2024 Inductees

Honorary Member Inductee

Alison Yager, JD

Executive Director at the Florida Health Justice Project

Alison is an attorney with over 20 years of experience advocating for women, children, and marginalized individuals in the non-profit and government sectors. She comes to Miami from New York and served most recently as the Director of Policy Initiatives for Maternal, Infant, and Reproductive Health at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Her work includes collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to identify new policy and program initiatives, conducting analyses and developing policy briefs to support the generation of policy initiatives, and advocating for or against the enactment of policies at all levels of government.

After graduating from UCLA School of Law’s Program in Public Interest Law and Policy in 2001, Ms. Yager was awarded an Equal Justice Works fellowship to provide legal services to young people at The Door’s Legal Service Center in Manhattan and subsequently worked as a Staff Attorney serving young people experiencing intimate partner violence at Break the Cycle New York (now Day One). From 2006 to 2014, Alison worked at the HIV Law Project in New York, first as a Staff Attorney and then as a Supervising Attorney for HIV Policy at the HIV Law Project in New York.

Today, Ms. Yager serves as the Executive Director for the Florida Health Justice Project, a non-profit located in South Florida that engages in comprehensive advocacy to expand healthcare access and promote health equity. FHJP provides non-partisan research and policy advocacy focusing on laws that impact healthcare access for low-income and uninsured Floridians. Ms. Yager has provided remote internship opportunities for many of our Master of Public Health students, including myself in 2020. We are so grateful for her mentorship and contributions to our program.

Faculty Member Inductees

Pomeranz and Jo

Dr. Jamie Pomeranz and Dr. Ara Jo

Jamie Pomeranz, PhD, CRC, CLCP

Jamie L. Pomeranz is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Dr. Pomeranz has obtained three degrees from the University of Florida: a Master of Exercise and Sports Science, a Master of Health Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science. He is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Life Care Planner and has worked with people with disabilities in multiple capacities for over 20 years. His clinical background includes working with individuals with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and intellectual disabilities. Dr. Pomeranz has been on faculty at the University of Florida since 2004 and his topics of research include health promotion for people with disabilities life care planning and modern measurement theory. Since receiving his Ph.D. in 2005, Dr. Pomeranz developed 30 peer-reviewed publications and two book chapters. He has and continues to mentor multiple Ph.D and MPH graduate students from the public health program. He currently serves as the Director for the Bachelor of Health Science Program and as a course instructor. Dr. Pomeranz has received funding from the Area Health Education Centers the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Veteran’s Health Administration. His NIH project involves developing one of the first empirically-based tobacco cessation programs for people with disabilities. Finally, Dr. Pomeranz has received numerous awards including Excellence in Research, Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and the Public Health Award for Faculty Excellence.

Ara Jo, PhD, MS

Dr. Ara Jo is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Health Services Research, Management, and Policy in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. Dr. Jo received her PhD in Health Services Research from the University of Florida. She is from South Korea and earned dual bachelor’s degrees in economics and Exercise Science at Ewha Womans University and a Master of Science in Sport Management at Florida State University. With her interdisciplinary educational background, her primary research interests focus on evidence-based prevention care models for chronic disease such as screening and physical activity. She is particularly interested in healthy body composition measurement and healthcare utilization outcomes in Florida. Dr. Jo has significantly contributed to population health and health outcome research, health policy, and education. She primarily focuses on the chronic disease prevention strategy for population health and the healthcare strategy for improving health equity. Additionally, Dr. Jo’s commitment extends to developing the MPH population health management program and empowering MPH students to become public health leaders. As a result, she recently received the PHHP Mentor of the Year award.

Alumni Inductee

Kayvon Yazdanbakhsh, MPH

Kayvon, a driven and accomplished individual, embodies the epitome of dedication and versatility in his academic and professional pursuits. His journey as a double Gator, graduating with both a Bachelor of Health Science in 2019 and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology in 2020, signifies his commitment to understanding healthcare from multiple perspectives.

With a solid educational foundation, Kayvon ventured into the frontline of emergency response, serving as a firefighter and EMT. These roles not only honed his skills in crisis management but also instilled in him a profound sense of empathy and resilience, qualities indispensable in the healthcare domain. Transitioning to the realm of epidemiology, Kayvon delved into the intricacies of disease patterns and public health interventions. His experience as an Epidemiologist in Delaware equipped him with the analytical prowess to identify and mitigate health risks within communities, underscoring his proactive approach to healthcare.

