College celebrates 12th graduating class - the Class of 2017

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May 5, 2017

In a ballroom of the Classic Center in downtown Athens, Ga., the University of Georgia College of Public Health honored the 232 students receiving degrees in 2017. The degrees awarded May 5 at the College’s 12th annual Graduation Celebration included: 17 Doctors of Philosophy, seven Doctors of Public Health, 72 Masters of Public Health, one Master of Science, and 135 Bachelors of Science. Graduates this year represented 23 U.S. states and seven countries.

“We are pleased that these students have come to our college of public health to prepare for careers that will improve the lives of individuals throughout the world,” said Dr. Phillip Williams, dean of the College.

Alan Hinman, MD, MPH, senior advisor to the Center for Vaccine Equity, a program of the Task Force for Global Health, delivered the commencement address.

Since 1965, Dr. Hinman has been involved in public health programs at state, national, and international levels. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he served as Director of the Immunization Division (1977-1988) and the National Center for Prevention Services (1988-1995). He Hinman retired from the U.S. Public Health Service in 1996, with the rank of Assistant Surgeon General, before joining the Task Force for Global Health. Dr. Hinman is also an Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 publications, and served on the Executive Board of the American Public Health Association and the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as chair of a WHO Advisory Committee.

“You’ve got to be an optimist in be in public health. You’ve got to believe that things can get better and that you can help them get better,” Dr. Hinman told graduates.

Being collaborative, resilient, flexible, and in possession of a good sense of humor were also among personal characteristics Dr. Hinman identified for a successful career in public health.

“We often in public health don’t work in direct contact with those we serve, so it is important that we are always able to see the face behind the figures that we deal with,” he added.

Dual degree student Adrianne Smith spoke on behalf of the College’s graduating class. At the College of Public Health, Smith earned both a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health and Master of Public Health with a concentration in Environmental Health. Under the mentorship of environmental health science faculty member Dr. Xiaozhong "John" Yu, she investigated how pesticides in the environment may be playing a larger role in the rising obesity epidemic. In Fall 2017, she begins the Doctor of Medicine degree program at Mercer University School of Medicine.

“The Class of 2017 will go on to be doctors, nurses, health educators, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, environmental health scientists, social workers and policy makers,” Smith said. “We can take what we’ve learned and the sense of community with us. We can still find our people. The people who like all of us care about a healthier population and even if in a small way want to make the world a better place.”

Photos are available on the UGA College of Public Health Facebook page. Videos of the event are available at the links below:

This Spring semester, the College also praised the achievements of 39 top students, four outstanding faculty members, seven exceptional alumni, two inspiring preceptors, and a dedicated national advocate for public health. Read more about this year's UGA College of Public Health honors and awards.