CPH honors outstanding faculty, students, alumni, community members

As the 2022-2023 academic year draws to a close, the UGA College of Public Health is pleased to recognize more than 70 dedicated faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members for their commitment to advancing public health and student success.

CPH Faculty Excellence Awards

In April, four faculty members were recognized by the College for excellence in service, teaching, and research.

Excellence in Teaching Award: Paula Davis-Olwell, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Global Health Institute

Paula Davis-Olwell is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Global Health Institute. Since 2016, she has expanded and refined the curriculum in global health by revising existing courses and creating new ones. Dr. Davis-Olwell has participated in the Teaching Academy Fellows Program and many other University offered programs to enhance her teaching and strongly values connecting with each of her students. In honor of the mentorship provided to her student, Sarah Kester inspired her parents to create the Sarah Kester Global Health Institute Student Support Fund. This fund supports student travel, research, and service learning.

From student comments just a few among many – “The different methods of teaching that you use makes the classroom experience incredibly positive” and “Dr. Davis-Olwell incorporated real time material into her lectures. They were very relevant to the present day.”

Outstanding Online Faculty Award: Kerstin Emerson, Health Policy & Management, Institute of Gerontology

Emerson is currently the Director of Online Learning in the College of Public Health and has taught online and hybrid classes for nearly ten years. Her teaching philosophy builds upon active student learning and creating the bridge from lessons to the real world. From her letters of support – “Dr. Emerson should write the manual on how to do effective online instruction. Somehow, the course remained on schedule, and we were able to continue with any necessary adjustments with little interruption to the course. She is an extremely talented instructor and a very compassionate leader.”

Dr. Emerson develops a sense of community with her online classes, is responsive, well organized, thoughtful, and thorough. These are just a few of the overwhelmingly positive comments from evaluations. Peers go on to say that “she accomplished this through innovative teaching methods, where academic success in online courses mesh with thoughtful course design,” and she “has a clear passion for teaching and has found a special niche in teaching in an online platform.”

Excellence in Research Award: Chas Easley, Environmental Health Sciences

Chas Easley, Associate Professor in Environmental Health Science and newly appointed Associate Dean for Research, has a stellar research portfolio with extensive research in environmental impacts on male fertility. Since joining the University in 2016 he has obtained over $5 million in extramural funding with over $4.7 million in active grant funding. He became one of the youngest members of the Provost’s $2 million Club that recognizes faculty with active funding totaling $2 million or more. The largest percentage of his grants come from NIH with 2 currently pending worth over $8 million combined. His lab has published 16 articles and 3 textbook chapters with 4 more scientific articles currently under review. From letters of support – “I could not think of a more deserving recipient of an award that recognizes collaborative spirit in investigative endeavors.” Through his latest work, he is now a leading authority on how SARS-CoV-2 impacts male fertility. Chas humbly gives credit to his “wonderful team” of grad students, lab manager and postdoctoral fellow that drive his lab to success.

Excellence in Service Award: Mumbi Anderson, Health Policy & Management, Office of Academic Affairs

Mumbi Anderson assists with data collection and documentation for the College’s accreditation review and serves the college as the Graduate Education Director, a job for which she wears many hats, and she assists various UGA units developing curricula for new degree programs, dual degree programs and certificates. Dr. Anderson serves on numerous college, university and professional committees and boards, having been recently elected by her peers to serve as a representative on the University Council and Executive Committee. In addition, Dr. Anderson is or has been involved in the Athens community on the government, agency and organizational boards, committees and teams, including the Clarke County School District Board of Education, and she lives a life of service to others and to all that she holds near to heart.

CPH Staff Excellence Awards

CPH Outstanding Staff Award: Caroline Bloodworth, Office of Academic Affairs Undergraduate Advising Office

Caroline has a bachelor’s degree in public health with a concentration in health education & promotion. She joined the College of Public Health in August 2021 and has been a wonderful asset to public health students and the advising office as a whole. Before coming to CPH, she worked at the NE Health District when COVID-19 began and saw firsthand how critical, and sometimes difficult, public health careers can be. Caroline has the perfect background to be a knowledgeable, interactive, and engaging advisor to our students, and her public health education and work experience has allowed her to provide a valuable perspective to her student caseload. She has an excellent work ethic and a desire to be the best advisor and resource for our students, faculty, and staff.

CPH Staff Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership Award: Lauren Baggett, Communications Office

In her role as Director of Communications, Lauren has a deep understanding  of the College’s mission for health equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice and has developed a robust communication plan that aligns with our mission and goals. The level of dedication and purpose that Lauren brings to the College is unmatched. She raises awareness of important issues, fosters open dialogue, and encourages collaboration and mutual respect among all of us. From her peers: “She is always present at every College event where she is very intentional on building community by speaking to everyone at the event, making all feel welcomed.” Another wrote, “she has been counseling an MPH student on how to approach a challenging and sensitive issue. Her interest, counsel, and overall care toward the student has been greatly appreciated.”