Now, Kayvon finds himself at Rush University Medical College, embarking on a new chapter in his career journey. Driven by a fervent desire to make a tangible impact in patient care, he sets his sights on interventional radiology. In this dynamic field, Kayvon seeks to leverage cutting-edge technology and innovative approaches to enhance treatment outcomes and patient experiences. Beyond clinical practice, Kayvon aspires to influence health policy, recognizing the pivotal role it plays in shaping the healthcare landscape. With his diverse background and unwavering passion for improving public health, he aims to advocate for policies that prioritize accessibility, equity, and quality in healthcare delivery.

Graduate Student Inductees

Graduate student

Linnea Sleigh

Linnea Sleigh is completing her master’s in public health, specializing in Epidemiology, with an internship focused on ovarian cancer diagnoses. Active in the Public Health Student Association, she aims for a career in social epidemiology and global health. 

Graduate Student

Terrena Smart

Terrena graduated from the Master of Public Health program, bringing with her 5 years of experience as a clinical research coordinator and a strong commitment to community involvement. With a focus on Child and Maternal Health, she aims to pursue a PhD and establish a non-profit organization to make a significant impact in the field. 

Graduate student

Andrea Noll

As a researcher and public health leader at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Food Science, Andrea established a network of multi-sector partners locally and internationally to tackle problems of food and nutrition insecurity among marginalized populations. She is dedicated to engaging and empowering communities to address health disparities through food justice and sovereignty movements. She will continue strengthening partnerships to produce meaningful and sustainable change in this domain

Graduate student

Andrew Langer

Andrew’s focus throughout his time in the MPH program was on bridging the gaps of health disparities and inequities in our communities. He did this by using his interest in the legal field to create brief reports and health policy assessments regarding Florida Medicaid’s shortcomings in oral health benefits and providing recommendations on potential steps forward to the Florida Legislature. In addition to this, Andrew has placed at the top of his class every semester in the program, demonstrating his commitment to his studies and his focus on growing as a student. Andrew has accepted his admission to the University of Miami’s School of Law to continue his education and one day fight for the rights of healthcare workers through medical malpractice defense law.

Graduate student

Andrew Rainey

Dr. Andrew Rainey recently completed his PhD at UF in Public Health with a dual concentration in One Health and Clinical & Translational Science in August 2023. Andrew studied wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and Salmonella across local communities in the Gainesville area with GatorWATCH. He has continued his work in this field now as a microbiologist with the National Wastewater Surveillance System at CDC where he works to improve infectious disease surveillance across the United States.

Graduate Student

Brenda Maynor

While at the University of Florida, Brenda has served as a student representative on the MPH Student Advisory Board representing the Social and Behavioral Sciences Concentration. She has also served as President of the Public Health Student Association. Her focus of study is women’s reproductive healthcare justice, gun violence, and how faith communities can impact community health. Following graduation, Brenda hopes to continue her healthcare justice work through advocacy and policy work or coalition and community engagement where she hopes that she can make a difference on the community level improving the health of individuals and communities especially as it relates to reproductive health,

Graduate student

Brooke Davis

Brooke Davis is a nurse practitioner with over 15 years of experience in adult and geriatric primary care. She currently helps run free general medicine and women’s health clinics at Grace Marketplace, a local homeless shelter. She is passionate about health disparities and hopes to use her MPH degree to address this public health issue through clinical innovations and partnerships with community-based organizations

Graduate student

Daniel Ralston

After serving in the United States Marine Corps, Dan went on to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Florida. After completing his degree, he worked as a clinical research coordinator for the University of Florida College of Medicine and as a Critical Care Emergency Medical Technician for Alachua County Fire Rescue. Wishing to improve his quantitative skills, he chose to pursue a biostatistics concentration in the UF MPH program.

Graduate student

Devin Valdes

Devin Valdes, graduating with his MPH in Epidemiology, embodies a passion for public health service. With diverse roles in health education/outreach, healthcare advocacy, research, and community engagement, he was this year’s UF’s Public Health Ambassador for ASPPH. Additionally, Devin is on the Public Health Student Association executive board as the Combined Degree Representative. His research explores areas including health disparities, infectious diseases, mental health, LGBTQ+/minority health, health communication/education, and sensory integration for children with autism. With his dedication to advancing health for all, Devin aspires towards an MD/PhD.

Graduate student

Heather Mendez

Heather graduated with her master’s in Public Health last fall. Her academic endeavors delved deeply into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research, a critical area impacting the health and well-being of individuals across the lifespan. Heather undertook a pivotal role in developing a comprehensive surveillance database for infectious diseases. This initiative, undertaken in collaboration with one of the nation’s foremost health departments, signifies her dedication to proactive measures in disease prevention and control, especially in light of global health challenges. Recognition as the MPH Public Health PracticeExemplary Student stands as a testament to Heather’s exceptional dedication, innovative spirit, and impactful contributions to her field. This honor reflects her proficiency in translating theoretical knowledge into tangible public health solutions, demonstrating her readiness to tackle real-world challenges.

