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9.04.2019

Department of Public Health Sciences Welcomes New Graduate Students

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences welcomed its incoming class at fall orientation at the Don Soffer Clinical Research Center. Faculty, staff and Sebastian the Ibis welcomed students, and department leaders provided an overview of the department’s resources and expectations. Students representing various campus-wide and department organizations also provided incoming students with a wealth of information to help them get involved in activities.

“As you continue to engage in your coursework, assistantships, and volunteer activities, you will find all of these opportunities to do great public health work, whether it’s out in the community, whether it’s in a lab, or wherever it may be,” said Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., dean of the University of Miami Graduate School and professor of public health at the Miller School of Medicine. Delivering welcome remarks, Dr. Prado, who is also director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health, talked about what the graduate school has to offer and emphasized the importance of collaboration.

“Public health is a highly interdisciplinary field,” Dr. Prado said at the Aug. 15 orientation. “I encourage you to seek other collaborative opportunities within and outside the university.”

“A few years ago, I moved from Boston to start my journey in Miami, and it was a great decision,” said Robert A. Mesa, M.P.H., a Ph.D. student in epidemiology who has focused his studies on chronic disease and pediatric obesity. “I like the culture, faculty, staff and students here. I also don’t miss the cold up north. I’m just overall excited to continue mastering my skills at the Miller School.”

David Lee, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate programs, Viviana Horigian, M.D., M.H.A., associate professor and director of public health education, and other program directors addressed the students.

“Our overall goal here is to build transformational leaders,” said Dr. Lee. “These transformational leaders are indeed characterized by the ability to collaborate across disciplines. Graduates are encouraged to apply leadership, organizational and problem-solving skills, and be an effective advocate for many of the issues that we face. Our expectation is that our transformational leaders are going to have a deep understanding of public health and that they maintain a curiosity throughout their lives.”

Dr. Horigian spoke about her research and the importance of being involved outside the classroom.

“We have a multitude of opportunities for you to engage in [and] learning experiences that go beyond the classroom,” she said. “Those take different shapes and forms. For example, we have a student-led panel on public health critical topics of today, like gun-violence prevention and immigration. We have opportunities for you to go to conferences and opportunities for you to engage in research on current issues that our faculty are addressing.”

Students also met directors of various master’s and doctoral programs, including Tulay Koru-Sengul, Ph.D., director of the Master of Science in Biostatistics program, who also spoke on the Ph.D. in Biostatistics program; Eric Brown, Ph.D., director of the M.S. in Prevention Science and Community Health program; WayWay M. Hlaing, Ph.D., director of the Ph.D. in Epidemiology; and Seth Schwartz, Ph.D., director of the Ph.D. in Prevention Science and Community Health.

Andria Williams, M.B.A., director of admissions for Public Health Sciences, presented statistics about the diverse class. Nearly half already have advanced degrees and about 27 percent are first-generation college students. Their educational backgrounds range from degrees in health science, public health, and psychology, to biochemistry, epidemiology, and medicine, obtained from about 40 different national and international universities. Williams noted that collectively they have already conducted 22,077 hours of research and contributed 33,003 hours to community enrichment.

Culturally, 17 percent of new public health students are Asian and Asian Indian, 15 percent are black or African American, 24 percent are Hispanic, 58 percent are white, and 10 percent are other. Fifty-six percent are Florida residents, 17 percent are from out-of-state, and 27 percent are international. The average age is 27, and 32 percent of the class is male and 68 percent is female.

After the orientation, students attended a small networking reception where they engaged with faculty, staff and fellow students.

“I’ve always had a ton of affinity toward public health, so I’ll be starting the Master of Public Health and Master of Public Administration joint degree,” said Armando Bonheur. “The program here pairs epidemiology with the clinical and administrative side, which I think makes for a better foundation for a leader of a hospital system, which is eventually where I want to land.”

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