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SPRING 2014 Issue

The Director’s Column Dr. Nils Hennig, Program Director

an environment of exploration and innovative thought, with the aim of inspiring meaningful and positive change in our local and global communities. The Mount Sinai Achievement Ceremony is held on May 8. Several of our outstanding students and graduates will be honored: Angela Dobes will receive the Excellence in Public Health Practice award; Himali Weerahandi will receive the Master of Public Health Outstanding Thesis Award; Nathan Raines will receive the George James Epidemiology Award; and Angela Dobes, Sarah Evans, Caitlin O’Brien and Himali Weerahandi will be inducted to the Beta Omicron Chapter of Delta Omega Society. Congratulations to all of you!

Welcome to the second issue of the Graduate Program in Public Health newsletter! After a long, cold and snowy winter there are some exciting developments for the program this spring: The program hosted its first Alumni Night ever on April 11. It was the last of a couple of events of the program during National Public Health Week. It was fantastic to see graduates of the program, listen to what they are doing now, and give our current students a chance to mingle and network with graduates of the program. The Annual Alumni Night should become a standing event each year during National Public Health Week and I encourage all alumni to attend. Mount Sinai should be a second home to all of you! On April 26, the Graduate Program in Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is sponsoring together with the Arnhold Global Health Institute, the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Associated Medical Schools of New York the 12th Annual Global Health Conference at Mount Sinai. This year’s title is Realizing Rights for Women and Girls: Creating a Healthier World. This important event spotlights the complex interactions between health and human rights for women and girls, and explores topics ranging from gender-based violence, trafficking, and human rights violations in the context of war and asylum, to women’s access to education, legal systems and economic participation. It is a burning public health issue, and addressing these challenges will lead to a healthier world for women, girls, but also everyone. A diverse and accomplished array of speakers and participants will provide

And finally on Friday May 9 is Commencement. This year’s commencement speaker will be Samantha Power, the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations and author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Her work has greatly increased public awareness of genocide and human rights abuses, and her appearance and talk should inspire an interesting debate on these topics. Forty-three of our students will graduate. They should be proud of what they have achieved at Mount Sinai and I am confident about the role they will play in advancing public health and serving the community. I will quote Steve Jobs for parting advice to this year’s graduates: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

ISMMS Graduates Its First DPM/MPH

Michael Gazes is on track to become the first student to graduate from the ISMMS’ newly affiliated dual DPM/MPH degree program with the New York College of Podiatric Medicine (NYCPM). He successfully completed the MPH portion of his education in September 2013 and is scheduled to graduate with a Doctorate in Podiatric Medicine in May 2014. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE A DUAL DEGREE? I originally decided to pursue the dual degree because I wanted to enhance my knowledge and abilities in healthcare administration, health promotion, disease prevention, and research so that I could be a valuable asset wherever my future brings me. I liked the idea of working towards both degrees simultaneously but it took extreme organization and a lot of strict scheduling for me to complete the coursework to my satisfaction. Classes at the NYCPM typically ran from 8am to 4pm, and then I would go directly to Mount Sinai for evening classes until 6 or 7 pm several times a week.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE ASPECT OF COMING TO ISMMS? The actual courses in the MPH program were incredibly interesting. I enjoyed being able to share my thoughts on Public Health topics with medical students, residents, practicing physicians, and the other graduate students in my classes. I

established relationships with my classmates that I plan on maintaining as we continue to embark on our separate fields of practice. Moreover, the resources at Mount Sinai (mainly the library and its enormous amount of studying space) allowed me to absorb material comfortably. I ate more meals at the Mount Sinai cafeteria than anywhere else during my tenure living in Manhattan! DID YOUR BACKGROUND IN PODIATRIC MEDICINE HELP SHAPE YOUR MPH EXPERIENCE? For my practicum, I assisted in establishing a research database for the Foot Center of New York. This required getting an IRB approval and then examining the details of nearly 1,000 patient charts. The project lays the framework for future research about the clinic’s population and the information that we collected may lead to funding from outside sources interested in podiatric care. My thesis was submitted and accepted in September 2013.

WHAT’S NEXT ON YOUR AGENDA? I matched into a Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency with an added credential in Reconstructive Rearfoot and Ankle Surgery at Yale – New Haven Hospital. I’ll be starting in July 2014. I hope to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained from my DPM/ MPH education (such as in biostatistics, epidemiology, research methods, and healthcare administration) to organize evidencebased and cost effective treatment modalities to best serve my future patients.

