice, their passion in public health. Here are some of their stories …

Kaitlin Hardcastle didn’t come to public health. Public health came to her.

In her junior year, Kaiti fell ill with Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the Human Papillomavirus.


The unfortunate series of events peaked her interest. She wondered what could have led to the disease tri-fecta that afflicted her. She learned that a tick was the likely culprit for Lyme disease and spotted fever, but also discovered an interest in public health that ultimately led her to enroll as an undergraduate.

Now fully recovered, Kaiti reflects fondly on her undergraduate years. She was a member of the USF women’s soccer team, volunteered with a home healthcare nurse through Florida Hospital Tampa, and founded Who We Play For, a non-profit dedicated to the fight against sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in student athletes.

Since 2010, Who We Play For has donated automated external defibrillators (AED) to public schools and sports facilities across Brevard County. Currently, the group’s efforts are focused on lobbying to get the SCA Prevention Act passed in Florida.


Kaitlin (center) with her parents Teressa and Scott Hardcastle

Kaitlin (center) with her parents, Teressa and Scott Hardcastle

When asked what’s next on the horizon Kaiti smiles and shares, “I’m open!”

The native of Cocoa Beach received an offer from the Brevard County Sports Commission to promote physical activity and exercise to athletes 18 years of age and younger, but won’t start until June. She applied to the Peace Corps and is awaiting their decision. And, she is still volunteering with Florida Hospital.

Regardless of which opportunity Kaiti selects, one thing is for sure. History has already proven that she is destined for success.

* * *

Gregory Peters is not the typical undergraduate.

A supervisor of non-invasive cardiology, he oversees a hospital department that facilitates stress tests, echocardiograms, and electrocardiograms (EKG’s). As if that’s not enough, he also joins USF cardiovascular services and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in administering echocardiograms when needed.

“Keeping people healthy is what we do, so I thought it would be interesting to earn a degree [in public health] that does the same!,” Peters said.

He began the program in 2010. Since then, he completed two classes per semester towards his degree.

Why just two classes? Because that is what his employer of 12 years Tampa General pays for.


(l,r) Darrell Beard, Patsy Grunden, Gregory Peters, and Stephen Sherman

Gregory Peters (second from right) celebrates graduation with Darrell Beard, his mom, Patsy Grunden, and, partner, Stephen Sherman

Although a formal internship is not a requirement for public health undergraduates, many of them embrace opportunities to gain experience and network in the field. For Greg, this meant participating in the college’s Learning Experience through Academic Partnerships (LEAP) Program, an academic collaboration that pairs students with professional mentors in the work place. Field sites include Hillsborough County Public Schools, Hillsborough County Health Department, and Florida Hospital Tampa, where Greg honed his skills in the Office of Risk Management.

“Sometimes in your career you reach a plateau,” Peters said. “You can remain where you are and be complacent or seek other opportunities.”

He prefers the latter.

Greg totally loves working at TGH, but is eying a future in hospital administration. If there is such a thing as a dream job, that’s it for him.

The hospital VP holds an MHA and his direct supervisor is currently enrolled in an online program. Greg likes their career path and hopes that earning his MHA will lead to similar professional outcomes.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about seeing things happen and wanting to impact change in a positive way.”

Photos by Natalie D. Preston and Ellen Kent, USF College of Public Health. Story by Natalie D. Preston.

Related media:
Undergraduate and graduate reception photo galleries are posted in Picasa.


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