Youatt, Foxman, Israel, other faculty recognized with 2023 Public Health Honors

Emily Youatt

This spring, University of Michigan School of Public Health students, faculty and staff were recognized for their incredible accomplishments during the 2022-2023 academic year and beyond. 

The second annual Public Health Honors event was held April 19 at Forum Hall in Palmer Commons. Twenty individuals and student organizations were recognized for their contributions to the School of Public Health community.   

Excellence in Teaching

Emily Youatt was recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award. She is the assistant dean for Student Engagement and Practice as well as director of Undergraduate Education and clinical associate professor of Health Behavior and Health Education.

Youatt’s peers and colleagues describe her as a fierce advocate for Michigan Public Health’s growing undergraduate program at the administrative level and as a teacher and mentor in the classroom. She has been the director of the program since 2018; under her leadership, the program has seen growth of more than 230%.

In the recent 2021-2022 School of Public Health exit survey, 93% of graduating students indicated that they were very satisfied or satisfied with their experience in their undergraduate degree program at Michigan Public Health. Youatt’s students and colleagues attribute much of that success to her.

Reem Fawaz, who graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Sciences in April, was the lead student nominator for the award.

“I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Emily Youatt in and outside of the classroom this past year, and I’m excited to share just a glimpse of the wonderful teacher, mentor and person she is,” Fawaz said. “She is a large reason why students become interested in the undergraduate program in the first place. In response to having a limited number of elective classes this winter, Emily made the selfless decision to open another section of her course, which meant twice as many students could enroll—including me.”

Among her students, Youatt is known for being one of the warmest and most accessible professors at the university, Fawaz said. 

From left to right, Michigan Public Health Dean F. DuBois Bowman, Emily Youatt and Reem Fawaz
From left to right, Michigan Public Health Dean F. DuBois Bowman, Emily Youatt and Reem Fawaz.

“Students are eager to meet with her when they are anxious or unsure about future plans,” she said. “As my faculty advisor, she is quick to offer her sage advice and is genuinely interested in the projects and work I continue to pursue. Because of her, I know I can make a difference using public health.”

“I am extraordinarily fortunate to lead our school’s undergraduate program— along with my colleague Jillian McConville—and to teach students who are at the beginning of their public health careers,” Youatt said. “There is so much innovative, excellent and groundbreaking work happening here at Michigan Public Health. 

“We’re part of a vibrant academic community and as an alum, as an administrator and as a faculty member, I am so proud to be a member of this community. Thank you to our students, who provide the energy, optimism, dedication and eagerness to the school. Thank you for all you do for our community. Thank you for the privilege of teaching you and thank you for this award.”

Excellence in Research

Betsy Foxman, the Hunein F. and Hilda Maassab Professor of Epidemiology, received the Excellence in Research award. Foxman directs the Center for Molecular and Clinical Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, and also is the director for Integrated Training in Microbial Systems. 

Foxman has been part of the Michigan Public Health community for nearly 40 years. She has published more than 280 papers, and her work has been cited more than 30,000 times, including nearly 10,000 citations for her research on the epidemiology of urinary tract infections. 

Betsy Foxman
Betsy Foxman

She founded the Center for Molecular and Clinical Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases in 2000, and for the past 20 years has organized a highly successful symposium series. Thousands of people have attended these events and benefited from the exchange of ideas. Foxman also founded the certificate in Healthcare infection Prevention and Control, which has trained more than 70 students to be leaders in the field. 

“Dr. Foxman is a tireless advocate for junior faculty in the Epidemiology department and throughout the university,” said Belinda Needham, associate professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology. “I have personally benefited from her mentorship and am grateful for the support she has shown to me over the years. She is incredibly deserving of this honor for her outstanding scholarly achievements and her visionary leadership.”

“I am very honored to receive the School of Public Health Excellence in Research award,” Foxman said. “The award is especially sweet as my nomination was the result of an anonymous vote by the Epidemiology faculty of rank less than full professor. This award is not mine alone, but belongs also to my many colleagues, staff and students who worked with me to increase our understanding of the molecular epidemiology of urinary tract infections, maternal-child health, hospital-acquired infections, antibiotic resistance and oral health. Thank you for this honor and Go Blue!”

Excellence in Practice

Barbara Israel, professor of Health Behavior and Health Education, is the director of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (URC). During her time with URC, Israel and her colleagues have obtained more than $45 million dollars in federal and foundation grants, hired and trained more than 400 Detroit residents as research and intervention team members, and engaged hundreds of students and postdoctoral scholars in learning opportunities. 

Barbara Israel
Barbara Israel

They also have developed hundreds of publications and community-friendly reports on research findings and produced multiple training manuals and online training courses.

“Barbara has played a critical role in advancing a unique and distinctive research paradigm: community-based participatory research,” said Laura Power, director of the Office of Public Health Practice and clinical associate professor of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine. “She is one of a handful of researchers around the country who have been especially successful in maintaining a viable and active long-term CBPR program. She truly is one the leading experts in the field.”

