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Drs. Zuber D. Mulla and Jason Salemi are recipients of the 2017 COPH Outstanding Alumni Award

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On April 5, the USF College of Public Health recognized two graduates who improve the public’s health and do it exceedingly well. This year’s recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award are Drs. Zuber D. Mulla and Jason Salemi. The presentation was part of the college’s National Public Health Week Annual Awards Ceremony.

Drs. Jason Salemi, MPH, PhD, and Zuber Mulla, MSPH, PhD, with their 2017 Outstanding Alumni Awards at the USF COPH (Photo by Vjollca Hysenlika).

Drs. Jason Salemi, MPH, PhD, and Zuber D. Mulla, MSPH, PhD, with their 2017 Outstanding Alumni Awards at the USF COPH (Photo by Vjollca Hysenlika).

“I feel deeply honored to present my friend Zuber Mulla. We met 25 years ago when we were both students here at the COPH,” said Dr. Aurora Sanchez-Anguiano, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the COPH. “He was an outstanding student and I was a direct witness of his excellence in the field. Congratulations!”

Mulla is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and assistant dean for faculty development at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences El Paso in El Paso, Texas.

COPH Dean Dr. Donna Petersen, Dr. Zuber Mulla, Dr. Kathleen O’Rourke and Dr. Aurora Sanchez-Anguiano celebrating Mulla’s achievements (Photo by Vjollca Hysenlika).

COPH Dean Dr. Donna Petersen, Dr. Zuber D. Mulla, Dr. Kathleen O’Rourke and Dr. Aurora Sanchez-Anguiano celebrating Mulla’s achievements (Photo by Vjollca Hysenlika).

“Zuber was exceptionally skilled at handling large datasets,” said Dr. Curtis Margo, one of Mulla’s fellow graduate students during his tenure in the COPH. His skills were further honed with a graduate assistantship at Moffitt Cancer Center’s Florida Association of Pediatric Tumor Program.

After earning his master’s and PhD degrees in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Mulla served the State of Florida as the regional epidemiologist for the Department of Health. He also served on the faculty at the El Paso Regional Campus of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

Mulla has worked over 20 years as an epidemiologist and authored more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

For several years, his peer-reviewed publications focused on invasive group A streptococcal infections, “flesh-eating” bacteria. His current professional interests include women’s health, perinatal epidemiology, faculty development and research in the area of clinical simulation.

Mulla’s honors include the Outstanding Teacher Award from UT-Houston, and the Professional Achievement Award from the University of Arizona Alumni Association in Tucson. Mulla is also certified by the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

In 2006, Mulla joined Texas Tech University Health Sciences El Paso. He is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and assistant dean for faculty development at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

“I am very touched and honored to receive this award. I would like to thank the USF College of Public Health family, faculty, staff and students. It’s always a pleasant homecoming being back at the COPH,” Mulla said.

Dr. Kathleen O’Rourke, Dr. Jason Salemi and COPH Dean Dr. Donna Petersen at the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award ceremony (Photo by Vjollca Hysenlika).

Dr. Kathleen O’Rourke, Dr. Jason Salemi and COPH Dean Dr. Donna Petersen at the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award ceremony (Photo by Vjollca Hysenlika).

“It’s no surprise to me that we have Jason standing here today as an outstanding alumni. I’ve known Jason for about 12 years” Dr. Kathleen O’Rourke, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the COPH said. “There are parents who now have an understanding of why their child has a birth defect and parents whose children did not end up having a birth defect due to Jason’s research. For those of us who know Jason professionally and personally, we have benefitted and have also breathed easier from knowing him.”

Salemi began his journey to public health as a student at the USF Morsani College of Medicine in 2002. However, after immense reflection he believed that life as a physician did not fit his career and personal objectives and he joined the COPH Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

During his time in the college, Salemi consistently held multiple jobs. He worked as the resident night manager at the American Cancer Society’s Benjamin Mendick Hope Lodge on USF’s campus. For more than 12 years, he served cancer patients and their loved ones by providing free housing to patients undergoing treatment. He also worked for the USF Birth Defects Surveillance Program, eventually serving in prominent national roles as chair of both the National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s Data Committee and Surveillance Guidelines and Standards Committee.

During his pre-graduation tenure at USF, he also worked with Dr. Hamisu Salihu, currently professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, for several years on a comparative effectiveness research R01 and a community-based participatory research grant.

Salemi earned his MPH in 2005 and his PhD in 2014, along with graduate certificates in both biostatistics in 2004 and applied biostatistics in 2008.

After earning his PhD, he began working as an assistant professor for the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. In July 2016, he was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Researcher Award and now serves as the director of analytics for his department’s Center for Population Health Research, the assistant director of the department’s Primary Care Research Fellowship, and the 2017 president-elect of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network.

Salemi has published more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles, most focusing on evaluation of surveillance programs, data systems, and technological and methodological issues in epidemiology.

“I really believe strongly in helping others who are engaged in the public health fight. That’s why I feel I’m here being recognized, why I chose this discipline, and so I encourage all of you to reach out to somebody in need, offer your support to them, even if they don’t ask for it, because we are all in this together. As public health professionals, we have to realize the prize, we are not competing against one another, we are trying to improve the health of the population,” said Salemi.

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

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