SPH Students

Students & Alumni

MPH Student member of AJPH Think Tank

Dr. Cem Akkus, MPH candidate (pictured third from left) was selected to serve on the American Journal of Public Health Association's Think Tank. Alfredo Morabia, MD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal is pictured at the far left.


Congratulations to our Doctoral Students in Social and Behavioral Sciences for Their Many Recent Scholarly Accomplishments:

Recent paper:
Alexander, A.C., & Ward, K.D. Understanding post-disaster substance use and psychological distress using concepts from the self-medication hypothesis and social cognitive theory. In press, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Travel award:
Jay Kumar: Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, Health Disparities Network Travel Scholarship, to attend the 2018 Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD

Student poster award:
Chen, W., Collins, C. C., Ward, K. D. (2017) How accurately do parents estimate children's weight status? Poster presentation at the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo, Atlanta, GA. (Student poster award recipient from the Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section).

Poster presentations:
Chen, W., Al-sheyab, N.A., Alomari,M.A., & Ward, K.D. (2017, November). Asthma symptoms among adolescent waterpipe smokers: The Irbid-TRY. Poster presentation at the Third International Conference on Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking Research, Beirut, Lebanon.

Kumar, J., & Ward, K.D. (2017, November). Do young adult waterpipe smokers in the U.S. notice health warning labels? Findings from Wave 1 of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH). Poster presentation at the Third International Conference on Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking Research, Beirut, Lebanon.

Kumar, J., & Ward, K.D., & Jiang, Y. Exposure to manufacturer-placed health warning labels on waterpipe tobacco packages. Accepted for presentation at the 2018 SRNT Annual Meeting, Baltmore, MD.

Leak, C.L., Harmon, B.E., Berg, B.K., Thurston, I.B., Nigg, C.R., Hayman, L.L., & Relyea, G. Influence on Children's BMI and Cooking Self-Efficacy in Latino Families (2017). Poster presentation at The Obesity Society 35th Annual Scientific Meeting, Washington, D.C.

Ogg, S.A. and Suns, C.C. (2017). Staging Liaisons: Developing Volunteer Leaders within the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps (OKMRC). Presented at the National Association of City-County Health Officials (NACCHO)'s Public Health Preparedness Summit held on April 25th to 28th, 2017, Atlanta, GA.

Schmidt, M., Kedia, S., Jackson, B., Pirkey, P., Dillon, P. Exploring initiation of methamphetamine use in an online support community: Applicability of the Theory of Planned Behavior—Poster Session, American Public Health Association, 2017.

Strayhorn, S., Cothran, F. (2017). Exploring the Experiences of Seeking Educational Information among African American Dementia Family Caregivers. Presentation to the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues (SAAPHI) preconference of the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo, Atlanta, GA.

PHSA October Newsletter

phsa newsletter october 2017

To open in a separate window, click here!

MPH Alumnus Recognized for Efforts in Winning National Award for Shelby County School

Kyle Kuusisto (MPH, 2011), Physical Activity Specialist at Shelby County Schools' STEAM Academy led the school's efforts to be recognized with the Gold Award from the Alliance For A Healthier Generation. His school was one of only ten schools nationally to receive the Gold distinction! Details may be found here.

For more information on Kyle's work, check out the blog here.

MPH Alumnae Recognized at Tennessee Public Health Association for Top Poster

Obrenka Thompson (MPH, 2017), a Health Equity Fellow at the Metro/Nashville Public Health Department, was recognized as the first author of one of the top five posters at the Tennessee Public Health Association annual meeting. Ms. Thompson's poster was titled, "Wise Moves and Health Equity: Evaluating and Identifying Barriers to a Workplace Wellness Program using a Qualitative approach." Ms. Thompson is pictured third from left in the photo.

obrenka thomspon alumni

Why Attend an Accredited School of Public Health?

There are many reasons to choose a school that is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).  First and foremost, accreditation ensures that the school meets the most rigorous standards for academic programs in public health and that the curriculum incorporates the essential skills and knowledge needed by today's public health professionals.  For prospective students considering a graduate degree in public health, please click here to see CEPH's FAQs for Students.

Student Town Hall Meetings

Dr. Levy conducts Town Hall meetings each semester with students in the School of Public Health to obtain feedback on improving the student experience.

The Town Hall meeting this semester will be held on Thursday October 5, 2017 from 4-5 pm in Robison Hall, Room 217.

Feel free to come by to share your views or just say hello!

