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The Dartmouth Institute Celebrates Class of 2023

Gloomy skies and scattered showers failed to dampen the spirits of those attending the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine MPH and MS Program’s 2023 Class Day event, held last Friday on the lawn of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center.

The annual Class Day ceremony celebrated the academic accomplishments of 94 graduates of the PhD, MPH, and MS programs at The Dartmouth Institute, who along with their families and friends reflected on their educational journeys and the special relationships they have formed as members of the Dartmouth community. The event also included some members of the Class of 2020, whose graduation ceremony was entirely online due to the pandemic.

Craig Westling, DrPH, MPH ’09, MS, Executive Director of Education at The Dartmouth Institute, welcomed everyone to the ceremony, which featured keynote speaker Antonia Coello Novello, MD, MPH, DrPH, and student speakers Kierstyn Smith and Ifrah Ahmed.

Novello, the 14th Surgeon General of the United States—the first woman and the first Hispanic to hold the esteemed position—gave an impassioned and inspiring address, offering the students her congratulations and her council, while also challenging them.

In her counsel to the new alums, Novello urged them to “get out there and meet as many people as you can, particularly those that do not look like you. Seek out strangers and their wisdom; their wisdom can be assimilated only if we submit ourselves to seek them out. It will help you reduce your fears and realize that unless we make an effort to learn new perspectives, our biases and fears will continue to constrict us.”

In challenging the students, she added, “We must learn to respond to the public health needs of an incredibly diverse society with rapidly changing demographics,” stressing the importance of pursuing equity for all. “In bringing equity to the forefront, remember that it will not be accomplished by treating everyone equal, it will be achieved by treating everyone justly according to the circumstances.”

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Photos by Mark Washburn

Smith, the student speaker for the Institute’s Residential MPH/MS program, talked about the power of kin selection (cooperative behavior) in nature—drawing parallels to the giving spirit she’s seen in her classmates.

“As we embark on this new chapter of our lives, let us further embody the lessons of altruism, just like our ancestors ensured the survival of their kin by working together so that we could be here today,” she said. “We can achieve so much more by collaborating, supporting, and amplifying each other’s efforts.”

Ahmed, the student speaker for the Institute’s Hybrid MPH program, recounted how some of the challenges she faced growing up in the war-torn country of Somalia helped shape her desire to serve marginalized communities in the future.

“I saw how a broken health system could devastate an entire nation,” said Ahmed, who shared an inspirational poem from her mother and urged her classmates to “never forget the reason why you pursued a master’s in public health, whether it is to improve the health of your communities, to address global health issues, or to advance health equity. Stay true to your passion and your purpose. Remember—we are the difference makers.”

The Class Day ceremony also recognized student accomplishments, which included:

Henry Masters Awards

Joseph Pierre Nano (Residential)

Sarah Alice Stafford and Cleola Kiva Payne (Hybrid)

Karen Ashley Leadership Awards

Chidalu Rosemary Mbonu (Residential)

Sayer Lovett Pease (Hybrid)

Social Justice Awards

Residential: Megan Nalamachu, Olawale Akinola, Abhirupa Dasgupta, Samantha Goveia, Gabriella Hayes, Rebecca Weber, Kaitlyn Mi, Shea Kelley, Bonnie Lin, Chidalu Mbonu, Sofia Patria, Camille Rogers, Saahithya Gowrishankar, Shaday Robitaille, Megan Flores, Renata Yen, Ricardo Almazan, Faris Aziz, Violet Filer, Megan Lynch, Emerson Frizzell, Allison Jennings, Sarah Thompson, William Catterall, Rachel Cunningham, Akhila Kondaka, Joseph Nano, Seth Shriya, Maria Alkozah, Pham Doan, Chelsey L. Recendez, Yue Huang, Hannah Adams, Reilly Ruane

Hybrid: Ifrah Ahmed, Sage Lincoln, Cleola Payne, S Pease, Josie Pinto, Emma Robinson, Eric Strauss, Sarah Stafford, Isadora Jacquez, Laura Galster, Bridget Hatton, Brian Elliot-Pekrul, Kaia Ordal, Mary Mens, Brian Urban, Caitlyn Lowe, Vijay Iyengar, Elaine Kiriakopoulos, Amber Nieves, Brent Shannon, Meredith Simmons, Natalie Thomas

Independent Internship Awards

(and their projects)

Ricardo Almazan – Evaluation, Assessment, and Development of Countermeasures to Prevent Hazards of Falling Snow and Ice from Steep Roofs at Dartmouth College

Yue Huang – Assessing Transition Towards, and Client Benefits of, a Value-Based, Pay-for-Performance Arrangement in Behavioral Health

Megan Nalamachu – Development of Policies, Procedures, and an Evaluation System to Provide Small, One-Time Grants to Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder in the United States

Camille Rogers – Podiatric and Military Medicine Research Initiatives: Resident Opioid Prescribing, Resident Bullying, and Lower Extremity Injuries in United States Uniformed Service Members

Integrative Learning Experience Awards

(and their projects)

Olawale Akinola – Effects of Handheld Ultrasound Scans in the Early Diagnosis of Rheumatic Heart Disease and its Clinical Outcomes

Megan Flores – Applying Machine Learning Models to Existing Food Insecurity Screenings: An Exploratory Data Analysis

Kaitlyn Mi – Personalized Irritable Bowel Syndrome Care: A Scoping Review

Kierstyn Smith – Clinicians and Parental Decision-Making for Neonatal Male Circumcision in the United States

Practicum Awards

(and their projects)

Ifrah Ahmed – Strengthening Primary Prevention of Strep Infection in Rural Rwanda: Developing an Education Intervention using a Community-Based Approach

Laura Galster – Health Equity Measurement in Hospitals & Health Systems: An Environmental Scan

Karen Guo – Clinician and Care Team Member Experiences in the Serious Illness Conversation Model of Care Implementation

Bridget Hatton – Non-Operating Room Anesthesia Care Providers’ Perceptions of Patient Crises: A Qualitative Study of Pre- and Post-Simulation Training Interviews

S Pease – Transgender Experiences with Health Care: A National Survey

Josie Pinto – Navigating Increased Barriers to Access in a Post-Dobbs America: A reproductive Justice-Based Curriculum for Dartmouth Medical Students

Brian Urban – Social Determinants of Health Data is the Missing Link for U.S. Healthcare

Delta Omega Inductions

Residential: Hannah Adams, Abhirupa Dasgupta, Kathleen Duemling, Erica Gotow, Saahithya Gowrishankar, Amanda Hepler, Yue Huang, Meredith Milligan, Sofia Patria, Kierstyn Smith

Hybrid: Brandon Huxley, Sarah Stafford, Natalie Thomas, Eric Strauss, Rebecca Rasky, Victoria (Torey) Lee, Gabrielle Pirruccio, Karen Guo

Student Speakers

Kierstyn Smith (Residential)

Ifrah Ahmed (Hybrid)

Class Marshalls

Renata Yen (Residential)

Eric Strauss (Hybrid)

Commencement Marshall

Ifrah Ahmed (Hybrid)