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Featured Students and Alumni

950 Awards Honor Outstanding Alumni

Milken Institute SPH’s annual 950 Awards honor alumni who have made significant impacts in the field of public health and who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the school’s community. Dean Goldman presented four outstanding alumni with 950 Awards in a special reception during Colonials Weekend in October.

Sonia Nath, JD, MPH ’06

Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement , U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Sonia Nath earned her MPH in health policy concurrently with her JD from the George Washington University Law School, committing her career to law and public health. Nath is generous with her time, actively mentoring students in a program held at the FDA each summer, as well as serving as an online mentor.

Deneen Richmond, MHA ’92

Vice President, Population Health & Clinical Improvement, Anne Arundel Medical Center
Deneen Richmond earned her MHA from Milken Institute SPH while working full-time as a nurse at GW Hospital—the same hospital where she was born—and caring for patients with HIV/AIDS at a time when little information existed regarding the disease. In addition to her responsibilities at Anne Arundel Medical Center, Richmond teaches in the school’s MHA@GW program, coaches MHA students and recent alumni, and stays involved through MHA alumni events.

Nisha Sachdev, MPH ’06, DrPh ’12, MPsy ’14, PsyD ’16

Director of School Mental Health, Bainum Family Foundation
Nisha Sachdev holds an impressive four degrees from GW, but even more impressive is Nisha’s dedication to the youth of DC. She has developed and led countless initiatives and programs across DC to improve the social, emotional and behavioral wellness of youth. As Director of School Mental Health at the Bainum Family Foundation, Sachdev works to holistically improve wellness for children and families in DC.

Joseph L. Wright, MPH ’94

Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, University of Maryland Capital Region Health
Joseph Wright has not only used his career to make trailblazing efforts to improve health outcomes in the District of Columbia, but he has also leveraged his experience and leadership roles to make significant contributions to the health care landscape regionally and nationally. Wright’s contributions to Milken Institute SPH as an alumnus include serving as an inaugural member of GW chapter of the public health honors society, Delta Omega, and serving as a member of the External Advisory Group of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness.

Outstanding Faculty Recognition

In honor of her 25 years of service to the school, Caroline Sparks, associate professor emerita for prevention and community health, was also presented with the Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award at last year’s Colonials Weekend celebration.

Caroline Sparks, PhD, MA

Professor Emerita, Prevention and Community Health
A licensed psychologist with expertise in behavioral health and adolescent psychology, Sparks taught graduate-level courses in program design and evaluation, behavior change, and public health advocacy. In both her teaching and research, Sparks promoted the value of community-level interventions to address public health challenges. For 25 years, Sparks academically challenged and trained Milken Institute SPH students in what many described as some of their most challenging yet rewarding classes. She retired in December 2018.

Students Band Together to Support One Another’s Professional Growth

In January, the Public Health Student Association identified an urgent need for additional funding to the Capital Connection Fund (CCF).

This fund provides financial assistance to Milken Institute SPH students so they can access transformative opportunities—practicums, internships, conferences and other professional development—that would otherwise be unaffordable. Upon learning that the funding requested by students last year far exceeded the resources available through CCF, the Public Health Student Association banded together to raise money to support their peers.

In collaboration with the school’s development team, the Public Health Student Association lead the “I Heart GW Public Health” student fundraiser, asking their peers to make a sustaining annual gift to support CCF. Student volunteers staffed a table in the school’s lobby decorated with hearts and a poster that asked, “Why do you <3 GWSPH?” The student volunteers explained to those who stopped by the table that with a sustaining gift of less than $1 per month, the student body could join together to make a real impact on the amount of grant assistance available to peers.

The “I Heart GW Public Health” student fundraiser successfully engaged 54 donors and raised a total of $2,287 for the CCF as well as other school causes.

Last year, the school was able to grant 15 students with funding to cover their professional development costs. Uses of the grants included subsidized airfare to Guatemala to work in a rural health clinic and to Vietnam to intern with Population Services International. Grant money also covered a conference registration fee, allowing a student to present on LGBTQ health equity.

Alumna Shares Passion for Public Health With Current Students

Keri Apostle, MPH ’10, first caught “Potomac fever” when she interned at the White House her junior year of college. After she graduated with bachelor’s degrees in biology and political science from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, she couldn’t shake the pull of the DC region.

When she started looking at master’s programs in epidemiology, she says, “Milken Institute SPH was my top choice because the school had a rigorous Department of Epidemiology and was well positioned to provide me with world-class experiences since it’s in the heart of the nation’s capital.” Apostle’s experience as a student at Milken Institute SPH was shaped by professors who she says “went above and beyond to provide real-life problems and showed me how to use public health principles to tackle these problems.”

Graduation wasn’t the end of Apostle’s story at Milken Institute SPH. Over the past eight years, she has taught hundreds of students in intro epidemiology and biostatistics classes as an adjunct faculty member. “I like public health because it is multidisciplinary and applies disciplines from math, science and social sciences to solve serious health problems at the population level,” she says. “I find that it is a powerful way to make an impact in the world. I’m proud to teach epidemiology and biostatistics to others and, hopefully, inspire my students as they navigate their own career paths and make their own impact in the world.”

Beyond teaching students, Apostle has become a vital resource to recent alumni as an inaugural member of the Recent Alumni Advisory Council, whose purpose is to enhance the alumni experience for current and future alumni of the school. “The best thing about volunteering with the Recent Alumni Advisory Council is meeting others from Milken Institute SPH, sharing my experiences, and learning from others,” she says. “We all have something to teach each other, and spending time developing these relationships allows us to grow together.”

Apostle serves as deputy director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, leading a team that is using data to respond to the opioid epidemic through prevention and treatment efforts.

Alumna Gives Back to International Student Community

I feel very equipped to address public health issues, and I believe as a result of its experiential learning format, I have become a better public health practitioner. —Gina Joseph

Gina Joseph, MPH ’18, graduated with a degree in health communications and marketing ready to accelerate her career focused on creating greater public health impact. After earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English at the University of the West Indies, Gina began working as a communications officer for the Trinidad North West Regional Health Authority, where her passion for public health began to grow as she worked on research projects focused on children suffering from health inequities. It was during a yearlong study abroad opportunity in the United States as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow that Gina started looking to merge her love of language, communication and health equity into an MPH.

As a student at Milken Institute SPH, Gina excelled academically but also made a mark on the school through her encouragement of programs and services that support international public health students.

Working with the Office of Student Affairs, Gina helped found the Global Health Network, which is comprised of international students and supporters with the goal of promoting academic success and professional impact for international students.

“In my perspective,” she says, “pursuing my education at Milken Institute SPH was the best decision I made. I feel very equipped to address public health issues, and I believe as a result of its experiential learning format, I have become a better public health practitioner.”

After graduation, Gina started working as an intern at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). She now serves as a marketing and publications consultant for PAHO and continues to give back to Milken Institute SPH and invest in the public health community through volunteering, mentoring current international students, and donating to support her department.
“I had a very positive and transformative experience, personally and professionally,” Joseph says. “I love giving back to the school because of the impact it continues to have on my life.”

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