What Students Are Saying

Students Adam Alexander, Asos Mahmood, and Nikko Carlson share their thoughts on obtaining a graduate degree at the University of Memphis School of Public Health:

Adam Alexander             Asos Mahmood             Nikko Carlson



J BellJessica Bell (MPH candidate): "I chose the University of Memphis' School of Public Health because I knew I would get the strong educational foundation needed to pursue my career in Epidemiology. Having graduated from the University of Memphis with my undergraduate degree in Biology, I had full confidence that the faculty and staff of the School of Public Health would ensure I gained an enhanced insight to my future career."


Shukura UmiShukura Umi (MPH candidate): "UOM, SPH has been such a delightful, supportive choice for graduate school. I chose public health S.U.because I have a responsibility to make this world better, and public health is a compassionate field that has everyone in mind. I knew Memphis would be a terrific spot for me when I learned how modern the city is including Bikram Yoga studios, great weather and a plethora of healthy vegan choices!"  

ajAndrea Jacobo (MPH candidate): "I've always had a passion for community health. Through the Population Health Certificate, now the MPH program, my passion grew even more for public health. The program gives you the tools and confidence to be a leader in the field and make a difference."


RachelRachel Barenie (JD/MPH candidate): "Pursuing a Master's in Public Health in tandem with a law degree brings my education full circle, better equipping me to serve the needs of my community and society as a whole. The JD/MPH program presents the ultimate opportunity to emerge as a leader and forge better health care access, quality, and treatment upon graduation."



NathalieNathalie Occean (MHA candidate): "I'm so grateful to be a part of this amazing program to begin with and for all of the opportunities you've presented me and my classmates with. This is hands down the most amazing group of faculty and staff I have ever encountered."


Student Associations

SPH student associations facilitate communication and cohesiveness among students and with faculty, provide opportunities for academic and professional growth through collaboration with community organizations and volunteer events, and organize campus events that promote public health. Both the MHA Student Association and the Public Health Student Association are also great resources for students who are new to the university or the Memphis area, fostering connection and involvement.

MHA Student Association

It is an exciting time to be a part of the Master of Healthcare Administration Student Association (MHASA), seeing as our MHA program has been ranked 48th by U.S. News and World Report. We jumped 16 spots between 2011 and 2015, and will continue to rise.

The objectives of the MHASA are: (1) to promote an environment conducive to educational and ethical development of professional, personal, and social skills in a manner that will produce effective leaders in healthcare, (2) to provide a vehicle for constructive student involvement, recognition, and representation in the profession of healthcare administration, (3) To develop an association with local and regional healthcare executive groups to enhance academic and career opportunities, (4) To inform members, potential members, and others in the community of the purposes of the College; its goals, programs, and benefits, (5) to provide students, faculty, and practitioners a forum for professional interaction and dialogue concerning issues in healthcare administration, and (6) to contribute to the quality of the CAHME accredited MHA program at the University of Memphis.

Public Health Student Association

The Public Health Student Association (PHSA) strives to create a strong and enduring foundation for future public health leaders.

The PHSA mission is to (1) promote awareness of career and academic issues related to the field of public health by serving as a voice to the faculty and administration, (2) support all public health students at UofM academically, professionally, and socially, (3) organize health-related volunteer activities within the community, (4) collaborate with health organizations agencies, and associations regarding public health programming activities, (5) encourage students to actively pursue educational and professional development, and (6) host regular social events for public health students to foster positive interactions among students, faculty and staff.

The objectives of the PHSA are to: (1) foster a rewarding graduate school experience for its members, (2) develop a sense of community among all students and staff in the School of Public Health, (3) provide members with resources that will enhance their professional careers, (3) coordinate communication among student organizations in the School of Public Health, (4) expand opportunities for student professional development, (5) facilitate student dialogue with local, state, and national organizations, (6) promote research opportunities through collaborative public health approaches to disease prevention and health promotion, and (7) foster communication among students, SPH faculty, staff, and administration. For more information, contact Andrea Jacobo at ajacobo@uthsc.edu or visit our website.

phsa officers

2017 PHSA Officers

Andrea Jacobo, President
Morgan Bromley, Secretary
Danielle Ivy, Treasurer/Public Relations
Emmanuel Spence, Public Relations Coordinator

Alumni Spotlight

Nada Kordab, MPH, DDS - Dentist, Access Dental

"I had an amazing experience during my Master's in Public Health! I was surrounded by great faculty who have a passion to teach at the University of Memphis."

