PHHP faculty, students earn UF International Center awards

The University of Florida International Center honored a College of Public Health and Health Professions faculty member and several graduate students during its International Education Week celebration held in November.

Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor and chair of the department of epidemiology in PHHP and the College of Medicine, received the International Educator of the Year Award in the senior faculty member category. Four PHHP students received honors at the Outstanding International Student Awards ceremony: Diana Rojas Alvarez, Chelsea Ding, Mi Jung (MJ) Lee and Vicki Osborne.

Dr. Linda Cottler

The International Educator of the Year Award recognizes outstanding contributions toward the internationalization of the University of Florida, and the impact on students, international partners, university stakeholders and the faculty member’s discipline.

Since 2001, Cottler, also the college’s associate dean for research, has led a National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center training program designed to build behavioral health research capacity in Bangalore, India, and in northeastern India since 2003. The program provides on-site workshops for health workers in the Indian partner cities, and fellowships for Indian professionals who train in the United States for several months to a year in psychiatric epidemiology, community-engaged research and public health policy.

Cottler has also collaborated with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, for many years. The partnership has resulted in faculty member and student exchanges between PHHP and Chulalongkorn’s College of Public Health Sciences, and in Chulalongkorn developing HealthStreet Bangkok, a community engagement program modeled after the HealthStreet programs Cottler created in St. Louis and Gainesville, Fla. Last year, Chulalongkorn granted Cottler an honorary doctoral degree in public health.

For her contributions to international cooperation in drug abuse research and training, in 2008 Cottler received the NIDA International Award of Excellence from the NIDA International Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“She has been an outstanding mentor to numerous drug abuse researchers throughout her career, significantly improving research capacity within the United States and in countries such as Afghanistan, Australia, Haiti, India, Kenya and Taiwan,” said Steven Gust, Ph.D., director of the NIDA International Program.

Dr. Carolynn Patten (far left) and Dr. Leonardo A. Villalón (far right), dean of the International Center, present awards to Vicki Osborne, Dr. Diana Rojas Alvarez, Chelsea Ding and Mi Jung (MJ) Lee.

The International Student Awards Ceremony recognizes students who have exemplary academic records and a wide range of other accomplishments.

Diana Rojas Alvarez, M.D., Ph.D., a Colombia native, graduated with a doctoral degree from the department of epidemiology in August 2017 and is currently working as a postdoctoral associate at the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases in the department of biostatistics. Her doctoral research explored the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of mosquito borne viruses, such as dengue and Zika, in Latin America and evaluation of interventions that help to prevent these diseases, including vaccines and vector control. She serves on two World Health Organization technical working groups and is part of the Zika group of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, or MIDAS, network of the National Institutes of Health. She was also a student member of PHHP’s Curriculum Committee. Ira M. Longini, Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics, was Rojas Alvarez’s advisor and Robert Cook, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of epidemiology and medicine, served as her dissertation committee chair.

Chelsea Ding, a native of China, is a student in the rehabilitation science doctoral degree program. Her doctoral research focuses on upper limb rehabilitation in people who have experienced a stroke. Under the mentorship of Carolynn Patten, Ph.D., P.T., a professor in the department of physical therapy, Ding is exploring the neural mechanisms underlying impairments in upper limb motor function post-stroke and how the body’s nervous system responds to exercises after stroke.

Mi Jung (MJ) Lee is a student in the rehabilitation science doctoral degree program and is originally from South Korea. Her research focuses on improving clinical and research utility of rehabilitation assessment tools. She is the recipient of a UF Informatics Institute Graduate Student Fellowship and is a member of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Measurement Taskforce. She is mentored by Sergio Romero, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy.

Vicki Osborne, who hails from the United Kingdom, is a doctoral student in epidemiology. She studies sex differences in risk factors for non-medical prescription opioid use among youth aged 10-18 years under Cottler’s mentorship. She is the treasurer of the Alpha chapter of Alpha Epsilon Lambda, a national honor society of graduate and professional school students, and is the epidemiology student liaison officer for the UF student chapter of the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology. Last year she was named a best reviewer for Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, the official journal of the society. She also received travel scholarships to attend the society’s annual meeting in 2016 and 2017.