Matthew Lee Girvin Award

Past Recipients

The Matthew Lee Girvin Award award is presented to a recent graduate of the Rollins School of Public Health who exemplifies Matthew's selfless dedication to the field of public health and who has made significant contributions toward improving the lives and health of others.

Charlotte Kabore

Since earning her MPH from the Rollins School of Public Health in 2011, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Charlotte Kaboré, United States Public Health Service (USPHS), has dedicated her career to reducing morbidity and mortality attributable to preventable diseases and improving the quality of life of underserved communities. She grew up in a region of the Mississippi Delta with only one county health department that provided services to nearly 70,000 people. Her first-hand experience witnessing the impact of health disparities on poor, rural communities of color, including her own, influenced her desire to pursue a public health career with a focus on underserved populations. 

LCDR Kaboré currently serves as a public health analyst in the CDC's HIV Prevention Branch within the Division of Global HIV & TB, which is one of the primary agencies of PEPFAR. In this role, she supports program and management operation initiatives in more than 40 PEPFAR field offices around the world. Her group works with each country's U.S. embassy, ministry of health, USAID office, and other government and nongovernmental agencies to interpret policies and regulations and assist in organizing and implementing projects.

Prior to her current post, Kaboré served in the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health, Arthritis, Epilepsy, and Well-Being Branch, and before that in the Center of Global Health, Division of Global HIV/AIDS and TB, Overseas Strategy and Management Branch. In this latter role, she provided technical assistance to host country governments and international partners in seven West African countries to integrate HIV/AIDS clinical and preventive services and provided epidemiologic science, informatics, and research support to develop sustainable public health systems in resource-constrained countries. 

In 2015, LCDR Kaboré was selected via a competitive process to participate in the CDC International Experience and Technical Assistance (IETA) program, where she was assigned to the CDC Nigeria country office in Abuja, Nigeria. During this 12-week special overseas assignment, LCDR Kaboré provided technical assistance to grantees for a robust $15.7 million portfolio to prevent infectious diseases, developed five standard operating procedures modules for cooperative agreement management, and collaborated with CDC and local stakeholders to support PEPFAR activities. 

During the CDC’s Ebola response in West Africa in 2014, LCDR Kaboré served as the Deputy Director Response Lead for the CDC Emergency Operations Center Less Affected Country Team, where she developed implementation plans and provided programmatic support on contract administration and budget development for 11 West African countries. In this role, LCDR Kaboré also developed critical pre-deployment tools for CDC staff deployed to the field. 

In addition to her MPH degree, LCDR Kaboré earned a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) certification. She aspires to obtain a doctoral degree in public health, and she plans to apply knowledge gained from a doctoral program to cultivate future public health leaders in public health policy, health disparities, and chronic and infectious diseases. When not responding to public health threats or providing technical assistance to  local, national, and international partners, LCDR Kaboré lends her public health expertise to local middle and high schools and civic organizations.

We are pleased to recognize LCDR Kaboré with the Rollins School of Public Health’s Matthew Lee Girvin Award.

Aneesah Akbar-Uqdah

The 2016-2017 Matthew Lee Girvin Award Recipient was Lt. Aneesah Akbar-Uqdah, MPH. Since graduating from the Rollins School of Public Health in 2008, Akbar-Uqdah, United States Marine Corps, has dedicated her career to supporting the prevention, detection, and response efforts of infectious diseases threatening societies around the globe. Whether volunteering as a hometown diplomat, supporting the professional development of Rollins students, or responding to global epidemics, Akbar-Uqdah leads with compassion and integrity.

As a public health analyst at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global HIV and TB, Akbar-Uqdah is merging her backgrounds in anthropology, military training, and public health experience to serve civilian and military communities afflicted by HIV/AIDS and advance health security at the local and international levels. Prior to joining the CDC, she worked at Emory’s Interfaith Health Program as a senior research coordinator, which provided her with a foundation in health diplomacy and exposure to those who continue to fight the AIDS epidemic in Atlanta.

Highly active in the community, Akbar-Uqdah, routinely volunteers with Refugee Family Services, the Health Initiative, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She supports the selection of Marine Corps Officer candidates at universities throughout Georgia as a physical training instructor. She currently serves as the president-elect of the Rollins School of Public Health Alumni Association Board, as well as the president of the newly created CDC Employee Association of Emory Alumni.

Akbar-Uqdah has been awarded the Bernard M. Rosoff Master’s Thesis Fellowship from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, inducted into the Golden Key International Honor Society, and spotlighted in CDC Connects three times for her work engaging communities at home and abroad.

Her desire to enhance the lives of women and girls leads her aspirations to become an ambassador of Global Women’s Issues and to run as a candidate for president of the United States in 2044.

We are pleased to recognize Akbar-Uqdah with the Rollins School of Public Health’s Matthew Lee Girvin Award.

Felicia Warren 08 MPH

Felicia Warren

Since graduating from the Rollins School of Public Health in 2008, Lieutenant Commander Felicia Warren, United States Public Health Service (USPHS), has dedicated her career to protecting and advancing the health and safety of some of the world’s most vulnerable and underserved populations. In her recent role as acting deputy country director in Liberia for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Warren brought years of leadership experience in the field to managing the country office’s daily operations.

