COPH welcomes a new year full of new faces

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A new herd of Bulls entered the USF College of Public Health (COPH) on Monday, Aug. 22. Whether you’re a student, faculty member or employee on campus, we are ready to be together for a year planned with more in-person events and celebrations.

New faces at the COPH

The COPH is welcomed 810 new students enrolled for the fall 2022 semester, with 492 undergraduate, 292 master’s and 26 doctoral students.

Students also saw some new faces among the college staff.

Cassandra Garza

Cassandra Garza (Photo courtesy of Garza)
Cassandra Garza (Photo courtesy of Garza)

Cassandra Garza supports the COPH’s Florida Covering Kids and Families team initiatives as a program planner analyst.

Garza’s journey at USF began through earning her BS in biomedical sciences. She has worked at USF since 2015, contributing to varying departments. Determined to advance her skills in serving diverse populations, she started the MPH program concentrating in maternal and child health. She is thrilled for the opportunity to continue to contribute to USF and the surrounding Tampa Bay community.

Sirly Castro, MBA

Sirly Castro (Photo courtesy of Castro)
Sirly Castro (Photo courtesy of Castro)

Sirly Castro is a fiscal and business specialist for the COPH Office of Research. As a detail and solution-oriented accountant with a strong work ethic, she provides technical assistance and financial management strategies.

Castro had been working at the USF College of Behavioral and Community Science for the past 10 years, assisting with fiscal responsibilities while supporting and guiding clients to achieve their goals and teaching them skills to be successful.

Holding an MBA in accounting, Castro has an exceptional breadth of community outreach experience and is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Rory Noonan, MPH

Rory Noonan (Photo courtesy of Noonan)
Rory Noonan (Photo courtesy of Noonan)

Rory Noonan is one of the newest members of the Florida Covering Kids and Families team, joining as a program planner analyst.

Noonan recently graduated from the COPH, earning an MPH with a concentration in health policies and programs. After earning his BS in both economics and finance, he realized that he wanted to go in a different direction with his career and chose public health. He’s happy to be making the transition to a field where he can make a positive impact as a public health professional. 

Miriam Esocabar, MA, MSPH

Miriam Escobar (Photo courtesy of Escobar)
Miriam Escobar (Photo courtesy of Escobar)

Miriam Escobar joined the college as a consultant for USF SafetyFlorida.

Escobar is an Air Force veteran who grew up in Chicago. She holds a BA in geography and economics from Northeastern Illinois University. After 10 years of active-duty service in the Air Force, she completed an MA in Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies and an MSPH in occupational exposure science from USF. She has worked in COVID-19 response for the Florida Department of Health and as an industrial hygienist and military contractor.

Ciarrah Silva

Ciarrah Silva (Photo courtesy of Silva)
Ciarrah Silva (Photo courtesy of Silva)

Ciarrah Silva joined the Florida Covering Kids & Families team as a program planner analyst.

Silva began her USF journey in 2016 as an undergraduate in the BSHS program, graduating in December 2019. During her time as a student, she began her career at USF at the RightPath Research and Innovation Center working on a research project.  She’s excited to use the skills she’s developed in her new position.

Natalie Erasme, MPH, CPH

Natalie Erasme (Photo courtesy of Erasme)
Natalie Erasme (Photo courtesy of Erasme)

Natalie Erasme is continuing to practice her passion as a program planner analyst for the Florida Prevention Research Center.

Erasme began her public health career as a consultant for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after graduating from Fordham University in 2018. She then went on to obtain an MPH from the COPH in 2021.

She currently coordinates and evaluates culturally appropriate research studies that help underrepresented communities reach improved health outcomes. Erasme will be working on projects with the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network and Morehouse School of Medicine and is serving as the chair of the Southwest Florida Cancer Control Collaborative.

Silvia Moreno

Silvia Moreno (Photo courtesy of Moreno)

Silvia Moreno is looking forward to working as the project manager for the COPH Lifelong Learning Academy. In this role, she will expand public health professional and workforce development.

In 2007, Moreno obtained her bachelor’s degree from USF in elementary education. She has served as an educator and facilitator for Hillsborough County Public Schools for the last 15 years.

Moreno is looking forward to graduating with her master’s degree in learning design and technology and with a graduate certificate in e-learning design and development from USF this fall. She is eager to coalesce her teaching and instructional design skills to develop and deliver programs of outstanding value to the community.

Ashley Tower

Ashley Tower (Photo courtesy of Tower)
Ashley Tower (Photo courtesy of Tower)

Ashley Tower joined the COPH as a fiscal and business specialist.

Originally from Bristol, R.I., Tower moved to Tampa in 2014 with her partner, Jesse, where they later adopted two dogs, a Siberian husky and a German shepherd. Previously working at the USF College of Arts and Sciences and the USF Operations and Facilities Management, Tower has a background in banking as well as administrative support and is excited to use her skills in this new role.

James Kakoullis, MS

James Kakoullis (Photo courtesy of Kakoullis)
James Kakoullis (Photo courtesy of Kakoullis)

James Kakoullis is happy to be joining the COPH team as a teaching laboratory manager.

Kakoullis earned his MS in chemistry from the University of California, Riverside, and has worked in private industry at an environmental testing lab in the Tampa Bay Area. He also has experience in education, teaching chemistry at St. Petersburg and Hillsborough Community Colleges.

Benjamin Gessner, MPH

Benjamin Gessner (Photo courtesy of Gessner)
Benjamin Gessner (Photo courtesy of Gessner)

Benjamin Gessner is excited to continue practicing his passion at the COPH as a statistical data analyst for the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative within the Chiles Center.

After graduating with his BS in health sciences, Gessner went on to pursue an MPH with a concentration in epidemiology from the COPH. During his time earning his MPH, he served as a teaching assistant for a population assessment course while also interning at the Dry Eye and Cornea Treatment Center as a data analyst.

Earlette Thompkins

Earlette Thompkins (Photo courtesy of Thompkins)
Earlette Thompkins (Photo courtesy of Thompkins)

Earlette Thompkins is looking forward to working with her new team within the COPH’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center. She will be a training support specialist.

Thompkins is joining the COPH from a career in the court system. She has also been employed at various school districts, working within the classroom and administration. She most recently worked within the state’s Guardian Ad Litem Office, where she held a senior administrative assistant position. She hopes that her knowledge and skill set will be an asset to the team.

Social justice + public health = a more diverse workforce

The COPH also introduces a new undergraduate-to-graduate pathway program, Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Scholar for Social Justice.

Originally known as the Maternal and Child Health Pipeline Training Program or MCH Train-A-Bull, the newly redesigned program aims to ensure a competent and diverse workforce passionate about improving health and reducing health disparities. The program provides students with a foundation in anti-racism and social justice through an exploration of systemic racism as a precursor to the social determinants of health disparities and outcomes.

Thirty undergraduate students were selected into this competitive program. They will complete a specially designed, intensive one-year curriculum that includes a community-engaged service project and two virtual, five-week summer trainings with online meetings that provide an MCH career and research foundation and guide students in applying for graduate school.

Students will work closely with MCH graduate student mentors, faculty mentors and community leaders during the program.

“I am excited to engage with students about social justice and MCH. Social justice is something I have worked in and have had a passion for since a very young age, even prior to my work in public health. It allows me to tie my interests together! I love workforce development, mentoring students and watching them grow into their own paths,” said Dr. Anna Armstrong, program director and associate professor. “We are laying the foundation for real social change at an MCH system level by empowering students with this knowledge and these skills. They will be reflective and intentional in their work, their decisions and their careers.”

Read more here.

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health