Public health honor society inducts alumni members

Delta Omega inductees
Kendra Auguste and Janet Brishke attended the Delta Omega induction ceremony on May 3. Not pictured: Maria C. Mejia de Grubb, Emily Jones, Ian Kracalik and Chad Neilsen.

The University of Florida chapter of Delta Omega, the national public health honor society, inducted several UF College of Public Health and Health Professions alumni into the society at a ceremony held May 3.

Kendra Auguste, Janet Brishke, Maria Mejia de Grubb, Emily Jones, Ian Kracalik and Chad Neilsen are among the newest alumni members of UF’s Beta Upsilon chapter. The honor society selects alumni whose work in public health serves as a model for future graduates.

Kendra Auguste received her master’s in public health in public health management and policy in 2013. She is currently completing her doctoral degree in the UF College of Journalism and Communications with a focus in health communications. She previously worked in various roles serving families and communities throughout the state, including as a health education consultant with CHOICES; program coordinator for Healthy Start’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childcare Home Visiting program; and, most recently, leading a team of public health specialists in implementing nutrition and physical activity supports in low resource communities with UF/IFAS Extension’s Family Nutrition Program.

Janet Brishke earned her master’s in public health in social and behavioral sciences in 2008. She is project director at the UF Institute for Child Health Policy, where she oversees an annual evaluation of the Florida KidCare program, the umbrella program for Florida’s CHIP, and the child Medicaid programs. The KidCare evaluation uses family satisfaction surveys, quality of care measures, and enrollment trends to help legislators determine the program’s future. Previously, she spent six years as manager of tobacco control initiatives at the American Academy of Pediatrics in Chicago.

Maria C. Mejia de Grubb, M.D., received her master’s in public health in public health practice in 2010 while pursuing a medical residency in preventive medicine and public health at Meharry Medical College. She is currently an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. She is the principal investigator for grants funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Cancer Institute smoking cessation initiative and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Her research interests include substance use disorders, cancer health disparities, chronic diseases, Latino health, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles among underserved communities.

Emily Jones earned her master’s in public health in epidemiology in 2013. During her internship semester, she worked for America’s Essential Hospitals as a research intern, and was offered a job as a research associate there upon graduation. In 2014, she joined the March of Dimes’ Office of Government Affairs as a state policy analyst, and was promoted in 2016 to director of government affairs for Florida and Georgia. She currently works in Atlanta as a lobbyist, and is working on her juris doctor degree with a concentration in health law at Georgia State University.

Ian Kracalik, Ph.D., completed a master’s in public health in epidemiology in 2012 and a doctorate in medical geography in 2017. He was then awarded one of only 70 spots in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, or EIS, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As an EIS officer embedded in the Division of Healthcare Quality and Promotion, he has co-led several high profile outbreak investigations at health care facilities in the United States, including identifying the cause of rashes among employees at a VA Medical Center. He has been selected to present his work on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, at the opening session of the 2018 EIS conference.

Chad Neilsen earned a master’s in public health in epidemiology in 2009. He is the director of infection prevention at the UF Health Jacksonville. He is responsible for the planning and oversight of the infection prevention department, where he oversees a staff of six and manages an annual budget of nearly $1 million. He also serves as a public health officer for the U.S. Air Force Reserve where he is an aerospace medicine section chief for the 932nd Airlift Wing at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. His role in the military has included oversight of numerous public health outbreak responses, including coordinating the USAF Reserve medical readiness for the Ebola virus disease outbreak of 2014 for over 63 installations worldwide.