Flash back to 1984.
It was a year of firsts.
Stormie Jones became the recipient of the first ever heart and liver transplant … Joe Kittinger became the first man to cross the Atlantic ocean in a hot air balloon … the first Macintosh computer was unveiled to the public …
And the USF College of Public Health became the first school of public health in the state of Florida.
Looking at all the COPH has to offer now, it’s hard to believe that at one point all of the classes were held in a single room. That at one point, the college operated without a dean and was run instead by the administrative assistant.
For Rich D’Orazio, it isn’t hard to believe at all. He lived it.
“My first semester was the first semester the COPH was an official college,” said D’Orazio. “There were some bumps early on, but the administration listened to the students and corrected policies that simply would not work.”
Clearly, the open communication between early students and faculty played a role in the college’s growing success today. D’Orazio confessed that back in 1984, he could never have fathomed the size of today’s program.
When asked about his graduate program, the first word out of D’Orazio’s mouth was “awesome.”
“I am proud to have been a part of the first graduating class,” he said. “The program gave me life skills I use every day.”
One of the most important skills, he noted, was writing term papers.
“I did not appreciate it at the time, but the organizational tools this taught me are an invaluable skill that I use every day,” he said.
In addition to being one of the first graduates from the COPH, D’Orazio was the founding member of the Public Health Student Association: He even still uses the mug!
D’Orazio earned his associate’s degree in business, as well as his paramedic certificate, from Delaware County Community College in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1981. He then earned his bachelor’s in health science from Florida Atlantic University in 1983, and next, his master’s in public health from USF in 1984.
For the Pennsylvania native, USF’s program was an easy choice. His interests had already led to a job working in the field of emergency medicine as an EMT. D’Orazio relocated to Florida to attend FAU, so the college was also conveniently located not far from his new home.
D’Orazio now works as EMS Battalion Chief in Collier County, supervising EMT, EMS and paramedics. He is also a member of a National Incident Management Team, which provides organizational support to areas experiencing disasters and wildfires.
During his time off, D’Orazio enjoys adventuring and camping in his RV. He and his wife, an RN, live with their cat and two dogs.
Despite the gap in graduation dates, D’Orazio can relate to the students in the COPH today. He, too, stressed over finals, pulled all-nighters, and worried about papers and assignments.
“It will never be easier to go to school than the present time,” D’Orazio said. “Keep going.”
It’s safe to say that the COPH has changed a great deal over the past 30 years. More concentrations, new faculty, an abundance of choices. As much as it has changed in 30 years, who can even imagine what the next 30 years will bring?
Story by Shelby Bourgeois, College of Public Health writing intern. Photos courtesy of Rich D’Orazio ’84.