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Annual Awards Banquet 2019

Our 2019 Annual Awards Banquet was a smashing success. We were able to honor the achievements of many of our amazing students. Here is a brief overview of the different awards that were presented.

Honored Alumnus Award – ROBERT B. CLARK, MD

Robert B. Clark is a family practitioner who specializes in caring for people of all ages, at all stage of life. In 1985, he began to organize teams of doctors, who traveled to China to teach and lecture for one to two weeks. This effort evolved into a focus on teaching techniques to care for sick infants or neonatal resuscitation. With generous support for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this effort has continued and expanded in China, and Robert has returned many times.

Teaching neonatal resuscitation to health providers in developing countries became a “Major Initiative” of the Church Humanitarian Services. Robert served with the administration of this program as a part-time service missionary. He served as the President of the Children’s Medical Mission from 1995-2015. He also served in the Helping Babies Breathe Planning Group in the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2012-2015 and as the Co-chair from 2016-2017. He continues to serve as the LDS Charities Technical Specialist (NRT) from 2010-present.

Robert’s research has influenced countless individuals over the years. He received the Student Research Award in the International Health Section (APHA) in 2007. He was also recognized as the Principal Investigator, “Training Chinese Physicians in Neonatal Resuscitation,” from a grant funded by the Thrasher Research Fund from 1991-1993.

Among his many awards Robert has received the International Service Award from the Utah State Medical Association (1993), The Egret Friendship Award from the city of Xiamen, China (2006), The Utah County Doctor of the Year (2006), The Foreign Expert Award from the Province of Fujian, China (2007), The Utah Physician of the Year (2007), The Utah Health Care Heroes Award (2008) and the First Humanitarian Award (2009).

Robert has blessed the lives of many through his thoughtful teaching. He has served on the National Advisory Faculty for the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics as a Faculty member from 1992-Present. He has also served as a Regional Trainer as a Faculty member for Neonatal Resuscitation Program from 1991-Present. He also passed on his expertise in the Contemporary Medical Issues in China: Lecture series from 1986-1992.

Robert received his Master of Public Health from Brigham Young University in 2006 and has blessed the lives of countless students in the BYU Department of Public Health through his generosity, mentorship and serving as an inspiration to us all.

Student Awards

Teachers Assistant of the Year — SPENCER CLASON

Spencer is Dr. Ray Merrill’s TA for Biostatistics. He was nominated by faculty and his peers. He came highly recommend to Dr. Merrill from Dr. Evan Thacker. He truly stood out as an exceptional TA for a number of reasons: By attending class sessions, he got to know the students more personally and was able to more effectively address questions they had about the class material; He effectively worked with many students on homework and test preparation; He graded and returned assignments and tests quickly; He was readily available to students through office hours and appointments; He explained concepts very well and made students feel comfortable and confident with this difficult topic; He held test reviews, which the students indicated were very helpful; He is personable and engages very well with the students; He is well prepared to assist me in grading, conducting reviews, and assisting students.

Research Assistant of the Year—JAKE MILLER

Jake has been involved in a number of research projects over the past year. He is an RA for Dr. Crandall. He received a CURA award for his research relating to the role of temperament in moderating the effects of adverse childhood experiences on adult health. He has conducted all of the analyses on this project and is working toward publication. He is a co-first author on a paper published in the Journal of Health Psychology in 2018 about the role of executive functioning on adult health behaviors associated with the leading causes of death. He also currently has a paper under review for which he is lead author pertaining to the relationship between the parasympathetic nervous system and trait mindfulness. Finally, Jake project-manages the families and public health collaborative, a research group with a mission to improve how public health practice, research, and policy utilizes the family as a pathway to improving population health.

Outstanding Service to the University—ELISA MARTINEZ

Elisa has been involved in an inaugural group of four students working in our department to examine student mental health and wellness across BYU’s campus. This group has been conducting student-run assessment and evaluation of campus health. During Winter semester 2019, Elisa and her peers developed a campus mental health survey that has been distributed to students by the university with nearly 2000 responses and they have conducted campus-wide interviews and focus groups. They are working toward making recommendations for a campus-wide initiative for promoting student wellness and reducing student mental illness and suicide. Elisa has presented the results of their findings twice to the HealthY Cougar Coalition.

