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Oregon Master of Public Health Program

Oregon MPH Outstanding Student Awards


Congratulations to the 2013 OMPH Student Excellence Award winners!

Nathaniel Warren- Excellence in Service

Paige Hatcher- Excellence in Leadership

Robin Richardson- Excellence in Research

We also congratulate the fantastic pool of nominees including: Emily Gaige and Barbara Nicholas (Excellence in Service); Lauren Ogden and Brendan Darsie (Excellence in Research); and Wren Keturi (Excellence in Leadership). 

Past OMPH Outstanding Student Award Winners

Please join us in congratulating the previous OMPH Program Outstanding Student Award winners!


Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Research
Andres Cardenas
Biostatistics Track, Oregon State University

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Andres Cardenas for his excellence in research.  

Mr. Cardenas received a B.S. in Biochemistry and Biophysics in 2010 at Oregon State University. He is completing his second year in the Biostatics Track of the MPH program at Oregon State University and has been admitted to the Ph.D. program at Oregon State University in Environment, Safety and Health.

In 2010, Mr. Cardenas was hired as a graduate research assistant for Oregon State University’s Superfund Research Program (SRP). Under the leadership of Dr. Anna Harding, he worked on designing, planning, and the execution of environmental sampling for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in traditionally smoked food. Mr. Cardenas is listed as a co-author for the finished work, which is under review for the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry.

Mr. Cardenas continues to collaborate with SRP, studying environmental exposures to PAHs by working on statistical analysis using cross-sectional survey data from NHANES III. This study addresses the relationship between two major naphthalene biomarkers and their association with hemoglobin and hematocrit in the U.S. population. A poster presentation was submitted in 2012 to the American Public Health Association. A publication of the findings is being prepared for submission to The Journal of Medical Toxicology, with Mr. Cardenas listed as a co-author.

Mr. Cardenas received a full graduate research assistantship working for Dr. Adam Branscum, performing an analysis to evaluate the prognostic value of the soluble oncoprotein (sHER-2) in lung cancer patients. The work was presented at the OMPH student symposium in 2011 (receiving the Best Poster Award) and at the Oregon Public Health Association meeting in 2011 (where it received the Outstanding Poster award). A report is being prepared for submission to the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarker & Prevention. Mr. Cardenas is the leading author and is responsible for all of the statistical analysis.

Mr. Cardenas also collaborated with scientists at the Yale School of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Branscum, evaluating the prognostic value of two biomarkers in a cohort of ovarian cancer patients. Those findings were presented at this year’s OMPH symposium, and was also submitted to the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

In 2011, Mr. Cardenas completed an internship at the Center for Health Research and Quality of Samaritan Health Services. He served as a statistical consultant to assist with data analysis and study design. He analyzed data on a tobacco free campus evaluation and worked on a childhood obesity prevention initiative. Mr. Cardenas still works for Good Samaritan as a statistical consultant on early detection breast and cervical cancer and with an automated model to identify at risk heart failure patients. 

Please join us in congratulating him! 

Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Service
Rebecca X. Casanova
Health Promotion Track/MSW Dual Degree, Portland State University 

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Rebecca X. Casanova for her excellence in service. 

Ms. Casanova has consistently been a strong and available resource for many prospective, new and ongoing students in the program.  

Ms. Casanova received her B.S. summa cum laude in Community Health Education from Portland State University in 2009 and was selected as a Ronald E McNair Scholar along with 24 other undergraduates. Ms. Casanova was granted the PSU Laurels Graduate Tuition Remission Award for both the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years for her excellent academic achievements. She is expected to graduate in June of 2013 from the dual degree MPH-HP/MSW program with a Master of Public Health in the Health Promotion and a Master of Social Work.

Starting as an undergraduate, Ms. Casanova has contributed to the School of Community Health (SCH) by serving on the SCH’s undergraduate advisory board, working with faculty and students to improve the overall experience of undergraduates by planning a variety of service projects. Since 2010, Ms. Casanova has also served as an academic advisor for undergraduate health studies students, helping to mentor and tutor other students. Since starting graduate school in 2009, Ms. Casanova has additionally worked as a Teaching Assistant in Undergraduate Epidemiology.

