CPH honors outstanding faculty, staff, students & alumni in April

With the end of the 2023-2024 academic year on the horizon, the UGA College of Public Health is pleased to recognize the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members who have been honored for their commitment to excellence and advancing health for all.

CPH Faculty Excellence Awards

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

Excellence in Teaching Award: Juliet Sekandi, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Global Health Institute

Dr. Juliet Sekandi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Global Health Institute. Dr. Sekandi has described herself as a facilitator whose role is to guide students in the learning process rather than merely lecturing, and she has applied the principles of active learning to continuously improve and grow as an instructor. Her teaching approach is learner-focused, which emphasizes, among other things, self-directed learning, collaborative problem-solving through group work, reflective critical thinking and two-way feedback. Dr. Sekandi conducts mid-semester check-ins with the students using the Start-Stop-Continue model, where students provide feedback about what we could start, stop or continue doing to facilitate their learning. In 2022, Dr. Sekandi was recognized for her exemplary teaching by the Office of the Vice President for Instruction.

Outstanding Online Faculty Award: Anne Marie Zimeri, Environmental Health Science

Dr. Anne Marie Zimeri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Science. She strives to induce a natural curiosity and love of science within her students, whether she’s teaching in person, hybrid or fully online. To help her students succeed in an online environment, Dr. Zimeri uses evidence-based techniques to design online modules and fully online courses that help students engage and keep up with coursework.  During an online fellowship with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Dr. Zimeri collaborated with CTL professionals to develop a digital badging system for students so that they can learn in the manner that they most prefer and can investigate topics in more detail from the course while earning awards. This technique taps into each student’s unique needs, and badges include activities that address diversity, inclusion, and equity, and can be completed by students with disabilities.

Award for Inclusive Excellence: Heather Padilla, Health Promotion & Behavior

Dr. Heather Padilla is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior and Director of the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group and Workplace Health Group. In her teaching, research, and service, Dr. Padilla strives to create and foster an environment where all people feel a sense of belonging. In the classroom, she uses different strategies and activities in instruction that allow everyone to participate during the semester and provides opportunities for students to express themselves and share their experiences. As an applied researcher, Dr. Padilla actively engages with people and communities, working alongside community members as partners in research. Many of these communities have been historically underrepresented in research.

Curt A. Harris, professor for department of health policy and management.Excellence in Research Award: Curt Harris, Institute for Disaster Management, Health Policy & Management

Dr. Curt Harris is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy & Management and Director of the Institute for Disaster Management. An international leader in public health preparedness and emergency management, he has dedicated his career to advancing the practical application of preparedness strategies. His commitment is underscored by a portfolio of over $35 million in funding from state, federal, and international sources to support applied research initiatives ensuring that communities are better prepared for the challenges posed by the next disaster. Dr. Harris’ expertise centers on developing and testing plans, policies and procedures, focusing on their real-world impact during disasters. The technical reports and articles that result from the work he leads with his IDM team have saved lives.

Excellence in Service Award: Sarah Saint Hamilton, Institute of Gerontology, Health Promotion & Behavior

Dr. Sarah Saint Hamilton is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior and the Institute of Gerontology. As an educator and licensed social worker, Dr. Hamilton serves as the founding Director of Social Support Services for the Cognitive Aging Research and Education (CARE) Center. In this role, she has directly impacted our local Athens community and several rural Georgia counties to improve dementia awareness, education, access to diagnosis and ongoing support. Since joining the CARE Center team in May of 2022, Dr. Hamilton has built the social support service programming that the CARE Center offers from the ground up. She has been an active leader in engaging department and college-level committees on the importance of inclusive excellence. She served as the departmental representative for the College’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, contributing to each step of our DEI strategic planning process. In recognition of her expertise in inclusive pedagogy and her clinical work with diverse older adults, Dr. Hamilton was elected to the Board of Directors for the Georgia Gerontology Society (GGS) in 2020, where she served as the Chair of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Finally, Dr. Hamilton brought service into the classroom, developing the Institute of Gerontology’s first service-learning course called “Diversity in Aging,” which provides students with an opportunity to have a unique and meaningful impact on older members of our community.

CPH Outstanding Staff Award: Jim Zerylnick, Institute for Disaster Management

Jim Zerylnick is the Clinical Operations Manager and a Clinical Adjunct Instructor at the Institute for Disaster Management. He is also a Registered Nurse and a licensed paramedic. With experience in multiple emergency settings and state certifications in emergency management, Jim is well-versed in emergency management, training and exercise development and delivery, curriculum development, and tactical medicine. In his role at IDM, he assists with teaching, training, developing courses (academic and continuing education), plan writing, supervision, and various other preparedness and safety-related projects. His colleagues at IDM describe him as a “remarkable manager” who prioritizes the professional growth and development of his team members, and his openness to feedback from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences sets him apart as a leader at IDM. As a teacher and trainer, Jim is highly engaging and effective, and his passion for making a difference in our local and regional communities is truly inspiring. Jim embodies this award, and he is truly deserving.

Delta Omega Honors Society 2024 Inductees

The Beta Chi Chapter of the Delta Omega Honor Society has announced its newest inductees for 2024. 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 Dr. Shelley Nuss. Dr. Michelle (Shelley) Nuss currently serves as the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership’s campus dean, associate dean for Graduate Medical Education (GME), and she was recently named as founding dean for UGA’s new School of Medicine. Dean Nuss has played a key role in developing new residency programs and teaching hospitals in Georgia. She secured $20 million in state funding, leading to nine new teaching hospitals, 31 residency programs, and nearly 800 resident positions statewide. Additionally, she chairs Georgia’s Medical Education Advisory Committee and the Statewide Primary Care Taskforce to address healthcare provider shortages. Dr. Nuss has received multiple awards for leadership and teaching, including the Lamartine Hardman Cup in 2023 for contributions to medical education and public health. Dean Nuss has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to building a stronger and more compassionate health care workforce to serve Georgia communities, and she has been an unreserved partner in the College of Public Health’s mission to advance the health of all.

