Maternal and Child Health

MCH Leadership Scholars, 2015-2016


Maryouri Avendano

MPH Candidate, Epidemiology and Maternal and Child Health

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ronee Wilson
Community Mentor: Amy Haile (Champions for Children)

My passion for public health came from taking the introductory course in public health during my sophomore year. Through this initial course, I began to understand the true meaning of public health. During my senior year, I worked as a research assistant with Dr. Sultan on several projects that focused on health disparities.

Based upon my experiences in undergraduate and graduate school, I became interested in health disparities, particularly in infant mortality and reproductive health in Hispanic women. This past summer I completed my field experience as a GSEP intern at the Division of Public Health in Alaska. My field experience consisted of evaluating two programs that are currently addressing sleep related infant deaths. The internship further stimulated my interest in the importance of implementing programs that are effectively targeting populations at risk.

Through my training as a GSEP intern and MCH scholar, I envision myself as an MCH Epidemiologist in hopes of using my analytical skills to identify and protect the most vulnerable populations.


Shana Geary

MPH Candidate, Epidemiology and Maternal and Child Health

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Marshall
Community Mentor: Leslene Gordon (Health Department)

I have always been a caring and compassionate person who has been dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of others. I knew early on that I wanted to work with mothers and their babies. By addressing health issues that affect MCH populations, a greater impact can be made that can create positive change across the life course and health of future generations.

My specific focus area is within MCH Epidemiology. I am particularly interested in disease and mortality surveillance. I have always had an interest in health disparities, infant mortality specifically, and how surveillance data can be utilized in addressing infant mortality and related issues. I am also interested in preconception health and women’s health, particularly reproductive health.

Recently, I completed the Graduate Student Epidemiology Program where I was placed to work at the Mississippi State Department of Health. We evaluated the true number of infant deaths with unsafe sleep risk factors that occurred in the state in 2013 through linked birth and death certificates as well as coroner and medical examiner reports.

I am currently working on a manuscript and poster presentation that evaluates the return on investment of the Office of Research’s internal funding program as well as maintaining a blog on the office’s webpage that provides targeted research opportunities to faculty.

I hold two executive board positions for the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization, Recruitment Chair and Webmaster. I was also selected as an APHA Student Association Campus Liaison, responsible for sharing information with the student body gained at the APHA annual meeting and holding campus events to provide information to fellow students. I was previously on the executive board of the Preconception Peer Educators, where I was in charge of organizing community volunteer opportunities for members.

After graduation, I plan to work within a health department as an MCH Epidemiologist, and eventually want to pursue a Doctorate in Public Health.


Nanah Fofanah

MPH Candidate, Maternal and Child Health

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ellen Daley
Community Mentor: Laura Hamilton (Bridging Freedom)

I chose to focus on MCH with special attention to women’s health because of my passion and ability to provide empowerment resources to individuals and communities. In 2013 I visited my country of birth, Sierra Leone where I witnessed women suffering from maternal health related issues and children dying from treatable illness. These experiences and my education inspired me to pursue a career dedicated to serving women and children with a focus on reproductive health, human rights, gender equality, as well as the policies and social determinants that impact their health.

I am currently working as a Peer Health Educator and Coordinator at the USF Student Health Clinic as part of a project with Dr. Ellen Daley. In this role, I provide patients with adequate information regarding their sexual health, contraceptive options and general health. My research interest is in women’s health issues including human rights, health literacy, reproductive health, and health disparities.

I am the President of the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization at USF. As the President, my mission is to work with my team and other student organizations to continue to raise awareness about Maternal and Child Health among the student body and the community.

My short-term career goal is to work as a MCH professional providing resources and services through program implementation and community involvement. In the next few years, my long term goal is to work in developing countries addressing issues impeding the health and success of women. I plan to work alongside other professions and organizations that are working to improve the lives of women and children on varying MCH topics.


Stacey Griner

PhD Student, Public Health

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Puccio
Community Mentor: Kathleen Kempke (Crisis Center)

Ultimately, my goal is to advance the health of Florida’s women and families. Focusing on MCH provides me with leadership skills and knowledge that will enable me to serve as a leader on research projects that aim to improve comprehensive sexuality education, reduce violence in relationships and families, and influence Florida policies that threaten family planning initiatives. I have a strong commitment to women’s health issues, translational research, and maintaining relationships with community partners and advocates.

For the past year, I have served as the co-chair of the Community and Family Health Doctoral Advisory Committee and have coordinated a professional development series of seminars based on the feedback and needs of doctoral students. I am currently a student representative for the USF Title IX Committee, which reports directly to the President of USF. Additionally, I am a coordinator of the peer health educator program in USF’s Student Health Clinic.

Currently, I am working for the Center for Transdisciplinary Research on Women’s Health on two oral health related projects. One focuses on exploring factors that influence oral health providers’ on HPV-related health literacy and the second focuses on developing an e-Health app for prenatal providers to use with their pregnant patients to discuss oral-systemic health. Both of these projects utilize my previous clinical experience as a dental hygienist. Additionally, the Center has recently trained and introduced sexual and reproductive health educators into the Student Health Clinic on campus. While serving as a health educator in the clinic, I was selected to develop and lead the training program for incoming health educators. This project also includes research to develop an app that will assist health educators in improving sexual and reproductive health literacy among college students.

As a doctoral student, my research interests are reproductive health, violence prevention, social determinants of health, health equity, policy, and advocacy, all of which directly influence the health of women and families.

As an MCH professional, my career goal is to become a mentor to others, positively influence others through leadership, and advance the health of Florida’s women and families through MCH focused research, advocacy, and translation of research into practice.


Nathanael Stanley

DrPH Student, Maternal and Child Health

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Russell Kirby
Community Mentor: Gwen Quinn (Moffitt Cancer Center)

I chose MCH as a focus because of the interest I have in genetics and human development. My research interests are in human biological diversity, genetics, bioethics, social constructions of identity, and community-based participatory research. I am currently working on a project with a focus on the social and biological dynamics of assisted reproductive technology and infertility with couples and individuals in the United States. This research is qualitative and quantitative, consisting of surveys and one-on-one interviews with individuals who made, or are about to make, the decision to conceive a child through assisted reproductive technology. I am also continuing research on the aspects of local social development and social empowerment through community-based ecotourism.

I am a Co-President for the International Health Service Collaborative, which is an interdisciplinary student health organization consisting of graduate students from Public Health, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, and Nursing at USF. We organize medical service trips in Panama over spring break.

One aspiration I have is to found a family practice system to increase the accessibility of basic health needs for child development in the United States. I chose the DrPH program and the MCH Leadership Training Program because I want to be a leader in the field of Public Health. Be it through research, policy, or program development, I want to create new ways to produce and communicate public health initiatives that increase the quality of life not only for the present human population, but also for future generations.


Past Scholars