University of South Florida

Public Health graduates more than 135 new practitioners

After years of educating, nurturing, and leading by example, the University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health welcomed more than 135 new practitioners to the field. In a college ceremony held on Friday, August 3, faculty and staff recognized the academic achievements of the Class of 2012 and thanked families for their support.

Like the field of public health, the eager new graduates are unwavering in their quest to improve the overall well-being of all human beings. They are committed, engaged in their communities, and believe in a better tomorrow. They are the Class of 2012.

Public health never takes a day off

Bethany (Masters) and Jarrett Brunny married over spring break in March of 2010. Their firstborn, Tai, was born during winter break in January 2011.  Determined not to put their dreams on hold, Bethany enjoyed two long weeks of maternity leave before returning to her studies in the college.

Jarrett Brunny, Bethany-Brunny, public health students, COPH, summer 2012 graduation

Jarrett, Tai, and Bethany (Masters) Brunny

As if earning a master of public health degree in health education and raising an infant son weren’t enough of a challenge, in 2011 the couple founded The Brunny Institute. Through a holistic approach to community health, the 501(c)(3) non-profit focuses on methodology and application, rather than on one specific health condition.

“Our mission is to enhance quality of life in the communities we serve,”  Jarrett Brunny said. “We are thankful to the USF COPH community for the excellent academic, research, and service opportunities we had while students there. And, for the relationships—both professional and personal—that were formed.”

Public health is a force of social responsibility

Harry Santil, MD has lots of reasons to be hopeful. Harielle, his first child, was born in May 2003 with encephalocele, a condition where part of her skull did not close completely, causing a tumor to develop behind her head. Santil, his wife Ketsia, and Harielle moved to the United States in December 2003 seeking treatment at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

 The surgery was a success.

Saintil family, public health students, graduates, COPH graduation, summer 2012

Harielle, Ketsia, Eben, and Harry Santil

Determined to give back, the family settled in Lakeland. Harry volunteered at a hospital teaching Creole and English. He collaborated with local Haitian leaders to create Compassion Action for Haitians, Inc. and led the organization on two Haitian relief missions after Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 and the earthquake of 2010.

Shortly after the relief missions, Santil began taking courses toward a master of public health degree in public health practice. Meanwhile, he advocated for health on councils with the Polk County School System and the County Commissioners.

“Public health equips all those who are working in the field with the necessary tools to build partnerships within communities in order to empower the people to take ownership of their own health destiny,” Santil said.  “Working with people is my passion and one of my greatest satisfactions is to see communities make positive changes when the appropriate strategies are put in place.”

Ultimately, Santil envisions working with a U.S. international development agency to put his public health knowledge and skills into practice back home in his native country of Haiti. In the interim, he will become certified in public health (CPH) and continue with his academic journey toward a doctorate.

Public health is a source of hope

Donna Haiduven, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Global Health and the recipient of the college’s 2012 Outstanding Professor Award, was among selected speakers who addressed the graduates. In her remarks, Dr. Haiduven shared a commencement quote from Michele Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women.

“I urge you to follow your passion. Seek challenges and adventures. Be generous with your spirit and your time. Be generous with your listening and understanding. Be generous with your curiosity and your compassion. Be generous in your service to others. Life offers you a thousand chances… all you have to do is take one.

So take the chance to make our world a better one-today and every day in every moment and with every person you encounter. Be generous and, believe me…what you receive in return will exceed your expectations—and also the expectations of those around you!”

To view pictures from the college ceremony, click here.

Story by Natalie D. Preston, College of Public Health.

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