COPH welcomes new faculty and staff

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Students aren’t the only new faces around the USF College of Public Health this fall semester.

In Dean Donna Petersen’s annual State of the College Address on Friday, Sept. 22, she welcomed dozens of new faculty and staff. Here are some of the new Bulls on campus and a few of their stories.

Dean’s office

Brian Cullum, manager, fiscal and business administration, Office of Research
Shaquila McCauley, administrative assistant, Office of Academic and Student Affairs

Department of Community and Family Health

Jaida Perera, program planner analyst, Florida Covering Kids and Families
Sandra Wells, program planner analyst, Florida Covering Kids and Families
Ericka Duncan, program planner analyst, Florida Covering Kids and Families
Paige Alitz, statistical data analyst
Dr. Heewon Gray, assistant professor
Dr. Claudia Parvanta, professor and director of the Florida Prevention Research Center
Dr. Mahmooda Pasha, assistant professor

(From left) Jaida Perera, Sandra Wells, Dr. Mahmooda Pasha and Dr. Heewon Gray (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

Department of Environmental and Occupational Health

Donald Brown, nurse and researcher
Garrick Johnson, OSHA safety and health consultant

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Dr. Michelle Nash, assistant professor
Dr. Chighaf Bakour, assistant professor
Dr. Melissa Nau, postdoctoral scholar and Lowry Park Zoo Fellow

Department of Global Health

Dr. Kathleen Pope, adjunct faculty and director of genomics program
Dr. Anatoli Naumov, research associate
Silva Alvarez, program planner and analyst
Carmelo “Tony” Alvarez, senior biological scientist
Dr. Arnish Chakraborty, postdoctoral scholar
Dr. Sai Lata De, postdoctoral scholar
Dr. Elena Suvorova, assistant professor

Department of Health Policy and Management

Dr. Sandra Potthoff, chair and professor


Jason Beckstead, PhD (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

Dr. Jason Beckstead is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

He was born in San Francisco, but grew up mostly in Oklahoma City. Beckstead admits, he’s “Definitely not a cowboy!” He earned a BS in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and his PhD in experimental psychology from the State University of New York at Albany.

“My expertise is in quantitative methods (e.g., factor analysis, structural equation modeling, measurement theory) and my research focusses on judgment and decision making,” Beckstead said.

In his down time, he enjoys ballroom dancing and spending time at the dog park.

“I am not married, don’t have kids, but do have the best dog in the world!” Beckstead asserts. “She’s a Welsh Corgi named Cheese.”

“I look forward to collaborating with our talented public health faculty/researchers, offering my skills in study design and analysis,” Beckstead said. “I’m also excited about working with our bright graduate and undergraduate students.”


Amal Forbes (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

Amal Forbes joins the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health as a training support specialist. He works specifically with the USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program.

A native of Jamaica, Forbes spent most of his adult life in the United States Air Force. He retired after 23 years in medical services, where he held positions such as medical/administrative assistant, quality manager, disaster readiness supervisor and credentialing assistant.

During his military service, he earned an AA degree in health care management and an AA degree in allied health science from the Community College of the Air Force. He was stationed in California, Florida, Texas, and Turkey, but also traveled to Greece, Germany, England, Alaska and Hawaii.

Busy is something that Forbes likes to be. He chairs local groups dedicated to security, neighborhood watch, and keeping Tampa Bay beautiful, plus he’s an active member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

When he’s not working, you can find Forbes tinkering in his garden, enjoying nature walks, bird watching or spending time with family, including his wife of 20 years, mother, and daughter who attends USF.

As a USF employee, Forbes looks forward to making a positive difference in the lives of others and he hopes to pursue a degree in public administration in the near future.


David Hong, PhD (Photo courtesy of Hong)

Dr. David Hong joins the Center for Global Health & Infectious Disease Research as a research associate in Dr. Michael White’s laboratory.

A native of South Korea, Hong grew up in Busan, which is second largest city after Seoul. As an adult, he moved to Japan where he earned a doctorate in in biochemical engineering from Osaka University. His postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Cruz focused on protein misfolding and aggregation related to diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and amyloidosis.

Hong brings his extensive background in the study of the structure and function of proteins related to disease with various aspects of biochemistry and biophysics. His primary interest is to understand the function of transcription factors regulating growth and development in the Apicomplexa.

For the last four years Hong worked in USF’s Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation. In this capacity, he characterized several cell cycles and developmentally regulated AP2 proteins using the robust genetic methods available in Toxoplasma.

“Via epitope-tagging, I have characterized expression profiles and by gene knockouts I have sorted ApiAP2s into those that are dispensable from those essential to tachyzoite growth,” he said. “Our current findings revealed that AP2 factors are required for Toxoplasma replication or differentiation and have critical roles in the ‘just-in-time’ delivery of gene products needed to build new parasites or different states.”

Hong is married to wife Sophia and they have two sons, ages 19 and 16. When he’s not running lab experiments, he enjoys playing tennis and is learning to play the guitar and piano.

“COPH has a good environment to do research with high-tech facilities and many competent researchers,” Hong said. “So, I am looking forward to learning more about not only my research field, but also other fields. That would give me a chance to get good results.”

Melanie Wicinski, PhD (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

With a start date of August 21, Dr. Melanie Wicinski is the baby of the bunch. She serves in a new position as the assistant director for curriculum and assessment in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs.

Wicinski is a lifelong student of sorts. She earned a PhD in curriculum and instruction from USF, a MEd in education from the University of Florida, and a BS in early childhood education from Florida State University.  She’s currently pursuing a graduate certificate in leadership in higher education at USF.

When asked about school allegiance, Wicinski is clear. “I root for my teams in the following order: Bulls, Noles. I don’t root for the Gators!”

From serving as a digital curriculum developer to teaching graduate students adult education theory and training methods, Wicinski’s background has well prepared her for this new role in the COPH. Most recently, she worked as USF’s assistant director of institutional effectiveness. In this capacity, she was   responsible for collecting and improving all SACS assessments.

Tampa is her home, but she’s truly lived all over.

“I was born in Kentucky, but was in 10 schools in 13 years,” Wicinski said. “I lived in many places in the U.S. including: Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida.  I also spent several years overseas in Egypt and China.”

Wicinski is married to Vince and they have one son who is a freshman at Tallahassee Community College. Her free time is family time and she admits to doing what her boys enjoy most—going to football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and baseball games. She’s also a bonafide Trekkie, Star Wars fan, and Potterhead who loves movies and her e-reader.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and being a part of the great public health team,” Wicinski said. “I’ve found the COPH reputation as a friendly, dynamic, and cutting edge college to be true!”

* * *

In addition, to several new hires in the COPH, five faculty members start the ’17-’18 academic with new titles and a promotion.

Henian Chen, MD, PhD, professor with tenure (Photo by Caitlin Keough)


Jaime Corvin, PhD, associate professor with tenure (Photo courtesy of USF  Health)


Barbara Orban, PhD, professor (Photo courtesy of Orban)


Jodi Ray, MA, instructor II (Photo courtesy of USF  Health)


Amy Stuart, PhD, professor (Photo courtesy of USF  Health)

Story by Natalie Preston, USF College of Public Health