Healthcare for Haiti: Scott Jelinek

Scott is currently in his first year in the joint MD/MPH program at ISMMS.

When there’s an accident in New York, you can call 911 and an ambulance would arrive in 15 minutes or less. In Haiti, there is no 911. For Haitian medical students at Universite Quisqueya Medical School (UniQ), this was particularly apparent in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake of 2010. The medical students had knowledge of anatomy and biochemistry, but not the skills to splint a broken arm or administer CPR.

asked the students to reflect on the course. Their responses were incredibly validating. One memorable student said: “It was a great pleasure to participate in this seminar, I learned a lot of things, my gaps are filled and when I am on the street, and there is an accident, an unconscious person, wounds, burns and lesions, a traumatized person, I will be able to give him care. I thank you all for helping me.”

That’s where Medical Students for Haiti (MS4H) came in. Over Having been on service Spring Break, I went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with seven other students and two ER residents from the Mount Sinai MS4H team to address this lack of “For me, I was truly pleased, fulfilled, emergency response skills. Our job was and moved by this very important to certify the students as Basic Cardiac training not only as a medical Life Support Providers for emergency situations. Over the course of a week, student, but as a human being we taught hands-on, life-saving skills because I am there to save a life and for dealing with basic trauma, such as stabilizing accident victims before diminish suffering.” - UniQ student more help arrives. At the end of the week, we conducted a serial cross-sectional study and assessed the students’ growth and sense of self-efficacy (thank you, Dr. Factor’s Epidemiology course!) In addition to the quantitative data we collected, we also

trips in the past, I felt that this was a unique experience where I was actually providing a service and meeting a need in the community. I was able to directly apply the skills I acquired through my public health classes to create effective surveys, conduct focus groups, and be more cognizant of ethical issues. By viewing our work in Haiti with a more critical public health lens, I was a more effective global healthcare provider. I do not know when the next accident, emergency, or disaster will happen, but it is great to know that I helped strengthened these medical students’ skills so they will be more prepared to respond to disaster situations and help their own community.

Mount Sinai Team Wins Innovations Award in the Emory Global Heath Case Competition


his past March, the Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) held its annual Global Case Competition. The Competition is a unique opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students from various schools and disciplines to come together to promote awareness of, and develop innovative solutions for, 21st century global health issues. At this year’s competition, students from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai competed against twenty-three other student teams and won the Innovation Award for most inventive proposal. Mount Sinai’s team consisted of six students: team captain, John Rhee (1st year MD/MPH student), Sonya Shadravan (3rd year MD student), Elisse Catalan (1st year MPH student), Alexander Peters (3rd year MD student), Irina Mindlis (1st year MPH student), Mehdi Bouhaddou (2nd year PhD student). Alongside Dr. Ashley Fox (Department of Health Evidence and Policy) and many other mentors from various departments who offered immense support and feedback, they collaborated on this year’s case topic: re-envisioning the World Health Organization (WHO) to meet the ever-evolving global health landscape. The case topic was released on Monday March 24th at 7PM, giving the teams only five days to come up with an original idea

to tackle this highly challenging issue. The Mount Sinai team believed that the WHO needed to adapt a new vision for people everywhere to play a part in the ever-advancing state of health. The team began their presentation by describing the multitude of issues that the WHO currently faces: a disconnect from locallevel community health realities, financial dependence on nonflexible donors, and an over-extended, ineffective use of their resources. Their winning vision for the “new” WHO? To inform, catalyze, and lead global and state actions by cultivating a culture of accountability through increased transparency. They proposed that this could be accomplished with intent to improve health for everyone by collecting and distributing up-to-date inter-sector data, generating interdisciplinary public-private partnerships, and crowdsourcing health data and feedback from ordinary citizens. This year, teams from Australia, Canada, Sweden, and across the United States came together to tackle these complex organizational and political issues faced by the WHO. While the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center may have won the competition overall, our Mount Sinai team was recognized for their hard work and out-of-the-box thinking with the first place Innovations Award. Congratulations to the Mount Sinai Global Case team!