Ms. Casanova currently works as an MSW student intern with the PSU Regional Research Institute’s Trauma-Informed Care and Recovery Services Project, where she works with mothers who have experienced trauma. From 2007-2009 she worked as a program coordinator at the School of Community Health’s Institute on Aging. This position led her to expand her service leadership by contributing to the Senior Adult Learning Center and the Oregon Gerontology Education Center, helping to advise older adults on lifelong learning opportunities available at PSU. In addition, Ms. Casanova took an active role in the Jesse F. Richardson Foundation to help strengthen their service-learning program, which aims to help improve the lives of older adults in Nicaragua.

Ms. Casanova has also served on a multitude of different academic and professional committees. She is a member of the SCH’s Committee on Retention, Academics, and Student Success to help improve undergraduate health studies. She was the graduated student representative on three SCH tenure-track faculty search committees and was involved with the SCH Faculty Pay, Promotion, and Tenure Committee.

Ms. Casanova served as a reviewer for the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in 2010, 2011 and 2012 for submitted epidemiology section abstracts. She was also a part of the committee as a concept paper reviewer for Oregon Volunteer’s AmeriCorps grants in 2011.

Please join us in congratulating her!

Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Leadership
Aisling Fernandez
Epidemiology & Biostatistics Track, Oregon Health & Science University

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Aisling Fernandez for her excellence in leadership. During her time in the program, Ms. Fernandez has clearly shown herself to be a leader among students in the OMPH program.

Ms. Fernandez received her B.S. in Microbiology at the University of Maryland in 2008. She is expected to graduate with a Masters in Public Health from Oregon Health and Science University in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics track in the summer of 2012.

In academic year 2010- 2011, Ms. Fernandez took on the role of First Year Student Representative and assisted in planning the OMPH Student Symposium by reviewing abstracts. She has since then helped to recruit nine other student representatives for the program.

In academic year 2011- 2012, Ms. Fernandez transitioned to Second Year Student Representative. As a Second Year Student Representative, Ms. Fernandez initiated quarterly Student Advising Meetings for the Epidemiology and Biostatistics track to create an increase in student and faculty communication. She is currently devising a plan called the “Buddy System” to help match up second-year and first-year students as well as alumni and second-year students for mentoring purposes. This system helps to increase communication and provide students opportunities to learn from their mentors that are a part of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program.

Ms. Fernandez has served as the student planner for the OHSU Public Health Seminar Series and has organized monthly outings to facilitate the socialization and networking of students and faculty. Ms. Fernandez is also a member of the OPHA Epidemiology and Biostatistics Section. Involvement with OPHA events helps Ms. Fernandez to facilitate communication and possible academic or professional opportunities between students, alumni, and professionals.

Ms. Fernandez’s leadership efforts led to the new student run communication platform, the “MPH Skybridge” online tool, which serves as a portal for students. The “MPH Skybridge” platform also provides graduate students and faculty the opportunity to support the new program in group advising and skill building workshops.

Other additional leadership abilities are shown in Ms. Fernandez’s community activities such as volunteering as a Tree Care Team Member for the Portland Fruit Tree Project, helping create a community garden with the group Home Community, and organizing blood drives for the Red Cross.

Please join us in congratulating her! 


Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Service
Torrie Bordokoff, Health Management & Policy Track, Portland State University

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Torrie Bordokoff for her excellence in service.  As a student in the OMPH program, Torrie has served as a first and second year student representative for the HMP track. In addition, Torrie served for two years as the chair for the networking committee and supported the student symposium. Torrie has consistently been a strong and available resource for many prospective, new and ongoing students in the program.  

Furthermore, Torrie has provided significant public health related service at PSU as a student member of the Sexual Assault Taskforce through the PSU Women’s Resource Center, a member of the search committee for Clinical Director in the PSU Center for Student Health and Counseling, and a presenter on sexual violence for both Public Health Week 2011 and Sexual Assault Awareness Month on campus.

Torrie has become active in the state policy arena around women’s health as program coordinator for joint PSU/OHSU Policy Advisory towards Health for Women program including presentations and testimony before the Oregon senate and the Oregons Women’s Health and Wellness Alliance 2011 legislative session press conference.