“I am incredibly humbled to receive the Excellence in Practice award,” Israel said. “The criteria for this award are based on contributions to the School of Public Health, science and practice in the areas for experiential learning for students, building capacity for the public health workforce, and fostering meaning and sustainable academic partnerships. Those of you who know me know that these areas are my passions and that whatever I’ve been able to accomplish is due in large part to the amazing collaborations I have had with many of you and my Detroit colleagues and beyond. I love that work that we do and highly value the progress we have made in advancing health equity.”

Melissa Creary
Melissa Creary

Feingold Excellence in Diversity

Established in 2004, the Eugene Feingold Excellence in Diversity Award recognizes faculty, staff and students who excel at advocating for a more equitable, inclusive and just School of Public Health. 

Melissa Creary, assistant professor of Health Management and Policy and Global Public Health, is the 2023 faculty recipient of this award for her powerful work in anti-racism.

Creary is an emerging leader in research and education in the area of anti-racism. Her work is to actively and explicitly identify racism in policy, practice and technology, and to directly address and dismantle racism through anti-racist education, research and public health praxis.

She has created a framework, Bounded Justice, which is defined as addressing the entanglement of justice, inclusion and citizenship for vulnerable populations, and calls for a deep, ongoing and community-based engagement with socio-historical injustices at the same time that we attend to current and specific needs.

“She arrived at our school as an effective and committed anti-racist scholar before it became such a widely discussed topic in public health,” said Scott Greer, professor of Health Management and Policy. “As a colleague and a voice within and beyond the university, she is exceptional.”

Dany Zemmel
Dany Zemmel

Dany Zemmel, the staff recipient of this award, is the Training and Engagement Manager for the Region V Public Health Training Center and Public Health Prepared. She was a founding member of the Michigan Chapter of Public Health Awakened, an organization focused on social justice and health equity, and is still an active member today. She has spearheaded many projects for the organization, including an anti-racist webinar series and a social media toolkit for the 2020 presidential election that encouraged citizens to consider health when voting.

“Dany’s leadership in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has an impact at many levels, from the broad public health workforce to individuals on our team and at SPH,” Power said. “Her dedication to DEI is seen across her work and personal life.”

David Fuller Jr., the student recipient of this award, graduated in April with a Master of Health Services Administration from Health Management and Policy. Fuller served as vice president of Public Health Students of African Descent during his second year, working to impact the experience of students of color. During his time at Michigan Public Health, he was involved with curriculum development, advancing research, student organization leadership, creating DEI programming, promoting health equity and the reduction of health disparities, and working on diversity recruitment and retention efforts.

Fuller also was a student fellow in the Griffith Leadership Center, where he helped the center understand how to best support students, particularly underrepresented students. He has worked as a research assistant in the Health Equity Leadership Pipeline Collaborative, examining how organizations can improve leadership on healthcare equity.

“David is a bridge builder; he has made Michigan Public Health and Health Management and Policy better places for students, staff and faculty,” said Ebbin Dotson, assistant professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy. “His impact will serve as a shining example of Feingold awardees for years to come.”

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor

Marcus Andrews, a doctoral student in Health Behavior and Health Education, received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award. 

“I had the pleasure of working closely with Marcus,” said Paul Fleming, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. “He is deserving of this recognition in so many ways—his skill as a teacher, his dedication to the students and his care and compassion teaching during a time of upheaval for the students.”

Student Leader of the Year

Maya Rodemer, who graduated in April with a Master of Public Health in Nutritional Sciences, was recognized as the Student Leader of the Year.

During her time at Michigan Public Health, Rodemer held several leadership positions in student organizations, including serving as treasurer for the Public Health Student Assembly and vice president of the Nutritional Sciences Student Association. She also was involved in the Michigan chapter of Project HEAL, a national organization with the mission to break down barriers to eating disorder healing.

“Maya demonstrates the true qualities of leadership through her hard work, her commitment to engaging those around her, her willingness to take constructive feedback and her support of her colleagues,” one nominator wrote. “I can attest to the ways that Maya’s respect for her peers and her work fosters a sense of inclusion, camaraderie and dedication to the work.”

Other award winners

  • Commitment to Service: Kamara Gardner, Aparna Reddy (honorable mention)
  • Rising Star: Soumik Purkayastha
  • Unsung Hero: Jackie Edgemon, Hanna Venera (honorable mention), Andrew Yang (honorable mention)
    Community Engagement: Public Health Students of African Descent
  • Outstanding Event of the Year: Public Health Students of African Descent
    Rising Organization: U-M Industrial Hygiene Student Association, Muslim Students in Public Health (honorable mention)
  • Student Organization of the Year: Environmental Health Student Association, Global Health Alliance at U-M (honorable mention)