The UF College of Public Health and Health Professions celebrated outstanding students and graduates at the college’s annual convocation ceremony April 30.
The college’s departments and programs presented students with awards and scholarships. Students graduating magna cum laude and summa cum laude — high and highest honors, respectively — received their honors cords at the ceremony.
The college recognized Orit Shechtman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of occupational therapy, as the Teacher of the Year. She teaches courses in the occupational therapy and rehabilitation science graduate programs as well as classes in anatomy, neuroscience and pathophysiology for the college’s undergraduate health science program.
“As you might imagine these courses are demanding, but students love her classes,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the college. “In fact, the entire first year class of occupational therapy students and many senior pre-OT students nominated her for this award.”
The college recognized Hugh Catts, Ph.D., as the PHHP Outstanding Alumnus for 2016. A 1979 graduate of the speech-language pathology doctoral program in the department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, Catts is a professor and director of the School of Communication Science and Disorders at Florida State University. His research interests include the early identification and prevention of reading disabilities. He is a past board member of the International Dyslexia Association and past board member and president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. He has received the Samuel T. Orton Award from the International Dyslexia Association and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Honors of the Association for his career contributions. Outstanding alumni at the department level were also recognized. They include Roxanna Bendixen, Ph.D., Sheryl Flynn, Ph.D., Carrie Klabunde, Ph.D., Jessica Kramer, Ph.D., Lisa McTeague, Ph.D., Barbara Smith, Ph.D., Helena Solodar, Au.D., and Jingbo Yu, Ph.D.
Richard Staab served as the ceremony’s distinguished speaker. He is the president and CEO of InterMed Biomedical Services, InterMed Nuclear and InterMed Ultrasound Services, which were named among the country’s fastest growing businesses for the past two years by Inc. magazine. He and his wife Michelle started the non-profit organization Tyler’s Hope for a Dystonia Cure in 2006, shortly after their son Tyler was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological movement disorder. Their daughter Samantha was diagnosed with the disease a few years later. Staab is the president and director of Tyler’s Hope, which has given more than $12 million to fund research to prevent and cure dystonia and create awareness of the disorder.
“Please learn a life lesson from this example: Don’t just do science or treat patients, but think about how you can really help them and improve their quality of life,” Staab told graduates. “I promise you, because I have lived it, that this approach makes a difference not only in the people you serve, but also in the people around them.”
Staab acknowledged that a career in health care practice or research can be difficult, but it is fulfilling.
“I challenge you to translate that into a fearless pursuit of solutions to our health care problems,” he said. “Bring back the high-risk, high-reward research and develop new technologies and new patient care. I believe your amazing talent will be driven by your passion and that you will not forfeit compassion in the process.”