In addition, Torrie has worked as a research and evaluation analyst with the Multnomah County Department of Emergency Preparedness in the development and evaluation of local emergency response training materials. Torrie is also a long time volunteer for Planned Parenthood and has provided significant service to the Columbia-Willamette branch.

Torrie diligently fulfilled all of these responsibilities while maintaining a 3.86 GPA. Please join us in congratulating her!

Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Research
Nate AnsbaughEpidemiology & Biostatistics Track, Oregon Health & Science University

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Nathan Ansbaugh for his excellence in research.   As a student in the OMPH program, Nate completed a research thesis that is recognized for exceptional quality and relevance by his professors and his peers at both the local and national level.

His MPH thesis is titled Agent Orange as a risk factor for positive prostate biopsy. Nate’s work focuses on the impact of the Vietnam-era defoliate, Agent Orange, on prostate cancer incidence in men attending the Portland VA Medical Center. This is an exposure of particular interest to the veteran population and Nate recognized the potential to contribute to the existing body of literature regarding the impact of this compound of veterans’ health. In completing this project, Nate demonstrated competency in analytical skills and the ability to apply classroom learning to real life data analysis and interpretation of statistical results. Nate’s research revealed a significant increase in the incidence of high-grade prostate cancer in men exposed to Agent Orange. This is a very important results as no other environmental factor has been shown to increase this most lethal form of prostate cancer, and it has important implications for prostate cancer screening in the approximately 3 million men exposed to this chemical.

Nate did not only conduct this research, but he has also been diligent in disseminating the new knowledge that he uncovered. He has presented his work at several national conferences to a very positive reception, and he is preparing a manuscript for submission to a major journal. He even received journalistic notice for this project in Medscape Medical News following his presentation at the 2011 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.

His thesis advisors report that Nate never took the easy approach and would intentionally try to examine problems from a number of different angles to insure his work was of the highest quality. His dedication, initiative, and meticulous work set a fine example for other MPH students to follow.

In addition to his thesis research, Nate worked as the Epidemiology Graduate Level Teaching Assistant in the Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at OHSU. He also served as a 2nd year Student Representative for the Epidemiology and Biostatistics track of the OMPH program. While in this position he designed and organized a peer advising program for incoming students. Nate did all of this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in the program.

Nate has been accepted to medical school in the class of 2015. He will take a strong public health perspective and proven research ability into his future medical career. Please join us in congratulating him!

Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Research
Katharine RyanHealth Promotion Track, Portland State University

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Katharine Ryan for her excellence in research. Since spring 2010, Katharine has developed her research skills through several projects that address some of today’s most critical public health problems.

In the spring of 2010 Katharine began working with Dr. Sherril Gelmon of the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at PSU. She joined a team of faculty and student researchers who were contracted to conduct research and then write a series of policy papers for the Oregon Health Authority on various aspects of health information technology, with a particular focus on issues of specially protected populations (such as minors and foster children) and other policy domains. Katharine served as the lead researcher on two of the eight papers, which have since been published by OOPHR and PSU. One of her papers was also the basis for a poster presentation selected through competitive peer review for presentation at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting held in Seattle in June 2011.

Katharine has also served as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Gelmon for the evaluation of the national Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future (PIN) program. For this project she has assisted in the transcription and analysis of interviews with key project leaders, and she has taken the lead role in managing a web-based survey of partnership participants. She is a co-author of the related project reports of two manuscripts currently under development.

Since fall 2010 in her work with Dr. Betty Izumi of the PSU School of Community Health, Katharine has enthusiastically led a community-academic project to analyze focus group data on the role of childcare providers in preventing childhood obesity. As the lead author on a manuscript under development, Katharine took responsibility for data analyses and for writing a manuscript for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

In her work with the Oregon Public Health Institute Katharine has contributed to two different projects: Right from the Start: Assessing Child Care Settings in Multnomah County for Obesity Prevention and the PEAK (Physical Education for All Kids) Coalition. As a research intern, Katharine took the lead on analyzing focus group data for the Right from the Start program.

As a candidate for the MPH Program in the Health Promotions Track at PSU, Katharine currently has a 3.95 GPA. Through her excellent work as a student and her extensive involvement in research at both Portland State University and the Oregon Public Health Institute, Katherine is making immediate impacts in the Public Health field. She is well respected by students, faculty, and practicing professionals for her work.   Please join us in congratulating her!

