Three COPHers head off to retirement

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Every year, the USF College of Public Health (COPH) bids farewell to graduating students at commencement ceremonies held in the spring, summer and fall. It’s a time to celebrate all that the students have learned and accomplished during their time at the college.

What sometimes goes unnoticed is the fact that students aren’t the only ones who, at one point or another, leave the college.

This year, Dr. Sandra Potthoff, Dr. Yehia Hammad and Paula Knaus wrapped up celebrated stints at USF to embark on new adventures.

Dr. Sandra Potthoff

Dr. Sandra Potthoff, former department chair and a professor of health policy and management, spent her educational years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she graduated with a PhD in industrial engineering after receiving her master’s in industrial engineering and her bachelor’s in social work. After earning her PhD, Dr. Potthoff joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota, where she worked as a professor and program director for 26 years.

Potthoff didn’t arrive at USF until 2017, but she managed to have a great impact on the college and her students in those two years. During her tenure, Potthoff coached four USF student teams that participated in national case competitions.

“It’s fun to see teams form, storm and perform while they develop skills in leadership, team building and public speaking,” said Potthoff.

She also believes these events are vital to developing COPH students into national and global leaders in the field of public health, and she hopes the college continues to take advantage of these types of opportunities.

“It’s so important for the students to network with and learn from students and professionals from other parts of the country,” said Potthoff.

Potthoff, who was recently honored with the 2019 Gary L. Filerman Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of health administration education, plans to write a book and help her niece open a bakery in Central Minnesota in her retirement “As for the bakery, I’ll focus on the business aspects,” said Potthoff, “since I don’t think I’m capable of doing much more than putting sprinkles on cupcakes.”

Potthoff, who was recently honored with the 2019 Gary L. Filerman Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of health administration education, plans to write a book and help her niece open a bakery in Central Minnesota in her retirement.

“As for the bakery, I’ll focus on the business aspects,” said Potthoff, “since I don’t think I’m capable of doing much more than putting sprinkles on cupcakes.”

Dr. Potthoff (left) with MHA students Ibrahim Akorede (middle) and Reem Yousif (right) at Akorede’s citizenship ceremony in January. “It was a very proud moment for me, the MHA Program and the COPH, welcoming an immigrant as a new U.S. citizen,” said Potthoff. (Photo courtesy of Potthoff)

Dr. Yehia Hammad

Dr. Yehia Hammad, a professor of environmental and occupational health, has spent 30 years at the COPH.

“I cannot believe it, but I guess time goes fast when you’re having fun. I have really enjoyed working here in the college and have appreciated all my interactions with students, staff and faculty,” said Hammad.

Hammad says his fondest memory at the COPH was the teamwork put forth by the industrial hygiene faculty and students as they worked on a number of projects.

One accomplishment was acquiring funding for the Sunshine Education and Research Center (SERC) by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The Center provides research and academic training in industrial hygiene, occupational safety, occupational health nursing, occupational medicine and occupational psychology.

Due to his team’s success with the SERC, Hammad was designated by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to help provide occupational health and safety consultations to small businesses throughout Florida, and eventually to operate the USF OSHA Training Institute, which has trained and educated upward of 25,000 workers in occupational health and safety.

“The icing on the cake was the designation of the COPH’s industrial hygiene program ranking eighth among the top 20 in the U.S. I am proud to have served as the director of the three programs,” said Hammad.

Even though he is retiring, Hammad will continue to work hard and share his occupational health and safety knowledge with others through writing.

“My immediate plans after retirement include writing two papers regarding the hazards associated with workers’ exposure to nanoparticles and a book on control of the health hazards in the work environment,” said Hammad.

Hammad stands with former student Ivory Iheanacho at an American Industrial Hygiene Association conference.
 Iheanacho says Hammad was one of her biggest inspirations at the COPH. 
(Photo courtesy of Iheanacho)

Paula Knaus

Knaus got started at USF in 1974, after receiving her master’s in business administration at the University of Georgia. During her tenure, Knaus has held a multitude of positions within USF Health, including serving as the associate dean of faculty affairs for the COPH.

Knaus has seen first-hand how the COPH prepares its students for the real world and takes pride in how successful they’ve become.

“The COPH has a sincere commitment to providing a quality education for our students, so that they are prepared to excel in the working world of the 21st century,” said Knaus.

She has also taken great pride in watching the faculty grow and develop throughout her years at USF. “My fondest memories [from my time at the COPH] have to be watching the faculty that I helped to recruit being promoted and flourish,” said Knaus.

Paula Knaus worked for several decades within the USF Health system, including time as the associate dean of faculty affairs at the COPH. (Photo courtesy of Knaus).

Knaus hopes to work as a consultant in retirement, but most wants to focus on spending quality time with her husband, family and friends.

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health

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