alumni kordab


Ginger Carney, MPH, RDN, LDN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA (Fellow, International Lactation Consultant Association), FAND (Fellow, Academy of Nutrition and Dietics), Director Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

 "Obtaining my master's degree from the University of Memphis School of Public Health has allowed me to move forward in my career with an enhanced understanding of how I can help to improve the quality of services I am able to offer at my institution as well as how I can better contribute as a healthcare professional in the Memphis community. Through my affiliation with the SPH, I have made contacts for future networking and professional growth, and have enjoyed developing wonderful relationships with faculty, classmates, and others at the university. My experience has definitely been a positive one and something I would encourage for those who may be considering an advanced degree in the versatile field of public health!"

alumni carney


Leah Reish, MPH - ASPPH / NHTSA Public Health Fellow

"I am an ASPPH/NHTSA Public Health Fellow. My employer is the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), but the fellowship is located at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington, DC. I am in the Impaired Driving Division where I am delegated assignments by my mentor while working on my own projects that revolve around alcohol- or drug-impaired driving. The Master of Public Health program at the University of Memphis gave me epidemiology, program management, and other competencies to face real-life public health issues like traffic safety. I am grateful to be a small part of this essential public health topic and thank the Memphis School of Public Health for equipping me to face the challenges of making our modes of transportation safer."

leah reish alumni


Brian J. McKinnon, MD, MBA, MPH, FCPP, FACS, Associate Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Otolaryngology, Associate Professor, Department of Neurosurgery, Drexel University College of Medicine

"In the last year have initiated a number of clinical research studies since arriving, looking at a range of topic in otology, laryngology, and pediatric otolaryngology. I had a very good learning experience in the program, and would strongly encourage those interested in pursuing an MPH to consider doing so at University of Memphis. I certainly can say I began using the skills learned during the time even before I completed the degree."

brian mckinnon alumni


Marshall Varnum II, MPH - Associate Chemist, Alion Science and Technology, Inc. / ESAT Contractor, USEPA Region IV/SESD 

"I am responsible for planning and carrying out PM 2.5 and other Criteria Air Pollutant Audits around the whole South East as a contractor for the EPA. The SPH was simply a life altering experience. It was tough but very rewarding. It gave me a chance to Network with people who in turn helped me get into the Career I have today. It is without a doubt and 100 percent certainty that I would not be where I am today if not for Dr. Levy and the SPH Family!!!"

marshall varnum II alumni


justin hendrix


Justin Hendrix (MPH 2013) is a medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Stephanie Grimes

Cheyenne Medlock (MPH, 2016) has accepted a full-time position at Le Bonheur Community Health and Well-Being as the Outreach Coordinator for Be Proud! Be Responsible! Memphis! Having worked with the Shelby County Health Department since graduation, Ms. Medlock writes, "This success is very much due to the phenomenal education I got during my MPH."

Stephanie GrimesStephanie Grimes (MPH 2016; entered medical school in August, 2016): "Getting my Master's in Public Health a the University of Memphis allowed me to learn the human side of health and health behaviors, which will help me to be a better physician in serving my patients. The MPH program was the key for me to gain a full scholarship to medical school."


Chris Matthews

Chris Mathews (Dual MSW/MPH degree, 2016): "After taking Epidemiology and Biostatistics, I developed a strong foundation in research methodology that I can apply to Social Work. Another benefit is that public health approaches issues from a macro-level, allowing me to work on policy issues."


Chigozie EmetaromChigozie Emetarom, MPH (2010) is a medical student at Central Michigan University and currently serves as Vice President of the Student National Medical Association CMED Chapter.  She will assume the Presidency for the chapter next academic year.  Additionally, Ms. Emetarom reports that she was recently accepted into the Clinical and Translational Research program at Harvard this summer and is one of only six candidates


Stephanie GrimesChee Lam, MPH (2012) After completing a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) in August 2015, Mr. Lam has been hired as a Public Health Advisor with the CDC Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, and is currently assigned to work in New York City. During his fellowship, Mr. Lam participated in CDC's Ebola response. He was initially detailed to CDC headquarters for approximately three months, and then spent a month in Liberia during the re-emergence of the outbreak there in July.

Stephanie Grimes

Caroline Hamilton, MPH (2015) Ms. Hamilton is currently working for the Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare System in the Primary Care Group in a managerial role. A 2008 graduate of Lambuth University, she looks forward to utilizing the experience and education gained through the MPH program to aid in creating the ideal patient experience through the delivery of affordable and accessible care. She is currently working with a Methodist initiative of the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Patient-Centered Medical Home, to ensure that the primary care group emphasizes care coordination and communication to make the experience "what the patient wants it to be." Medical homes can lead to higher quality and lower costs, and can improve both patient and provider experience of care.