Delta Omega Honors Society 2023 Inductees

The Beta Chi Chapter of the Delta Omega Honor Society has announced its newest inductees for 2023. Delta Omega is an honorary public health society whose mission is to promote excellence in contributing to the field of public health and advancing the health of people in every aspect. Each year, the College of Public Health Beta Chi Chapter nominates and inducts a select few faculty, students, and alumni, as well as one honorary inductee.

This year’s honorary inductee is Don Scott. Dr. Scott has been a practicing geriatrician and medical educator for over 20 years. Like many in the field of geriatrics and gerontology, his primary motivation in becoming a physician for older adults came through family experiences. Both his father and grandmother developed Alzheimer’s Disease late in life, and his mother was their caregiver. Dr. Scott has always practiced through a public health lens and has a history of working with vulnerable and medically underserved populations, both in urban and rural areas. He accepted a medical student scholarship from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which was designed to increase the numbers of physicians practicing in primary care fields in underserved areas. He began working first as a clinician educator in primary care geriatrics with the underserved African American community in South Chicago at the University of Chicago, and then in the rural setting of Central and Southern Illinois at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He moved to Athens in 2011 to join the faculty of the newly established AU/UGA Medical Partnership, where he has continued to teach geriatrics and served in a variety of other educational roles. He also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the UGA College of Public Health’s Department of Health Promotion and Behavior and as a faculty affiliate in the Institute of Gerontology. His career has culminated in being the founding Medical Director of the Cognitive Aging Research and Education (CARE) Center at the Institute of Gerontology, in the University of Georgia College of Public Health.

Student inductees are: Sara Benist, MPH; Sarah Bonds, MPH; Courtney Chaffin, MPH/MHA; Aubrey Gerber, MPH; Hayley Hemme, MPH; Chelsea Lavender, MPH; Rebekah Lee, MPH; Carlyncia McDowell, MPH; William Norfolk, PhD; Patrick Sapp, MHA; Renee Silver, MPH; Morgan Taylor, PhD; Erica Taylor, PhD; Banks Torgerson, MPH; George Vaughan, Jr., DrPH; Sarah Burnett, BSHP; Abby Doorley, BSHP; Lily Metsker, BSEH; and Kisha Patel, BSHP.

University-Level Faculty Honors & Awards

Tenure & Promotion
Congratulations to three CPH faculty members who received tenure and/or were promoted this academic year:
Justin Bahl, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Promoted to Professor with tenure
Adam Chen, Health Policy & Management, Earned tenure
Juliet Sekandi, Global Health Institute, Promoted to Associate Professor with tenure

Graduate School Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education – Jessica Muilenburg, Health Promotion & Behavior

Dr. Muilenburg has been the graduate coordinator for the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior since 2012. She is committed to mentoring and training researchers and professionals in public health and in fostering diversity and inclusion in the public health and academic workforce. Dr. Muilenburg is a “high touch” graduate coordinator during a time in which graduate matriculation is falling and sees her role as not just managing a program, but engaging applicants, enrolled students, and graduates throughout the education process. She is committed to recruiting and enrolling a diverse group of students, as illustrated by her skill in engaging with minority institutions with the Feeder program, and she is relentless in securing assistantships, research opportunities, and employment for students in the program, all driving success for students, the College and UGA.

First Year Odyssey (FYO) Teaching AwardMichelle Ritchie, Institute for Disaster Management

Dr. Ritchie is an assistant professor in the Institute for Disaster Management where she teaches several undergraduate courses. The FYO award recognizes outstanding instructors who have demonstrated creativity and innovation in instruction, connection to the instructor’s research, and incorporation of FYO program goals. Dr. Richie teaches “A Field Guide to Resilience,” a hands-on seminar that allows students to evaluate their own resilience, explore their relationship with nature, and learn how to best communicate and form dialogues with peers and faculty at UGA.

Service-Learning Teaching Excellence Award – Katie Hein, Health Promotion & Behavior

This award recognizes innovative instruction through the development of academic service-learning opportunities for UGA students. Dr. Hein serves as the internship coordinator in the Department of Health Promotion & Behavior and is a former UGA Service Learning Fellow. Dr. Hein embodies the best of our efforts to promote hands-on learning, which is absolutely critical to our teaching mission.

UGA Research Team Impact Award CARE Center

The Cognitive Aging Research and Education (CARE) Center is tackling one of the most debilitating public health problems faced by Georgians: Alzheimer’s disease. CARE is a clinical, research and outreach program delivering brain health education, improving access to diagnosis, conducting cutting-edge research and providing support for families affected by dementia. Inside the CARE hub, the team has already provided diagnosis and post-diagnosis support to more than 100 local families and counting. Outside the hub, the CARE team serves 11 geographically, racially, ethnically and economically diverse rural communities. CARE begins by learning about community needs from local stakeholders affected by dementia. Then, the team translates what it learns into a tailored action plan that guides CARE’s work in creating a dementia-informed community, removing barriers to accessing a diagnosis and providing support to caregivers. Finally, the CARE team works with each community to achieve the goals in its unique action plan and studies the impact.