Outstanding Student Award, Excellence in Leadership
Andy ThomasEpidemiology & Biostatistics Track, Oregon Health & Science University

The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Andrew Thomas for his excellence in leadership. In his two years in the program Andy has clearly shown himself to be a leader among students in the OMPH program.

He was elected the 1st Year Student Representative for the Epidemiology and Biostatistics track upon his arrival in September 2009. Andy took a very active approach to this role, quickly establishing student email lists and a Google group communication page. He has used these tools to document his work on behalf of OHSU students and to seek input and consensus to ensure that he is accurately representing the range of interests and opinions of students. He also founded the MPH Student’s Committee at OHSU.

One particularly substantive improvement to the student experience that Andy has championed, in collaboration with fellow student Nate Ansbaugh, is a new Group Advising structure at for students in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics track of the OMPH program. This new system combines faculty advising with 2nd year students as peer advisors for incoming MPH students. Reception of this new program has been very positive both for providing relevant and timely information to new students for also for providing feedback to improve instruction, web page content, the student handbook, and department administrative processes. Andy also initiated a student-led seminar series which is in its second year. Faculty and public health professionals are invited to this forum to present on issues relevant to students ranging from use of software packages to producing poster presentations and journal club discussions.

However he does not limit himself to the OHSU campus alone. Andy served as the 2010-2011 OHSU campus representative to the OMPH program. All of his student work was in addition to carrying out his duties as a paramedic, including organizing meetings and continuing education seminars in this realm of his activities as well. Finally, Andy has carried a 4.0 GPA throughout his MPH studies. Please join us in congratulating him! 


Outstanding Student Award, Reseach
Christina Dahlstrom, Health Promotion Track, Portland State University
The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Christina Dahlstrom for her excellence in research.   During her career as a student and professional in the public health field, Christina Dahlstrom has demonstrated a keen ability to understand research, and an appreciation of the importance of both qualitative and quantitative research.  Her contribution to research in the public health field has encompassed a variety of domains from translating evidence-based research findings for various audiences to formative research for a social marketing campaign. Her research has contributed to primary and tertiary prevention programs aimed toward health promotion and facilitating informed decision-making in health care. A common thread in her research experience has been the engagement of underrepresented populations in the research process.

She has worked as a research assistant for the AHRQ funded Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), as a research assistant for the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at OHSU, as a research coordinator with Behavior Works for Oregon Public Health Division’s Family Planning Project social marketing campaign, and currently as a graduate research assistant with an NIH-funded project, Bridges to Baccalaureate Program.

She has presented her findings at professional meetings including the Annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, OMPH student symposium, and the Society for Public Health Education among others.  She is also a co-author on two journal articles, and her field experience in prenatal care further supports her interest  in discovering new knowledge that advances public health.

In addition to her 4.0 GPA in the OMPH Program, Christina has established herself as a leader in the Bridges to Baccalaureate Program, in which she has served as a Graduate Research Assistant. Christina has demonstrated excellence in coordinating all aspects of the program and the research process to identify the most appropriate methods to retain underrepresented students in biomedical, behavioral, and health science degrees at Portland State University. As a research coordinator with Behavior Works, she had the opportunity to be involved with all phases of the formative research process, from recruiting focus group participants to analyzing formative research data.

Because of her understanding of the importance of multiple determinants of health in underserved populations and her unquestionable commitment to health disparities research, Christina can navigate the clinical and the public health world in a seamless and effective manner, and will continue to do so in all of her further endeavors.  Please join us in congratulating her!

Outstanding Student Award, Service
Nicole Burda, Health Promotion Track, Oregon State University
The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Nicole Burda for her excellence in service.  With a passion for helping vulnerable populations and service to the community she has made significant and positive contributions in the field of public health. 

As a new member to the Public Health field, Nicole Burda has made an immediate impact in her community as a student, volunteer, intern, and coordinator.  She is drawn to the field of Public Health by her desire to inspire change and promote health in vulnerable populations at the community level.  