Obrenka Thompson

Obrenka Thompson (MPH, 2017) was awarded a Health Equity Fellowship with the Office of Minority Health as part of the Youth Health Equity Model of Practice (YHEMOP). This program supports the future design, implementation, and evaluation of federal and public health workforce programs and policies, specifically as they relate to the engagement of emerging health professionals. Ms. Thompson has been placed at the Metro Public Health Department in Nashville, TN and will be completing a department-wide Health Equity Assessment related to a Health in All Policies approach that benefits the community.

Rob Meister, MPH (2011) Mr. Meister is currently employed as a statistician with Integrity Management Services, LLC in Alexandria, Virginia. His responsibilities include helping detect Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Rob credits Professor George Relyea with providing him the requisite skills for this position. "Professor Relyea's course in large data sets, employing sampling techniques, was the key that got me in the door."

Spring 2017 Graduate Highlights

LeahLeah Reish (MPH 2017) has been accepted to the 2017 ASPPH/NHTSA Public Health Fellowship Program. She will work as a fellow under experienced professionals in the Impaired Driving Division based at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offices in Washington, D.C. The skills and knowledge she acquired through the MPH program at the University of Memphis will enable her to succeed in her daily tasks while gaining experience at the federal level.  

ramie updatedRamelle Mansberg (MPH 2017) will be entering medical school this July at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.




obrenkaObrenka Thompson (MPH 2017) will be relocating to Nashville at the end of the May to begin a Health Equity Fellowship through the Office of Minority Health and the Metro Nashville Public Health Department.


lisa wangLisa Wang (MPH 2017) will be pursuing a doctoral degree at NYU in the College of Global Health at New York University.




Elizabeth Booker Houston (JD/MPH 2017) will receive her MPH this August and has accepted a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 



Annual SPH Interdisciplinary Case Competition

The Annual School of Public Health Interdisciplinary Case Competition (SPHICC) invites graduate students from all academic programs across the university to work with a team to improve the health of a local neighborhood by proposing community-based programs and projects. SPHICC uses the BUILD Health Challenge framework to guide the student teams through the case competition to develop solutions that are Bold, Upstream, Innovative, Local and Data driven. After several months of preparation, students present their solutions to a panel of community judges. First, second, and third place teams receive small monetary prizes. The Fourth Annual SPHICC will involve students engaging with the local neighborhood both to assess problems before developing their solutions and to receive input on the development of their solutions from the members of the neighborhood.  For more information about the SPHICC, please click here!

Doctoral Research in Progress

School-wide informal seminars/brown bag lunches are held monthly for doctoral students to present their research/work in progress. These student-coordinated, student-led sessions are held the first Friday of each month from noon- 1 pm in Robison Hall, Room 217. The topic/format rotates among the doctoral programs. The schedule is as follows: 

Fri.,Sept. 2: Epidemiology (coordinated by Yu-Sheng Lee)
Fri., Oct. 7: Health Systems and Policy (coordinated by Hyunmin Kim)
Fri., Nov. 4: Social and Behavioral Science (coordinated by Shaila Strayhorn)

Doctoral Students' Studies Published

jay kumar

Dr. Jayaprakash Kumar, a current doctoral student in Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Dr. Andy Collins, an alumna of that program, both led studies that were published last week. Dr. Kumar published a systematic review of oral health status among Indian prisoners in Saudi Journal of Oral and Dental Health, and Dr. Collins published her dissertation on bone accrual in youth swimmers and controls in Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. Dr. Kumar's study can be accessed here, and Dr. Collins study can be accessed here.

Doctoral Student Receives Travel Scholarship

Adam Alexander, a doctoral student in Social and Behavioral Sciences, was recently awarded the 2016 Health Disparities Network Travel Scholarship from the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco to attend their national conference in Chicago, Illinois. This award supports researchers who are conducting tobacco research with minority and underserved populations. Adam presented his poster titled, "Diet and physical activity differences between waterpipe smokers and non-smokers in Aleppo, Syria" at the conference.

MPH Student Named to Memphis 20<30

MPH student Eddie Wiley was recently featured in a Memphis Flyer article as one of the 20 people under 30 making a difference in the Memphis area.  Click here for the story.

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