Graduate Spotlight: Ganga Bey After graduating Princeton University with a degree in Anthropology, I knew I wanted to enter into the health field but couldn’t decide through which avenue I would approach it. I wasn’t sure where to start. I completed a Post-Baccalaureate program in preparation for the medical school route, but soon realized that individualized medical practice didn’t suit my tastes. Having always had a passion for discovery, I tried my hand at research next. After two years in basic science research, however, I realized that my interests lay more in communitybased investigations than in cells. Still, I had not yet determined a more specific focus than that. Without any certainty about the direction of my career, I decided to keep an open mind and follow the opportunities that unfolded before me. I entered into the MPH program at the ISMMS still not entirely sure of where I wanted my education to carry me. It was by chance that I happened to cross paths with Dr. Elizabeth Garland, the head of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention track and the Director of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program at Mount Sinai, the week before my first term began. A research assistant was leaving her team and she needed someone to replace him… was I interested? I kept

an open mind. Yes, I was interested. After briefly discussing my academic history and interests, we agreed that I would join her research team. A year and a half later, my practicum is finally complete and my thesis was successfully published. I found what I loved doing after all. I will admit that fortune played a role in my getting such an invaluable opportunity to participate in research with Dr. Garland, but I believe it was my willingness to try something I had never considered before— environmental health research—that got me to where I am today. It took a long time for me to find my place in the health field, but I’ve gained a dearth of relevant and readily applicable skills along the way. Whether or not I continue in environmental research, I am certain that the experiences I’ve accumulated will contribute to a successful public health career.

Volunteering for Smiles Caitlin O’Neill is a first-year MPH student participating in the work-study program at the Children’s Hospital. As a former Peace Corp member, she’s no stranger to helping others through difficult times. Volunteering in the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai is a challenging yet rewarding job. As a volunteer, my goal is to try, if even for a second, to help a kid forget they’re in the hospital. Whether it’s bringing them a board game, doing some arts and crafts, building Legos, or even quietly watching a movie together, I’m given the opportunity to brighten a child’s day. I know that it’s a privilege to be able to step into a patient’s life so I try to be as supportive as I can while I’m there. It’s not just the patients we help either; we’re also there to support the parents and the families who come with their brave faces on to visit their loved ones. Being in the hospital is hard on them, too, so we remind them that it’s okay to take a break to grab a cup of coffee, and we act as sympathetic ears when they just need someone to listen. While a good portion of my day is spent visiting patients in their rooms, the other part of my time is spent in The Zone: a therapeutic environment for patients and their families to play and relax. It is a state-of-the-art playroom stocked with a pool table, air hockey, a Wii console, an Xbox, and all the arts and crafts you can imagine (and then some). When kids come down

to visit, I not only get to watch them discover all these toys—I’m encouraged to play with them! (Although my skills with the Mario Kart Wii controller are constantly being laughed at by suspiciously good nine year olds.) Being a volunteer definitely has some great perks, but it can also be really tough. I often deal with chronically sick children or premature babies and it’s difficult to see them struggle. Luckily, the staff in the Child Life Department is absolutely wonderful. Their job is to tend to the patients’ needs but they also check-in with the volunteers to make sure that we’re all okay. (Because if we can’t relax and enjoy ourselves, how can we make our patients feel that way?) I’ve been volunteering in the Child Life Department for five months now and it’s a different experience every time I walk through the hospital doors. I can spend an entire day going from room to room meeting ten new patients or I may be in The Zone just coloring for an hour with a patient who has been with us for weeks. Above it all, I want nothing more than to see these kids leave the hospital. But while they’re in our care? I’ll do whatever I can to get that smile.

Student Spotlight: Elisse Catalan Elisse is a medical doctor from the Philippines, currently in her first year in the MPH program at ISMMS. Read her story about the global healthcare conditions she’s witnessed first-hand and learn about why she’s now pursuing an MPH degree. With this magnitude of healthcare problems in the world, as healthcare providers we may feel that we are rendered helpless. This manner of thinking is understandable but not acceptable. Cells in the body do not work as a singular unit; they work together to make the whole body function. Comparably, each one of us has the power to make the global healthcare system better. My advice? Stop ignoring. Seek to understand. Seek to help. To put it simply, care enough. Care enough to want to so do something to reach the underserved. Participate in, or spearhead, small community health activities. Help others stay informed. Truly, we undervalue the power of small positive acts. We are agents of change... one person at a time… one step at a time. On my last duty at the PGH, a patient’s mother handed me a sizeable pineapple. She generously very morning during my one-year post-graduate insisted that I take it and said that it was the only internship at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), I had thing she could afford to give me for the services I provided. I to go through a mental checklist of the personal medical thanked her profusely and as I left the ward for the last time, I supplies that I needed to bring from home: vials, syringes, couldn’t stop my eyes from welling up. Despite the healthcare alcohol swabs, cotton balls, an intravenous problems that my country faces, the cannula, a blood pressure monitor… the list underserved and the uninsured deserve to goes on. If I had spent my internship at a be fought for and to be helped. I want to private hospital instead of at the publically “Four out of ten Filipinos die be the catalyst to improve the healthcare funded PGH, it might not have been vital for system in places like the Philippines. It’s the without seeing a doctor.” me to carry around a personal stash to help reason why I’m pursuing an MPH degree me do my work. The annual funds that the at ISMMS. Under the tutelage of the global PGH receives are inadequate to supplement movers and shakers in Public Health, I am the needs of all its patients; even the most learning new ways to affect positive changes basic medical supplies are lacking. Because of this challenge, on a larger scale. The education I’m receiving from Mount Sinai it has become a dire necessity for public healthcare providers has instilled in me the knowledge, skills, and values that will to be more resourceful and self-sufficient in order to treat the push me forward in my career with the hopes that one day, no underserved. Filipino will ever die in vain.


