Devin Valdes awarded John J. Benton Endowed Scholarship  

By Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow

Devin Valdes, a University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions Master of Public Health student with a concentration in epidemiology, is this year’s recipient of the Dr. John J. Benton Endowed Scholarship.  

“Receiving this scholarship greatly supports my career goals in public health by alleviating financial burdens and providing resources essential for pursuing advanced education and training,” Valdes said. “As I pursue my Master of Public Health and continue on the path toward medical school, this scholarship will enable me to focus more fully on my studies, research and professional development opportunities without the added stress of financial constraints.” 

The Dr. John J. Benton Endowed Scholarship is awarded to UF Master of Public Health students who demonstrate integrity, humility, compassion, scholarship and a good sense of humor. The scholarship was established by the children of John J. Benton, M.D. A Gainesville native, Benton graduated from UF in 1942. He went on to serve as a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy, earning a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University and completing a pediatrics residency at Indiana University. He maintained a private practice in Panama City for many years before pursuing a public health career and leading public health departments in Florida’s Washington, Gulf, Franklin and Bay counties. 

In addition to his academic and professional pursuits, Valdes has served with the UF Equal Access Clinic Network as a health outreach quality improvement volunteer, conducted research with the Sensory Development Lab under the mentorship of Stefanie Bodison, O.T.D., OTR/L, an assistant professor of occupational therapy, and volunteered in the pediatric intensive care unit with UF’s Dream Team.  

“Ultimately, this award empowers me to become a more effective advocate and leader in the field of public health, equipping me with the tools and opportunities necessary to make a tangible difference in the lives of children and families, while also reinforcing my commitment and accountability to the reasons that drive me along this path,” he said. “I am eager to leverage my personal experiences and identities to contribute to the development of culturally competent health care programs and policies that address the unique needs of diverse communities.”  

Valdes will graduate in May with his master’s degree, with plans to continue his education on the path to becoming a medical doctor.  

“This scholarship reinforces my commitment to becoming a physician who not only provides medical care but also integrates essential public health principles into my practice,” he said. “I am profoundly grateful for the unwavering support I’ve received from PHHP and the incredible individuals who have played a role in shaping the person I am today.”