Graduate student

Jessica Friedman

Jessica has graduated with her MPH with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She was an intern with UF’s GatorWell Health Promotion Services, where she engaged in college health education initiatives for the Gator community, holding outreach events and providing individual student support. As a research assistant with UF’s Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics, she is also involved with innovative population health research to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes, promote wellness, and reduce disparities. Jessie plans to continue working in health education after graduation.

Graduate student

Lauren Cox

Lauren has graduated from the MPH program, has passed the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam, and has earned her Tobacco Treatment Specialist (TTS) credential. During her MPH, Lauren also served as Service Chair for the Public Health Student Association and on the SBS MPH Student Advisory Council. She has volunteered with Guardian Ad Litem, Take Stock in Children, Balance 180, and Kids Count here in Gainesville. After graduation, she plans to continue to provide health education with the UF Area Health Education Center.

Graduate student

Olivia Galler

Olivia graduated with her MPH in Epidemiology and is passionate about pursuing a career in public health. Throughout her MPH journey, she has
served as a Research Assistant at UF’s Pediatric Behavioral Health Lab, a Graduate Teaching Assistant, an Alachua County DOH volunteer, and most recently, an Intern with the Infection Control Department at UF Health Shands Hospital. She is dedicated to educating others on public health topics and was honored as this year’s Epidemiology Ambassador Awardee. Upon graduation, she will relocate to the Tampa Bay Area, aiming to work in research or infection control, with the ultimate goal of earning a PhD and pursuing a career in academia.

Graduate student

Parvathy Prasanna Surendran

Previously a Physical Therapist, Graduate Research Assistant at UF’s RISE Lab, and a Public Health intern at Florida DOH-Collier County, I’ve received the Outstanding MPH Epidemiology Student Award, the Dean’s Scholar Award-Master’s level at UF, also selected as Pathway to Practice Scholar by Region IV Public Health Training Center, Emory University. Her upcoming Mayo Clinic internship in the Clinical Research dept presents an opportunity to advance my contributions to epidemiology and public health. She has 2 academic research papers currently under review and 2 working papers as first author, covering COPD, poly-substance use disorder, chronic diseases, and opioid use disorder.

graduate student

Karah Mechlowitz

Karah Mechlowitz holds a B.S. in Nutrition from UF (2015) and an MPH with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She worked as a clinical dietitian for two years during her MPH, conducting assessments and education. Currently, she’s an evaluation specialist at the University of Minnesota Extension, with a PhD in Public Health (2023) from UF, focusing on Ethiopia. Her role involves supporting evaluation in SNAP-Ed programming.

Graduate student

Kashif Basaria

Kashif, a recent graduate of the UF MPH Program, specialized in SBS. He developed trauma-informed curricula for survivors of intimate partner violence and conducted a community needs assessment for LGBTQ+
residents of Alachua County. Next, he will pursue a PhD in Social, Behavioral, and Population Sciences at Tulane University.

Graduate student

Kenny Moise

Kenny Moise, a Haitian-trained physician, earned an MPH from the University of Florida in 2023. Since 2015, he’s contributed to research focusing on infectious and tropical diseases in Haiti. Recognized for his work, he’s a member of ASTMH and serves on APHA’s Policy and Advocacy Committee. 

Graduate student

Stacie Schulman

Stacie graduated from UF’s master’s in environmental and Global Health program with a One Health concentration. She was awarded the Environmental and Global Health Outstanding Student Award this year and is eager to start the next chapter of her career, where she will attend vet school at the University of Pennsylvania. She is committed to One Health and veterinary medicine and aims to make a positive global impact.

Undergraduate Student Inductees

Undergraduate student

Kaylinn Escobar

Kaylinn is a combination Bachelor/Master’s of Public Health student. Last summer, she participated in an 8-week training program hosted by Columbia University where she built her quantitative skillset and research presentation skills in New York City. She will be graduating later today, cum laude, with her Bachelors in Public Health. Kaylinn will stay in Gainesville to complete her Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology, strengthening her data analysis skills and seeking opportunities to research improvements in maternal health as an epidemiologist. 

Undergraduate student

Cathrine Pacini

Cathrine Pacini, a senior public health undergraduate, champions health equity and community engagement. Her research and leadership drive her commitment to addressing healthcare disparities, aiming to specialize in oncology and study cancer health disparities among minority populations. Cathrine also served as the President of the Undergraduate Public Health Student Association.