By Jill Pease
The University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions is pleased to honor faculty and staff with awards recognizing exceptional advising, mentoring and teaching for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Brenda McDonnell, M.Ed., an undergraduate academic program specialist and adviser in the PHHP department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, received the college’s Professional Adviser of the Year award. McDonnell advises about 300 students, from admission to graduation, in the department’s undergraduate program in communication sciences and disorders. Her advisees include on-campus students, online students and students enrolled in post-baccalaureate studies. Nominators describe her as integral to the department’s success and its role in identifying and educating highly-qualified future health care providers in speech-language pathology and audiology.
“Brenda has an open-door policy that encourages our students to ask questions and seek advice from her,” a colleague wrote. “This open-door policy also extends to faculty and staff. She happily and confidently answers any questions that the faculty and staff have related to advisement and is always willing to go the extra mile to tackle any situation that needs addressing.”
David Fuller, Ph.D., a professor in the PHHP department of physical therapy, director of the college’s doctoral program in rehabilitation science and the principal investigator of a NIH-funded T32 training grant, was named one of two PHHP Doctoral Mentors of the Year.
Nominators noted that every Ph.D. student under his guidance has published their dissertation work in high quality scientific journals, participated in multiple national or international scientific conferences, and given numerous local scientific presentations.
“He is always someone I look to for advice and he is hugely concerned with the health and general well-being of his trainees,” a nominator said. “He recognizes that a highly demanding research career has highs and lows. He knows firsthand how demanding a Ph.D. program can be and how taxing it is to our mental and physical well-being. While he constantly pushes us to be the best, most productive scientists we can be, he continually checks in with us and is always accommodating when we need it.”
Sarah McKune, Ph.D., also received a PHHP Doctoral Mentor of the Year award. A research associate professor in the PHHP department of environmental and global health, McKune was recognized for creating a collaborative and multidisciplinary space for students from across campus and diverse backgrounds to become involved in global health research through her McKune Lab.
“A person will only need to be in her lab for a day to understand how much all her students mean to her,” a mentee wrote. “Her lab is painstakingly structured for us, her students. It is organized and scheduled so that we as students were able to continuously collaborate and learn from one another. However, the lab is not just a place to develop our professional and research skills, but to develop our understanding on vital issues of inequality.”
Zulma “Yary” Santiago, M.A., an instructional assistant professor in the PHHP department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, was named the college’s Teacher of the Year. Santiago teaches American Sign Language and Deaf culture courses that are in such high demand that every semester there are requests from students to increase the number of seats. Santiago routinely receives truly exceptional student evaluations. Nominators described her as “a one-of-a-kind educator and human being.”
“I will carry this language [ASL] with me throughout the rest of my life,” a nominator wrote. “That is something that I will forever be grateful to Professor Yary for instilling in me. I am not the only student here at UF whose educational and intellectual trajectory has been significantly impacted by her, and I will not be the last. When I think back on my time here at UF, she will be the first person to come to mind, as my first professor to also become my friend.”