Outstanding Service to the Community—JASON WORLEY

Jason just finished serving an internship with Jamkhed’s Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), which provides services to the rural poor and marginalized in India. Jason was able to work with Dr. Arole in the day-to-day activities of helping communities achieve access to an integrated community-based primary healthcare using the Jamkhed model. Part of this model is helping communities build their capacity to rise above poverty and disease and inequity. Jason is also a former BPHA president and TA for HLTH 310. Jason will be attending Tulane University Medical School in the Fall of 2019. The major reason why Jason chose Tulane is their strong public health program. Jason aims to combine his knowledge of public health with medicine to be able to address the social determinants of health that continue to limit vulnerable communities.

Undergrad student of the year — Epidemiology—KRISTINE MAWINNEY

Kristine conducted mentored research in cardiovascular epidemiology with Dr. Evan Thacker, leading to her first-authored abstract entitled “Cardiovascular Health and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults.” Kristine presented this abstract at a national conference, the American Heart Association Epidemiology & Prevention Conference, Houston, TX, in March 2019. At that conference, her abstract was selected as 1 of 5 finalists for the Jeremiah and Rose Stamler Research Award for New Investigators, a prestigious distinction. Kristine served as teaching assistant to Evan Thacker for HLTH 447 – Biostatistics – for 3 semesters (Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Fall 2018). This is a course in the epidemiology emphasis, so Kristine influenced many other students majoring in epidemiology. Kristine’s contributions included curriculum development, classroom teaching, lots of grading homework and exams, and working one-on-one with students as a tutor. Based on her strong preparation, Kristine has been admitted to several excellent masters programs in epidemiology, including those at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Emory, and University of Washington. She will enroll in one of these programs this coming summer/fall 2019.

Undergrad student of the year — HEALTH SCIENCE—AMANDA HUFF

Amanda Huff currently serves as the BYU Public Health Association (BPHA) club president and has served as a vice president of the club in years past. She also attended the SOPHE Advocacy Summit and advocated for laws to reduce gun violence with her state representatives from Arizona. Amanda balances a heavy course load with multiple other volunteer opportunities. She will graduate with almost a 4.0 GPA and spends time volunteering at Primary Children’s Hospital. She also has traveled internationally to assist with many physician clinics.

Undergrad student of the year — HEALTH PROMOTION—IDA TOVAR

Ida was among the trio of students that won the SOPHE Student Case Study Competition at the national conference this spring. She also co-presented at the SOPHE Advocacy Summit in October. She has co-authored publications currently under review. Is a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Chaney’s HLTH 313 and HLTH 330 courses. She is highly regarded by her peers and among faculty. She is finishing her internship at the Utah County Health Department in drug and alcohol prevention. Ida was awarded a CURA grant this winter. She is working with Dr. Barnes on determining the impact of higher education training among Latino youth by a faith based organization. This summer, Ida is planning to join the BYU Rheumatic Relief in Samoa.

Undergrad student of the year — Environmental / Occupational Health—MARION HOUSE

Marion is deserving of this award for several reasons. 1. She was an integral part of the Nepal Brick Kiln research team that studied silica and air pollution exposures in the workers’ brick huts. She was tasked with equipment calibration and sampling for CO, CO2, and several other air contaminants. She performed her task flawlessly. She was then selected to write the methods section for this sampling and data analysis in a paper to be submitted this month. Marion has also been involved in research with Dr. Beard and Dr. Johnston. She is also a co-author on a motorcycle helmet paper with Dr. Thygerson showing rates of helmet use for motorcycle drivers and passengers in Nepal. Outside of BYU, her work is recognized as she landed a very competitive internship with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She has been accepted to graduate school at BYU and has applied to several other schools for graduate work in public health.

MPH Student of the Year—MARCO VERDEJA

Marco is seen by faculty and his peers as one who excelled in so many areas during the MPH program and exemplified what it means to be a “complete” student. He maintained a high GPA, participated in research with faculty (publications under review), worked as a TA, worked on applied projects for four different NGOs, and is currently working with Church Humanitarian to revise and update data collection and monitoring procedures.

