By Jill Pease
Ten University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions students representing seven countries were recognized at the UF International Center’s International Student Achievement Awards ceremony held November 14 at Touchdown Terrace.
Fiorella Guerrero, a doctoral student in the college’s rehabilitation science program, is one of three UF students to receive the 2023 Alec Courtelis Award for Outstanding Ph.D. Students, which comes with a $2,000 prize.
Guerrero is a founding member of Warmakuna Hope, a non-profit organization that provides rehabilitation services, education and equipment to children with disabilities and their families in her native Peru. For her dissertation research, she developed a culturally-relevant Family Quality of Life measure for families of children with disabilities living in the rural highlands of Peru. As part of her work, Guerrero conducted focus groups and cognitive interviews with families through a new collaboration between UF, the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and the Swiss Tropical Public Health Institute.
“A measure such as this is crucially important, as it enables governments and researchers to identify needs, gaps and disparities, as well as resources and resilience,” said Jessica Kramer, Ph.D., OTR/L, an associate professor in the department of occupational therapy and Guerrero’s dissertation mentor.
Guerrero has also worked to facilitate additional links between UF and her home country through sponsoring a UF Doctor of Occupational Therapy student’s capstone project at Warmakuna Hope, and partnering with community groups to organize service trips to Peru.
“Fiorella raises awareness that global issues are also locally relevant, and demonstrates to the world what Gators can contribute to the global community,” Kramer said.
The college also nominated Inyoung Jun, a doctoral student in epidemiology, for the Alec Courtelis Award. Jun’s scholarly work is focused on developing machine learning prediction models to optimize treatment regimens for bacterial infections, and she has published nine first-author publications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jun contributed 300 hours of service to UF Health Screen, Test and Protect, conducting surveys among vulnerable populations, performing COVID-19 tests and coordinating vaccination and testing clinics. As president of UF’s Korean Student Association, Jun’s efforts to connect students to the community led to the organization receiving the UF Gator Connect award.
Master of Public Health students Shilpi Mistry and Yudan Sheng were nominated for the Outstanding Master’s and Professional International Student Awards. Mistry, an M.P.H. student in the epidemiology concentration, received the UF Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Policy Internship and is interning in the office of Rep. Darren Soto. Sheng, who is in the biostatistics concentration, is the overdose prevention coordinator with City of Gainesville Fire Rescue Department, where she works with community partners, first responders and community members to prevent deaths from substance overdose.
Shantzie Ponce, a bachelor’s of public health student, was nominated for the Outstanding Undergraduate International Student Award. She is actively involved in international, campus and local communities, including the Active Learning Program, the University Multicultural Mentor Program, Volunteers Around the World Medical Outreach, the Bilingual Language Access and Outcomes Lab and the Health Education and Training Center of Gainesville.
The following PHHP students received Certificates of Outstanding Merit:
Adaeze Anamege, a doctoral student in epidemiology, serves as a research team member on a longitudinal cohort study of pregnant individuals and their children. She also participates in community service in Gainesville and across the Southeast. Her mentor is Kelly Gurka, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Pratiksha Awale, a doctoral student in rehabilitation science, studies Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy. She holds a leadership position in Gainesville’s chapter of Global Connections, which seeks to connect international students with local groups and resources. Her mentor is Sean Forbes, Ph.D.
Raghuveer Chandrashekhar, a doctoral student in rehabilitation science, is actively engaged with the local community, participating in information sessions and project demonstrations at research expos and seminars, in support of his work in assistive and rehabilitative technologies. His mentor is Hongwu Wang, Ph.D.
Priyanka Rana, a doctoral student in rehabilitation science, studies how neural activity motivates and shapes pain behavior. Outside of the lab and classroom, she provides free physical therapy services through the UF PT Equal Access Clinic and Gaitor Challenge, and offers telehealth services on weekends to patients in India. Her mentor is Mark Bishop, Ph.D., P.T.
Nanyangwe Siuluta, a doctoral student in epidemiology, is a member of the research team at the Southern HIV and Alcohol Research Consortium, or SHARC, where she is active in community engagement initiatives. She has mentored several undergraduate students, interns and research assistants, as well as successful applicants to the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Her mentor is Robert Cook, M.D., M.P.H.