University of South Florida


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COPH wins big at USF Health and USF awards ceremonies

Four USF College of Public Health (COPH) students, along with COPH student organizations, faculty and staff, were honored at the USF Health Student Awards Ceremony held on April 30 through Microsoft Teams as part of the USF Health Commencement Week celebrations.

The annual program honors students, staff and faculty for their outstanding commitment and service to USF Health and Shared Student Services throughout the 2023-2024 academic year.

Recipients of the awards were selected for their exceptional contributions in the areas of leadership, service, academics, diversity, multiculturalism and interprofessional collaboration.

View the full ceremony here.

Check out the USF Health Student Awards Ceremony winners below:

Nupur Kothari – Student Leader of the Year
woman in graduation gown on bench

The Student Leader of the Year Award honors eight graduating students, one per college, school or academic program, for their outstanding leadership skills. The winner from the COPH was BSPH graduate Nupur Kothari.

Somtochukwu Abazu – Spirit Award
black man in suit

MPH graduate Somtochukwu Abazu earned the USF Health Spirit Award for the COPH.

This award recognizes a graduating student from each college, school and academic program that best exemplifies the USF Health values that the community embraces in support of the mission to “Make Life Better.” Award winners must display interprofessionalism, compassion, passion, accountability, respect and inclusion, courage and resiliency, optimism, integrity and excellence.

Heather McDonald – Excellence in Service
white woman in graduation cap

BSPH graduate Health McDonald was honored with the Excellence in Service award, given to students who have consistently used their time, energy and talents to promote positive change and growth at USF Health and in the surrounding community.

Drs. Somer Burke and Amber Mehmood – CLARION Faculty Mentor Recognition
two women side-by-side

Students involved in the USF Health CLARION National Case Competition team received the Excellence in Interprofessionalism Award to recognize their involvement in the development of innovative practices, organizational change, IPE engagement and scholarship throughout the competition. 

Drs. Somer Burke, director of the COPH Office of Student Success and Well-Being, and Amber Mehmood, COPH associate professor, were recognized with the Faculty Mentor Recognition Award for their continued support and feedback they provided to the student team throughout the case competition process.

Activist Lab – Community Engagement Project of the Year
group of students wearing green shirts

The Community Engagement Project of the Year Award is presented to an individual, club or student organization who designed and implemented an outstanding community engagement project while representing USF Health. The 2024 recipient of this award was the COPH Activist Lab for their loneliness and social isolation project. 

The U.S. Surgeon General has named loneliness and social isolation as a public health epidemic. In response, the Activist Lab created a community wide project to address this issue. 

They developed an informational campaign reaching out to the community at restaurants and libraries, hosted tabling events with interactive quizzes and talked with radio show hosts. They also formed a statewide partnership with the Florida Public Health Association and formed a task force of individuals across the state to address this issue.  

Maternal and Child Health Student Organization – Program of the Year
group of women students

The recipient of the Program of the Year Award was the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO). 

The award recognizes an organization, office, committee, group or individual who demonstrated excellence in planning and implementing a comprehensive, continuous or one-time program for the USF Health community.

In March, the MCHSO worked in partnership with Reach Up, Inc., a local nonprofit that helps to improve perinatal health outcomes to put on the 2024 Tampa Bay Community Baby Shower. This event centered on providing many resources to families in need. 

During the event, there were health screenings for vision and vitals, fatherhood involvement education training, tools to help provide care to those who are pregnant and many other vendors. Every family walked away with something, whether that was a tote, diaper bags, baby items, gently worn children's clothes, children's books or breast milk bags. 

Chinaza Munonye – Commitment to Diversity
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BSHS student Chinaza Munonye was honored with the Commitment to Diversity award.

This award recognizes a member of the USF Health community who celebrates and promotes the rich diversity present at the university, while demonstrating commitment to creating safe and supportive environments for students and staff.

Annette Strzelecki – Outstanding Shared Student Services Member
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Annette Strzelecki, associate director of graduate academic advising and student engagement for the Office of Student Success and Well Being, was the recipient of the Outstanding Shared Student Services Member Award.

This award is presented to a member of the Shared Student Services team, who has consistently exceeded expectations in their position, through going above and beyond to serve students, support fellow colleagues and truly embody the missions of USF health and shared student services. 

Dr. Donna Petersen – Friends of Shared Student Services
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Dr. Donna Petersen was honored with the Friends of Shared Student Services Award, which highlights individuals who have served as friends and distinguished partners to the program over the years. 

“It was Dean Petersen who conceived the USF Health Shared Student Services program and convinced the other deans and leadership that a shared model would transform student life, truly enhance the co-curricular experience, promote inner professionalism, equalize and improve the quality of services for all students across all levels in our four colleges,” said Joe Ford, associate vice president of USF Health Shared Student Services. “None of this would have been possible without Dean Petersen and her exemplary leadership and her vision for the program, her deep love for the university and commitment to USF Health. Her tireless advocacy and passion for doing something very special for our current students and for generations of health students to come.”

Check out the USF Celebration of Leadership Awards winner below:

group of students holding an award

The Celebration of Leadership Awards ceremony recognizes outstanding student leaders, student organization advisors, student organizations, campus partners and community partners for their exemplary work during the academic year. Award winners represent the mission and values of their organizations and USF in their daily action and work to create positive change for the community. 

One student organization, Healthcare Management Student Organization (HMSA), won the Outstanding Graduate Student Organization Award, which recognizes a graduate student organization that demonstrated consistent flexibility, initiative, creativity and perseverance and has made a meaningful contribution to the university.

They have provided a voice to graduate students across campus and professional development opportunities for members as well as activities and programs to increase the quality of life for the USF community.

View the full ceremony here.

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Welcome to the USF COPH news page. Our marketing and communications team is entrusted with storytelling. Through written stories, photography, video and social media we highlight alumni, faculty, staff and students who are committed to passionately solving problems and creating conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being. These are our stories.