After moving to Oregon in June of 2009 to attend Oregon State University, Nicole began volunteering at Benton County Health Department, where she is currently working in an internship position with Substance Abuse Prevention Program. She is coordinating an evidence-based substance abuse prevention program. Strengthening Families 10-14 in Spanish (Fortaleciendo Familias 10-14) is a parent, youth, and family skills-building curriculum designed to prevent teen substance abuse and other behavior problems, strengthen parenting skill, and build on family strengths. Her work with the Benton County Health Department has included assisting in recruitment and community outreach, and data compilation from surveys for a local soccer tournament aimed toward raising awareness of HIV/AIDS among Latino men. Her background and experience in Spanish speaking communities and Sport and Exercise Science, and her passion for public health serve as a perfect combination for many of the programs Nicole has impacted, including a program in which Nicole designs and implements exercise programs in Spanish to Latina women.

Nicole has extensive community involvement and certifications.  She is involved  in the Latino Health Ambassador Network (LHAN). LHAN is a community-based participatory research project funded by the Northwest Health Foundation to coordinate leadership development and skill building among local Latino community members to better inform chronic disease public policy and systems change efforts occurring in the county.   She is engaged with the prevention program, Reconnecting Youth (RY), which is a research based curriculum aimed at helping high-risk high school youth raise their GPAs, manage their anger, as well as decrease drug use, depression, and suicide risk. Nicole is also a member of the Graduate Students of Color and a member of the Hispanic Advisory Committee (HAC). 
As a candidate for the MPH Program in the Health Promotions Track at OSU, Nicole currently has a 4.0 GPA. Along with her excellent work as a student, and her extensive involvement in the Latin health community in Benton County, Nicole is making immediate impacts in the Public Health field. She is well respected by students, faculty, practicing professionals as a leader in community service.   Please join us in congratulating her!

Outstanding Student Award, Leadership
Katie (Fidler) Harris, Health Management & Policy Track, Portland State University
The Oregon Master of Public Health Program is proud to recognize Katie Fidler for her excellence in leadership.   Katie has shown great initiative and leadership not only in her work while in the OMPH Program but also in her personal and professional life.  Throughout her student career in the OMPH Program, she has exemplified leadership and involvement in the program. She has volunteered many hours of her time and is passionate and persistent in her efforts to improve the program’s ability to meet the needs of its students.   Her efforts and initiatives have lead to significant and enduring improvements to the program.

She has been involved in a leadership role as a Student Representative, Campus Representative and Mentor.  Katie served as the First Year Track Representative during the 2008-2009 school year and the Campus Representative for PSU during the 2009-2010 year. As the Campus Representative, she served on the Track Coordinating Council/Academic Program Committee.
Katie’s leadership and initiative abilities became very apparent during the summer of 2009 when, based on feedback from fellow students, she started a peer-mentoring program at PSU between first and second year MPH students. This involved figuring out the structure of the program, marketing the program, training second-year students regarding mentoring first-year students, and following up with questions or concerns from mentors and mentees. Along with creating the program, Katie acted as a mentor to three first-year students. In the classroom, Katie’s supportive, insightful style and her 3.96 GPA have further highlighted her leadership capacity.   She has also served as the “unofficial” social events coordinator and social networker; she established the OMPH Facebook page, managed the student listserv and planned many social events.
Outside of the program, Katie has worked full-time as the School Policy Coordinator for the American Lung Association in Oregon. In this position, she works with Head Start programs, K-12 school districts, and community colleges throughout the state regarding their tobacco policies. This involves collaborating with statewide Head Start stakeholders to support implementation of Oregon Department of Education tobacco-free policy requirements, developing tools and resources to assist colleges with policy adoption, implementation, and enforcement, and communicating with key contacts at community colleges about suggested improvement to their tobacco policies. Katie has also taken the lead in managing the release of American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report, which measures ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread outdoor pollutants.
Katie’s leadership in the OMPH Program has been second to none, and will be missed, watching her continue her career outside of the program as a leader in the Public Health field will be exciting. Please join us in congratulating her!


OMPH Program Office 506 SW Mill St., Suite 450 Portland, OR 97201 Mail Code: OMPH-SCH Tel. 503-725-5186 Fax 503-725-5100