Warren joined the CDC eight years ago as a program analyst, where she coordinated national HIV/AIDS surveillance activities to assess clinical and behavioral characteristics of HIV-infected adults receiving care in the US. In 2011, Warren began working with the CDC’s Center for Global Health as a public health analyst, collaborating with senior leaders to establish policies and administrative management directives to improve the agency’s efficiency and advance its mission. Through her role as an analyst she provided technical assistance on projects in Vietnam, Uganda, and South Africa, where she helped develop the 2014 South Africa PEPFAR Country Operational Plan, a $200 million initiative that required the collaboration of multiple nonprofits, NGOs, and government agencies. During that time, Warren also served on the Outbreak Investigation Team in the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center, where she helped investigate outbreaks of Salmonella javiana in 2010 and Acanthamoeba keratitis in 2011.

During the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, Warren volunteered for a 45-day deployment to Liberia, where she conducted case investigations, contact teaching, and health promotion activities to help prevent Ebola transmission in rural communities. Following her service in Liberia, Warren earned several awards from the CDC and the USPHS, including the USPHS Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary courage and the highest level of performance in action throughout the US government’s Ebola response.

Back home in the United States, Warren is a public health advisor at the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in the Division of Violence Prevention, where she provides program expertise to the Violence Against Children and Youth Team. She has earned many distinguished awards throughout her career, and was most recently nominated for USPHS Public Health Professional Advisory Group Junior Officer of the Year for demonstrating exemplary commitment to the mission and values of the USPHS. In her spare time, she volunteers as a site visitor for the Council on Education for Public Health, advising on accreditation standards for public health programs and schools. Warren believes in enhancing public health by fostering its future leaders, and she is a gracious mentor to incoming members of her team as well as to Rollins students and young alumni. Felicia Warren has contributed widely to the advancement of public health at the local, national and international level, and we are pleased to recognize her with the Rollins School of Public Health Matthew Lee Girvin Award.

Matthew S. Biggerstaff 01OX 03C 06PH

Matthew S. Biggerstaff

The 2014-2015 Matthew Lee Girvin Award Recipient was Matthew Biggerstaff. In the nine years since he earned his MPH in Global Environmental Health, Matthew S. Biggerstaff has emerged as a respected research epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He currently serves on the Epidemiologic Research and Support Team in the Influenza Division.

In 2006, immediately following graduation, Matt joined the CDC in the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch. He played key roles in significant foodborne disease outbreak investigations, including the first outbreak of botulism linked to commercially canned food in the United States in over 40 years, the first identified outbreak of botulism in Uganda, one of the largest identified Salmonella outbreaks (1,500 subjects), and a multistate outbreak of E. coli infections that led to one of the largest recalls of ground beef in the U.S.

Matt moved to the Influenza Division in 2009, when he was detailed as a Deputy of the Epidemiology Team during the H1N1 influenza pandemic. During his tenure in flu, Matt has become a recognized expert in the use of digital surveillance data and forecasting methodology to complement traditional surveillance methods. He has led innovative projects to evaluate the use of crowdsourcing and other “big data” for influenza situational awareness. He also has developed or co-developed several mathematical models to estimate disease burden and the impact of vaccination. He co-developed the Pandemic Severity Assessment Framework, an original and innovative tool to assess the severity of influenza pandemics in the U.S. His work in these areas has made a significant contribution to pandemic planning and response in the U.S.

Matt has also been a leader in service to Rollins and Emory University, including serving as President of the Rollins Alumni Board. He serves currently on the Rollins Career Services’ Community Advisory Board and is in his second term as a Rollins representative to the Emory Alumni Board, where he is a member of the Executive Board and chair of the Student to Alumni Committee.

Matt’s work is certain to continue to have a wide impact in the field and on the health of the public for years to come. We are pleased to recognize Matthew S. Biggerstaff with the 2014-2015 Rollins School of Public Health Matthew Lee Girvin Award.

Katie Wootten Deal, 05 MPH

Katie wootten

Katie graduated from the Rollins School of Public Health in 2005 with an MPH in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. During her time at Rollins, Katie strengthened her interest in mental health (particularly suicide prevention), working at The Carter Center Mental Health Program and focusing her thesis work on suicide prevention. In 2006, she accepted a position working for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) in Washington, DC.

Katie's early work at SPRC involved building the capacity of grantees, coalitions, and other organizations to take a public health approach to suicide prevention. She provided technical assistance and training and developed resources designed to enhance our nation's suicide prevention workforce and help practitioners implement effective prevention policies and programs. After nearly five years, she became the Deputy Secretary of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance). In this role, she was charged with overseeing the operations of the Action Alliance, the 200-member public-private partnership providing leadership to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP). Among the Action Alliance's accomplishments are the significant expansion of national leadership for suicide prevention; revision of the NSSP; advancement of the strategy in areas such as research, health care, and public communication; and the involvement of suicide attempt survivors and others with "lived experience" in suicide prevention efforts.