The choice to do my internship year in a public hospital was a voluntary and whole-hearted one. I wanted to be in the epicenter of healthcare in the Philippines, to be at the forefront of where the best medical professionals treat the poorest in the country. I have seen family members wearing tattered clothing and worn-out slippers (sometimes even barefoot) running towards the emergency room carrying their unconscious loved ones. It is not unusual to see families begging or selling off their livestock and land to pay for medical treatments. These examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. Every time I attended to a dying patient, especially one who could have been saved in a more efficient healthcare system, my heart ached. The healthcare problems in countries like the Philippines are deeply rooted. The journey to their resolution will entail more than a lifetime to fix.

MEET YOUR TRACK ADVISORS! “What is your favorite thing about working with the students in your track?”

Stephanie Barnhart, MD, MPH Occupational and Environmental Medicine Public health students amaze me with their creative interventions and strategies to prevent and control environmental and occupational hazards.

John Doucette, PhD General Public Health Hearing about their fascinating and varied backgrounds and interests.

Elizabeth Garland, MD, MS Health Promotion and Disease Prevention I enjoy meeting and mentoring the students on their studies and watching them develop into public health professionals.

Jonathan Ripp, MD Global Health Discovering the idealism that global health track students share in wanting to improve the health of communities in need across the globe.

Jenny Lin, MD, MPH Outcomes Research I love finding out about everyone’s research interests and hearing about the cool clinical outcomes projects they are working on.

Gary Rosenberg, PhD Healthcare Management I enjoy their bright enquiring questions and dedication to participating in making this a healthier more productive world.

Stephanie Factor, MD, MPH Epidemiology Our shared energy and enthusiasm for epidemiology.

Join Our Alumni Committee!


Stay connected by signing up to be a part of the ISMMS Public Health Program’s Alumni Planning Committee. Email to join!

Save the date for the Graduate Program in Public Health End-of-Year Social! The Social will follow this year’s thesis and capstone presentations on June 12. Interested in having your writing published in The Scoop? Want to be a staff writer?

Alumni pictured (left to right): Allina Nocon (’12), Brandon Schneider (’12), Nadine Spring (’11)

Be a part of our next issue! Contact one of our Editors to get involved.

The inaugural Alumni Night was held on Friday, April 11, 2014. Our next Alumni Night will be held in April 2015. Stay tuned for announcements!

2014 COMMENCEMENT AWARDS Several of our outstanding public health students and graduates were honored at the Mount Sinai Achievement Ceremony:  Angela Dobes received the Excellence in Public Health Practice Award  Himali Weerahandi received the Master of Public Health

The Scoop SPRING 2014

Outstanding Thesis Award  Nathan Raines received the George James Epidemiology Award  Angela Dobes, Sarah Evans, Caitlin O¹Brien and Himali Weerahandi were inducted to the Beta Omicron Chapter of Delta Omega Society The Graduate Program in Public Health is always looking to connect students with public health research and practice opportunities within the institution. If you or your department would be interested in working with our students, please contact us at

Editors Vivian Nguyen, MPH Student Elisabeth Brodbeck, Assistant Director Christine Cortalano, Program Coordinator

Staff Writer Caitlin O’Neil, MPH Student

Visit Us On The Web Contact Us Tel: 212-824-7292 Fax: 212-824-2327 Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM) 17 E. 102nd Street West Tower, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10029

The scoop spring 2014 public health newsletter  
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