SPH End of Year Awards


Published: April 27, 2016

Kwynn Gonzalez

Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer presents the 2016 Richard S. Kurz Award to Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons.

National Public Health Week 2016 concluded with the UNTHSC School of Public Health (SPH) annual awards ceremony, held at Marquis on Magnolia in Fort Worth, where student, faculty, staff and community special honors were presented.

Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons, MPH, Community Health, was presented with the Richard S. Kurz Award, given to an outstanding public health graduate exemplifying the leadership, accomplishments and visionary qualities of the school’s Dean Emeritus, who retired in August 2015. This award was established in 2012 by the school’s faculty leadership.

The Kurz award was presented by Emily Spence-Almaguer, MSW, PhD, SPH Associate Professor of Behavioral and Community Health, who said in a nomination letter, “During her MPH program, Kwynn has pursued opportunities to extend her knowledge of oppressed populations and identify solutions that promote social justice.”

Dr. Spence-Almaguer noted Kwynn’s work as a graduate assistant helping to study local homelessness; her work as co-investigator on mental health research; her 2015 summer internship with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and recognition from the Yale University Global Health Innovations competition, where she was invited this spring to present her idea for a wearable tracking device to help prevent international sex trafficking.

“Kwynn is an excellent scholar and produces high quality work.  She is a valuable collaborator and is extraordinarily competent. I feel grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Kwynn during her MPH program and am confident she will continue to be an innovator when she graduates,” Dr. Spence-Almaguer said.

At the ceremony, five SPH students were admitted into the Alpha Sigma Chapter of Delta Omega public health national honor society: Lauren Hall, Alexandra Johnson, Alita Andrews, Nnamdi Maduabum and Kikelomo Akintunde.

Alumni inductees into Delta Omega were Dr. Matt Richardson, Director, Denton Health Department, and Aditoun Sodimu, Interim Clinical Research Manager, UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Joon Lee from the SPH faculty was inducted into Delta Omega, as were two community members, Mrs. Loretta Burns, founder and Executive Director of AB Christian Learning Center, and the Reverend Ralph W. Emerson, who serves as Chairperson of the John Peter Smith Pastor’s Council, Chair of the JPS Board of Managers, Chair of the Healthy Moms-Healthy Babies-Healthy Community (H3) initiative, and has served as a member of the UNTHSC Dean’s Steering Committee.

Both Mrs. Burns and Reverend Emerson were founding chairs of the H3 initiative, and they both coordinate Freedom Schools (Children’s Defense Fund), a summer program for children in Southeast Fort Worth.

Students named to the SPH Dean’s List were Alexandra Johnson, Shelly Barnes, Udoka Obinwa, Kevin Kalinowski, Laura Lockwood, Alex Espinoza, Swetha Murthi and Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons.

This year’s Leon Brachman Award was presented to Laura Lockwood. The award is given annually to a public health student in the MPH or MHA program demonstrating exemplary academic achievement in his or her graduate course of study. The award is named in honor of the community leader and philanthropist who helped establish the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 1999.

The 2016 Kenneth Cooper Award winner was Peng Chen. The award – presented to an outstanding MPH or MHA student demonstrating excellence and quality in the application of research methods for the thesis or other research activities – is named for best-selling author and internationally known health/wellness guru Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, who started the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas in 1970 and pioneered the concept of preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle.

Alexandra Johnson Fields, MPH, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, was presented with the Bob Crow Award, named for the former executive director of the Texas charitable Amon G. Carter Foundation and past member of the school’s Steering Committee, recognizing an outstanding MPH or MHA student with exemplary leadership and service to the school and community.

Lauren Hall was presented with the Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Academics, and the Public Health Student Association presented honors to faculty and staff members selected for going “above and beyond for students.”

Recognized were Dr. Sumi Suzuki for Outstanding Faculty in Teaching; Steve Jacob for Outstanding Faculty in Online Teaching; Dr. Witold Migala, Outstanding Faculty Advisor; and Dr. Misty Smethers as Outstanding Public Health Staff Member.

Student co-chairs of the National Public Health Week celebration were Soha Patel, Health Management and Policy, and Shlesma Chhetri, PhD, Behavioral and Community Health.