Class of 2017 leaves the COPH with the power to be the change the world needs

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“Your smiles have a different quality today. When you arrived the first day it’s a smile of extreme anxiety, but now your smile is one of confidence, optimism and hope of the great futures you will all have wherever your career paths take you,” USF College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen said. “You all are infused with passion, knowledge and skill sets that will help you take care of people wherever you find yourself. You will be called upon to lead.”

On Friday, May 5, the USF College of Public Health hosted two celebratory events in honor of its newest graduates. Family, friends, students, faculty and staff gathered for a ceremony and reception to recognize the talents and achievements of the spring 2017 graduating class.

New alumni Cauchavius Watts, MHA, MPH; Patricia Tomasini, MPH; Melanie Marshall, MPH; Shabnam Mehra, PhD; Oluyemisi Amoda, MHA, MPH; Vanessa Tate, MPH; Tolulope Bello, MPH (Photo by Caitlin Keough).

New alumni Cauchavius Watts, MHA, MPH; Patricia Tomasini, MPH; Melanie Marshall, MPH; Shabnam Mehra, PhD; Oluyemisi Amoda, MHA, MPH; Vanessa Tate, MPH; Tolulope Bello, MPH (Photo by Caitlin Keough).

Dr. Kay Perrin, interim associate dean for the Office of Academic and Student Affairs and assistant dean of undergraduate studies, echoed Dean Petersen’s sentiments and added that the students should be so proud of their accomplishments; only 26% of the U.S. population have an undergraduate degree.

This semester, 135 undergraduates, 101 masters and 10 doctoral students graduated and entered the public health profession.

Students from the Undergraduate Pinning Ceremony showing off their Bull pride (Photo by Caitlin Keough).

Students from the Undergraduate Pinning Ceremony showing off their Bull pride (Photo by Caitlin Keough).

“What is public health? It’s treating others how you want to be treated, it’s realizing that there are things going on more important than ourselves and it’s a call to action. You leave this school with the power to change, to be the change the world needs. It’s not something that comes easy but it’s something that will be worth it,” said William L. Burnap, senior account executive at Ambulatory Ability Network.

Burnap graduated from the COPH nine months ago with his BSPH. As the Undergraduate Pinning Ceremony’s keynote speaker, he urged students to continue their momentum that they’ve been building while in school and go out into the world and make a difference.

“It is up to each and every individual in this room to go out and ask the hard questions that people need to hear,” Burnap said. “To stand up for something that you believe in and to be the change we so desperately need. The time is now to stand up for something you believe in and to slowly take the country back to a place of equality, acceptance and diversity.”

COPH MPH graduate Vanessa Tate decorated her graduation cap (Photo by Natalie Preston).

COPH MPH graduate Vanessa Tate decorated her graduation cap (Photo by Natalie Preston).

Every year the COPH Excellence in Teaching Award winner offers words of inspiration to the graduating class. This year’s speaker was Dr. Dinorah Tyson Martinez, assistant professor in the Department of Community and Family Health.

Leaving the students with this final advice Tyson Martinez said, “In our work we must listen, we must listen to understand even if we disagree. Our community and academic partnerships depend on it and we cannot do it alone. Know that it may not always be about how much or what you say, but how you say it and how that will make a person feel. That can make a world of difference.”

Take a look at some stories from the Class of 2017:

COPH student, Mary Alao, receiving a 2016 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award with Dr. Robert Sullins, Dean of Undergraduate Studies (Photo courtesy of Alao).

COPH student, Mary Alao, receiving a 2016 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award with Dr. Robert Sullins, Dean of Undergraduate Studies (Photo courtesy of Alao).

The USF Alumni Association awards the King O’Neal Scholars award to students completing their USF coursework with a 4.0 GPA. This year they recognize spring 2017 BSPH graduate Mary Alao for her academic excellence.

Born in Nigeria, Alao grew up in Miami, Fla. Before starting college she thought she would major in international relations because of her interest in global affairs, but at the same time she also had an interest in health. After speaking with her father who has an MPH, Alao found that public health was a diverse field that aligned with both of her interests.

“The global health and epidemiology concentrations perfectly capture my interests in international relations and health. Before I pursued public health as my major, I wouldn’t have really known what goes on in this field. But now I know that public health is a part of every aspect of our lives,” Alao said. “I also like how diverse the public health skillset is— it allows you to use a range of communication, research, analytical, and leadership skills.”

Read more of her story here.

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Lentz Dorcely, MPH (Photo courtesy of Dorcely).

Lentz Dorcely, MPH (Photo courtesy of Dorcely).

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, USF College of Public Health graduate, Lentz Dorcely, immigrated to the United States to Miami, Fla. when he was six.

Dorcely became introduced to public health while he for studying for biology during his undergraduate sophomore year at the University of South Florida.

“I came across a book about disease detectives which introduced me to the field of epidemiology. I loved it so much I switched majors the next semester and began studying public health!” he said.

Graduating with his BSPH in 2014, Dorcely continued his education with the COPH and began his MPH program with an interest in infection control in the Department of Global Health.

During his time as a graduate student, DorceIy showed his commitment to public health and worked full-time in the pathology lab at Tampa General Hospital where he accessioned specimens from surgeries and helped perform autopsies.

Read more of his story here.

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Amit Patel participating in a United Nations conference (Photo courtesy of USF Sigma Beta Rho).

Amit Patel participating in a United Nations conference (Photo courtesy of USF Sigma Beta Rho).

USF College of Public Health graduate Amit Patel began his undergraduate education in business before finding his passion for public health.

Patel was first introduced to public health during his first semester at USF in a contemporary health class taught by Todd Wells, COPH alumnus and former director of the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

After changing his major from business to public health, Elizabeth Dunn, adjunct faculty in the Department of Global Health, introduced Patel to homeland security and emergency management which is the field that Patel wants to follow in his post-grad career.

“I am most interested in the preventative care side of public health. It is such a diverse field that you can go into, from family health to emergency management,” he said.

Read more of his story here.

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Related media:
Undergraduate photo galleries on Facebook and Google Photos
Graduate photo galleries on Facebook and Google Photos

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

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