The Team Impact Award recognizes the critical contributions made by cross-cutting teams in addressing today’s complex challenges. Specifically, the award recognizes a team for excellence in innovative and impactful scholarship that either has or soon promises to fundamentally advance knowledge, understanding and/or applications in ways not achievable by individual investigators or single disciplinary approaches alone.

Special Honor RecognitionChristopher Whalen, Global Health Institute

Chris Whalen, Karen and Jim Holbrook Distinguished Professor in Global Health and director of the Global Health Institute,  received an Honorary Doctorate from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, recognizing his “extraordinary level of personal commitment to rebuild the academic and educational programs at Makerere University” and “for his faith in humanity and his determination to improve the well-being of Ugandan men, women, and children.”

Read more about Dr. Whalen’s honor.

CPH Student Honors & Awards

College-wide Awards

Blue Cross Blue Shield Master of Public Health Award: Rose Antoine

Health Equity Fellows: 
The College of Public Health launched the Health Equity Fellows program to help address the social determinants and racial injustices that drive health inequities in Georgia. In partnership with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), the College selected six Health Equity Fellows to support the Metro-Atlanta Wellbeing Cities program to support education and strategy setting around wellbeing initiatives.

The 2022-23 Fellows are:
Abigail Ventimiglia, Health Policy & Management
Abraham Adokwei, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Henry Kitiabi, Health Promotion & Behavior, Global Health Institute
Melat Mekonnen, Health Promotion & Behavior
Rylee Dickinson, Health Policy & Management
Caleb Snead, Health Promotion & Behavior

Departmental & Institute Student Awards

Environmental Health Science

John J. Sheuring Award – Nathaniel Yeboah
Kimberly L. Rowe Environmental Health Award – Lauren Wallace
Environmental Health Science Scholarship – Lily Metsker
Harold and Mary Barnhart Scholarship – Liora McElvaney
Randall Manning Award – Fatmata Bah & Anne Marie Dye
Georgia Power Environmental Health Science Scholarship – Robyn Nieman

Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Outstanding Research Award – Michelle Renee Bentivegna
Ann and Tipton Golias International Travel Fund in Epidemiology – Laura Grajeda

Health Policy & Management

Connie Lloyd Scholarship Fund – Allison Kendall & Mrigank Kothyari

Health Promotion & Behavior

Bernard Ramsey Outstanding Major: Quynh Le
Undergraduate Recognition Awards – Ife Adu, Sarah Burnett, & Abigail Ventimiglia
Undergraduate Service Award – Siham Ahmed & Esther Oppong
David Hayes Undergraduate Award – Emily Armstrong, Kayla Diprimar, Aaron Dino, & Chase Reece
Outstanding Achievement, Graduate – Charles Ashley Warnock
Excellence in Research, Graduate – Rachel McCardel
Excellence in Service, Graduate – Noah Hopkins
Excellence in Teaching, Graduate – Gavin Cloud

Institute for Gerontology

Mary Ann Johnson Aging and Health Graduate Scholarship – Heidi Sarles-Whittlesey

University-Level Student Honors & Awards

2023 Presidential Award of Excellence:

Lily Metsker is a graduating senior in Environmental Health Science with a certificate in Water Resources. In her four years at UGA, Lily has maintained the highest standard of excellence in academics, research, and service. She will graduate with >3.98 GPA this May with a long list of accolades including recognition for academic excellence as an Epsilon Nu Eta Environmental Health Honor Society inductee, a Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society inductee, the 2023 Environmental Health Science Scholarship recipient, and an honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. As a CURO Fellow beginning Fall 2022, she has conducted research to expand the use of wastewater epidemiology to track disease transmission at the community level. She was part of a team of three that earned the UGA Career Center’s Student Employee Team of the Year in 2022 for work on tracking SARS CoV 2 in Athens wastewater through the pandemic. She also won first prize for the Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs Student Research Competition (2023). In Spring 2023, she was selected for the competitive National Environmental Public Health Internship Program to work on issues related to the persistent chemical PFAS in water. Lily is also actively involved in service at UGA. She was a peer learning assistant for Chemistry, a safer sex ambassador for the University Health Center, and served in leadership roles for the UGA Women’s Studies Student Organization. After graduating, Lily will attend Rice University this fall for her PhD in Environmental Engineering.

Blue Key Honor Society inductee: Aubrey Gerber, MPH

Orlin K. Fletcher Scholarship: Kenya Murray & Billy Norfolk

Alumni Awards

Health Policy & Management Community Spirit Award:

Michael Bien (MPH ‘20) was honored as the inaugural recipient of the HPAM Community Spirit Award in recognition of his incredible stewardship and tireless commitment to unhoused individuals through his work with Advantage Behavioral Health Services and the CDC Foundation. The award, bestowed annually by the Department of Health Policy & Management, honors champions of public health in the Athens community and beyond. Congratulations, Michael, on this well deserved honor.

Posted May 5, 2023.