Student inductees are: Rose Antoine, Sophia Baker, Alexandrea Behler, Linda Calvo Kimbell, Alexis Carraway, Darshan Chudasama, Jordan DeLaney, Sara Dietrich, Aaron Dino, Kayla DiPrima, Sritha Donepudi, Kelly Fry, Madison Hiatt, Annabella Hines, Phoebe Jude, Alexandra Kaye, Allison Kendall, Devin Land, Allison Leitz, Jacob Matta, Sarah Merkle, Farah Moazzem Chowdhury, Jessica Moore, Ashley Okosun, Caroline Oliver, Ciara Page, Makayla Peebles, Connor Ross, Alex Ruano, Sloane Sengson, Abigail Ventimiglia, Katie Wells, Jemema Zaman, and Nathaniel Yeboah.

University-Level Faculty Honors & Awards

Tenure & Promotion –
Congratulations to seven CPH faculty members who received tenure and/or were promoted this academic year:

Zhuo “Adam” Chen, Health Policy & Management, Promoted to Professor
Katie Hein, Health Promotion & Behavior, Promoted to Clinical Associate Professor
Heather Padilla, Health Promotion & Behavior, Promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure
Christina Proctor, Health Promotion & Behavior, Promoted to Clinical Associate Professor
Ye Shen, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Promoted to Professor
Lili Tang, Environmental Health Science, Promoted to Professor
Allan Tate, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure

2024 UGA Creative Research Medal
Juliet Sekandi,
Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Global Health Institute

Dr. Juliet Sekandi has conducted one of the first pilot evaluations of the feasibility, acceptability, and cost of using video directly observed therapy (VDOT) among tuberculosis patients in her home country of Uganda. She recently published results of a federally funded randomized clinical trial showing VDOT improved treatment completion to nearly 90%. In VDOT, a smartphone app records the patient taking the prescribed medication; the patient then sends the video via an encrypted message to a health provider who views it and assesses adherence. For patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis, VDOT helps ensure adherence to a new oral antibiotic available to treat this disease strain. The tuberculosis control workforce, however, remains overburdened. Dr. Sekandi is working with colleagues in the School of Computing to develop novel facial recognition software using advanced machine learning and computer vision to read and interpret videos of patients’ adherence with minimal human input.

These medals, supported by the University of Georgia Research Foundation, recognize a distinct, exceptional research/creative project with extraordinary impact and significance to the field of study.

Student Honors & Awards

College-wide Awards

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

Departmental & Institute Student Awards

Environmental Health Science

John J. Sheuring Award – Keertana Konduru
Kimberly L. Rowe Environmental Health Award – Campbell Carter
Environmental Health Science Scholarship – Kween Simmons & Nathaniel Yeboah
Harold and Mary Barnhart Scholarship – Emily McDonald
Randall Manning Award – Claire Counts & Ashley Okosun

Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Outstanding Research Award – Minaz Mawani
Ann and Tipton Golias International Travel Fund in Epidemiology – Asmith Joseph

Health Policy & Management

Connie Lloyd Scholarship Fund – Trisha Patel

Health Promotion & Behavior

Bernard Ramsey Outstanding Major – Chase Reese
Undergraduate Recognition Awards – Hope , Allie Leitz, & Caleb Snead
Undergraduate Service Award – Kennedy Camp
Outstanding Achievement, Graduate – Ke’Von Hamilton
Excellence in Research, Graduate – Kayla DiPrima
Excellence in Service, Graduate – Emily Townsend
Excellence in Teaching, Graduate – Noah Hopkins

Institute for Gerontology

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

University-Level Student Honors & Awards

2024 Presidential Award of Excellence – Chase Reece

Chase Reece is a Double Dawg, pursuing a B.S. in health promotion and an MPH in health policy, with a minor in Biomedical Physiology. He is a highly dedicated student who devotes a large amount of time to university service and research to improve the health of individuals living in rural areas. He has worked for the past year with Dr. Chrissy Proctor, supporting research on rural farmer mental health and occupational stressors. He has also interned with UGA Public Service and Outreach programs, including the Archway Partnership and Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership (PROPEL) Rural Scholars, during which he worked with rural communities to develop creative, evidence-based solutions to meet community needs. He is a UGA Presidential Scholar and received the 2023 David Hayes Undergraduate Award. After completing his MPH, Chase plans to attend medical school so he can help address rural health issues.

Recipients of this award represent the top one percent of UGA undergraduates who have excelled in academics, service to the community, and leadership both on and off campus.

2024 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award – Caleb Snead

Caleb Snead is a dual-degree MPH student studying health promotion. He was one of three recipients of the 2024 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award, presented at UGA’s 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast in January. Caleb was recognized for his work with communities around Georgia, conducting public health research related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. His work also focuses on caregiver resources to ensure that families and communities have what they need when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Over his career at UGA, Caleb has served as a Public Service & Outreach Scholar and has contributed to and led a number of research and outreach projects supporting mental health, dementia care and heart health.

The award recognizes students, faculty, staff, and local community members dedicated to contributing to race relations, justice and human rights.

Blue Key Honor Society inductees Madison Hiatt, Chase Reece & Caleb Snead

Orlin K. Fletcher ScholarshipChristopher Carr & Kiran Thapa

Posted May 8, 2024.