University of South Florida


4 graduates in cap and gown

Graduates prior to the college’s graduate ceremony. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

COPH honors 779 graduates both virtually and in person

The USF College of Public Health (COPH) celebrated the 2024 spring graduates virtually and in person on May 3.

This semester, 635 undergraduates, 136 students seeking their master’s degree and eight doctoral students graduated and entered the public health profession.

On May 3, after a greeting from Interim Dean Dr. Jay Wolfson, the COPH welcomed master’s and doctoral students to a graduation ceremony presented at the college to family, friends, students, faculty and staff. 

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Interim Dean Jay Wolfson speaking at the COPH graduate ceremony. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

Every year, the COPH Excellence in Teaching awardee offers words of inspiration to the graduating class. This year’s speaker was Dr. Gillian Stresman, assistant professor of epidemiology. 

Stresman said she is looking forward to witnessing the growth and success of her students as they develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in the world.

Drs. Jaime Corvin, Zachary Pruitt and Janice Zgibor presented the Class of 2024 with their degrees and class gifts. They also offered words of encouragement.

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Interim Dean Jay Wolfson (far left) with the DrPH graduates. (Photo by Natalie Preston)

“When I say we are proud of you – I mean we are as proud of you as we are our own families," Dr. Corvin said.  "Carry those credentials behind your name with pride – you deserve them. Own them and wear them with honor and pride. You are trained. You are ready. Have confidence in yourself. You belong in the rooms and the spaces and the conversations.  We need your voice, your skill and your compassion,” she said. “And I ask that you be a mirror to those colleagues on your left and your right – so when they are questioning their value and their voice you help them shine.”

On May 4, the undergraduate studies team celebrated BSHS and BSPH graduates with a stop-in photo booth session before the USF Health ceremony at the USF Yuengling Center.

Here are some of the stories from the Class of 2024:

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Kanika Chandra, MBBS, MPH

Living in New Delhi, India, Kanika Chandra faced significant challenges working as a frontline physician during the pandemic while balancing being a mom. 

“I felt mental and physical exhaustion like never before,” she said. “I realized the need to pursue academic endeavors and take a sabbatical from clinical practice.”

Chandra decided to return to higher education to earn her master's degree in public health, specializing in global communicable diseases.

“I want to positively influence mothers who ave family or professional commitments and tell them that it’s never too late to pursue their dreams, education or hobbies and fulfill their aspirations,” she said.

In addition to her full-time academic schedule, Chandra also worked as a teaching assistant for two courses at the COPH. She emphasized the importance of support networks and dreaming big to keep everything balanced. 

“Every woman has a different journey, a different mindset and priorities that vary at different stages of life,” Chandra said “There is never a one-size-fits-all kind of solution. Keeping dreams alive and being passionate about whatever one is doing at a given time is very important.” 

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Nadia Mossad, BSHS

A Tampa native, Nadia Mossad became introduced to public health through her interest in holistic medicine.

“I feel that medicine needs to see a person through different perspectives,” she said. “I look forward to helping patients in the future in a way that is holistic.”

Her road to earning a BS in health sciences was challenging, though. 

“I started college amid the COVID-19 pandemic and felt extremely lonely as courses were not in person,” Mossad said. “I was also balancing a family emergency, which caused me to struggle academically. The staff and students were very understanding and helpful in my situation.”

Mossad said she enjoyed her time at the COPH, and credits the dynamic professors, the courses being extremely interesting and being able to complete a longtime dream of studying abroad. 

“After graduating, I plan to use this degree as a stepping stone to my ultimate goal of becoming a doctor,” she said.

a graduate and his family

Cesar Perez, BSHS

During his time at USF, Cesar Perez was a non-traditional student who graduated with honors as magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences with concentration in biology. 

Perez received several scholarships based on his academic achievements. He was a member of the Orthopedics and Athletic Medicine Club, American Medical Student Association, American Red Cross Club, Orthopedics and the Athletic Medicine Club at USF. 

After graduating from USF, he plans to attend medical school and pursue a future career as a medical doctor specializing in orthopedics to provide much needed help to impoverished communities.

COPH Golden Bulls

According to their website, “the Golden Bull Award, which is presented by the student success unit is one of USF's highest honors given annually in the spring semester to deserving undergraduate and graduate students who encompass the spirit of USF and have demonstrated its values. Recipients must exemplify exceptional leadership and service to the University and the community.” 

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Aarya Satardekar, BSPH

During her time at USF, Golden Bull award recipient Aarya Satardekar actively participated in a variety of research and health education initiatives, illustrating a profound commitment to advancing public health while earning her bachelor of science in public health.

In her role at Moffitt Cancer Center, she undertook diverse responsibilities in research, including tasks such as data analysis and recruitment efforts, enabling her to contribute significantly to health care research. 

Additionally, publishing a paper in the American Society for Microbiology Journal during her sophomore year underscored her dedication and capability to contribute to the scientific community. 

As the president of the Peer Health Educators, she cultivated a collaborative learning environment for student development. Serving on the Health Education Action Team, she orchestrated innovative outreach campaigns addressing crucial health topics such as body positivity, trauma-informed care, consent and contraceptives, showcasing her readiness to embrace novel approaches and address the evolving needs of the student population.

Story courtesy of USF Student Affairs

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Suhas Das, BSPH

During his time at USF, Golden Bull award recipient Suhas Das demonstrated leadership skills as president of USF Rotaract, the second-largest collegiate based Rotaract club in the country, as well as being Rotary District 6890’s Rotaract chair. 

He demonstrated a commitment to Rotary’s value of “Service Above Self” through more than 800 hours of community service as well as many service projects planned from scratch, both in Tampa and abroad in Ghana while at USF. 

Now that he has earned his bachelor of public health and bachelor of science in biomedical sciences, Das said he hopes to continue a life of service and curiosity while attending graduate school for his MPH at Emory University on a merit scholarship. He will also be utilizing his Peace Corps Prep certification obtained via USF to serve three years with the Peace Corps. 

Story courtesy of USF Student Affairs

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About Department News

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.