Outstanding MPH Student Research Achievement—TAYLOR HOJ

Taylor Hoj has been a profoundly productive researcher as an MPH student. During his time at BYU he has been a co-author on 4 published papers, 8 conference presentations, and has several other manuscripts in process or under review. He has also worked with 5 different faculty members and a number of organizations. Taylor has been a leader among students as he has mentored and helped others, sharing the research skills he has developed as a student. Taylor's ability to focus on important details and to see projects through to the end are among his many talents that have helped him to stand out as a leader among his peers.

Outstanding MPH Student Service Achievement—MAGGIE GRAUL

Maggie is truly deserving of the MPH Student Spirit Award! Maggie consistently brings drama-free energy and enthusiasm to group projects and academic efforts. Maggie prepares thoroughly for class and conference presentations. It seems no task or stage is too big for Maggie and yet she never seeks personal attention, accolades, or exceptions. Maggie has been a great example and inspiration to both students and faculty during her time in the MPH program at BYU.

Special Achievements

We also had the opportunity to honor some of our student achievements throughout the year.

National Student Case Study Competition - Ida Tovar, Ashley Crowder & Jordyn Hansen

This competition, held on March 26, 2019, gives undergraduate and graduate students of health education the opportunity to display their developing expertise.

Teams of two to three students are challenged to solve a real-world health issue using the competencies required for a school or community health educator.

Case scenarios are provided to confirmed teams two weeks before the competition, which takes place prior to the SOPHE Annual Conference.

Students prepare a response to their assigned case scenario. They present their response to judges in a 25-minute closed forum without the aid of technology.

Ida Tovar, Ashley Crowder, and Jordyn Hansen were awarded first place for their case study on breast cancer and preventative measures among Native Americans.

Jeremiah and Rose Stamler Research Award for New Investigators - Finalists - Kristine MaWinney & Matthew Harris

Finalists for the Jeremiah and Rose Stamler Research Award for New Investigators at the AHA Epidemiology & Prevention conference, Houston, TX, March 2019

Kristine MaWinney – majored in Public Health – Epidemiology, graduating in Dec 2018 – her research presentation was entitled “Cardiovascular Health and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study.”

Matthew Harris – majoring in Latin American Studies – his research presentation was entitled “Rural Versus Urban Living and Incident Cognitive Impairment in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Difference in Stroke Study (REGARDS).”

Life Sciences / HBLL poster competition - first place winners - Shelby Smith, Marion House, Gabriela Teniza and Anne Marie Strauss

First place winners in the Library and Life Sciences poster competition for their poster on “Air Pollution and the Risk of Outdoor Winter Exercise”.

Life Sciences CURA Poster Competition - Aaron Cheung & Westin Wong

Public Health first and second place for the BYU College Undergraduate Research Awards poster competition on April 10, 2019.

Aaron Cheung – 1st place winner in the Public Health category – his poster presentation was entitled “Forgiveness as a Tool for Improving Executive Functioning in Adults”.

Westin Wong – 2nd place winner in the Public Health category – his research presentation was entitled “Improving Community Health Worker Self-Efficacy Through Web-Based Training.”


Marin Meyer Endowment

This endowment was formed to provide scholarship awards; mentored learning opportunities; opportunities for students to attend and participate in field experiences, internships, conferences, symposia or other events; make awards to outstanding students in recognition of exceptional performance and provide other meaningful opportunities to students in the Department of Public Health.


Gina Dorsan & Shelby Benally

DuWayne & Alice Schmidt Endowment

For one or more selected graduate students who are pursuing a degree in the Masters of Public Health Program in the Department of Public Health in the College of Life Sciences. Preference for students who are from countries other than the United States regardless of nationality or national origin.


Emily Gamboa & Leiema Hunt

Mark M. Lewis MD, MPH Endowment

For students who are pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in the Department of Public Health. Preference for financial need. Secondary preference may be given to students who are from rural areas.


Shelly Cooper, Ayla Guarino, Cecily Hale,

Curtis Hanson, Megan Hawks, Heidi Niedfeldt

Thank you to everyone who helped make this a wonderful event!