Katie has spent the past eight years working to enhance our nation’s suicide prevention infrastructure and helping both local practitioners and national leaders prioritize and address this important issue. Her approach has been described as unique, and her nominators praised her for turning "research and science into effective practice at the national, state, and local levels … to significantly advance the nation’s public health approach to prevention in a burgeoning and historically treatment-oriented field." In 2013, she was nominated as a White House Champion for Change for public health and prevention.

A true champion for mental health and suicide prevention and leader in her field, we are pleased to recognize Katie with our Rollins School of Public Health Matthew Lee Girvin Award.

Robyn S. Kay '03 MPH

Photo of Robyn Kay

Ms. Kay graduated from the Rollins School of Public Health in 2003 with an MPH in epidemiology. Immediately after graduation, she enrolled in the Florida Epidemic Intelligence Service and then continued on to a position at the Florida Department of Health. Currently, Ms. Kay is a Clinical Epidemiologist at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

Ms. Kay's work over the past 10 years has dramatically impacted outbreak detection, infection control practices, and how disaster surveillance is conducted in the State of Florida. One of her many notable accomplishments includes designing and evaluating epidemiological surveillance systems to enhance outbreak detection. In another instance she tracked the source of an outbreak of Hepatitis C at a Jacksonville hospital. The three-year investigation resulted in the capture and conviction of a hospital worker who was infecting syringes. And she worked with the Florida poison control centers where her tireless efforts led to the identification of multiple cases of carbon monoxide linked to generators. This resulted in the Consumer Product Safety Commission requiring a warning label on generators. Her work has impacted health on both the state and national levels in areas such as communicable diseases, hospital-acquired infections and infection control.

Her nominators describe her as "a gifted leader," "a stellar field investigator," "a natural teacher and mentor to those around her," and someone who never hesitates to say "yes" to any experience that will advance the field of public health.

Rosemarie Kobau, 86OX 88C '00PH

Photo of Rosemarie Kobau

Rosemarie Kobau’s contributions in health policy and research to improve the lives and well-being of those diagnosed with epilepsy are attained by few others so early in their careers. After receiving her degree from the Rollins School of Public Health in 2000, Rosemarie began her career as a research fellow within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) working on activities related to quality of life research and a new epilepsy program. In 2002, she accepted her current position of Public Health Advisor and Acting Team Lead of with the Health-Related Quality of Life and Epilepsy Programs.

While Rosemarie’s role as Public Health Advisor at the CDC is not unique, the impact that she is having on the communities she serves is. Shortly after settling in to her position, Rosemarie set to work to broaden epilepsy research beyond cause and cure toward understanding how people with epilepsy deal with living with seizures and the impact on their lives.

Drawing on the successes of those in the chronic illness field in creating both preventive and intervention programs to improve quality of life, Rosemarie lobbied for the CDC Epilepsy Program to begin funding those researchers conducting studies related to epilepsy self-management. Today, after five years of funding, there are three CDC funded national self-management programs and three more in testing.

Seeing an opportunity for better collaboration among researchers, Rosemarie also created the Managing Epilepsy Well (MEW) Network which consists of researchers from throughout the U.S. working together to explore ways to help people with epilepsy live well. The Network includes members who have conducted research in related areas, such as disability and asthma self-management, and are now bringing their skills to the study of epilepsy. Rosemarie’s leadership can be seen across multiple initiatives within the CDC and her impact felt throughout the larger epilepsy community. Outside of her work day, Rosemarie volunteers her time at the Emergency Operations Center mental health desk, plans workshops for epilepsy advocates, and is a member of the GA Epilepsy Foundation Board and of the National Epilepsy Foundation Board.

Melissa Creary, '04 MPH

Photo of Melissa Creary

Melissa Creary is a 2004 alumna in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education who is making a difference in the field of sickle cell disease as a Health Scientist at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a community activist.

Upon joining the Division of Blood Disorders at the CDC, Melissa was assigned to a study that examined a rare     hemophilia complication. It was there that she identified a program gap and immediately set to work addressing sickle cell disease as a public health problem by developing an agency-wide workgroup to mobilize interest in the disease at the CDC.  Through this workgroup, Melissa led a promotional campaign within the CDC and sickle cell community to increase awareness about the public health implications of sickle cell disease. Her initiative lead to the creation of the first national surveillance system and the first CDC website dedicated to sickle cell disease, as well as several publications, and numerous talks and interview across the nation to increase awareness of the disease.

Today the Division of Blood Disorders continues to work in sickle cell disease both domestically and internationally, and has made sickle cell disease a priority in its strategic plan. Melissa's work was also recently recognized by the CDC and ATSDR with the agency's Honor Award.

In addition to her professional achievements, Melissa also boasts a long history of service. She is a board member of Sickle Cell Empowerment for a Liberated Life, has chaired the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni, and raised over $10,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. But, most impressively, she has helped found a novel non-profit called ShadowBlossom, Inc. with two fellow RSPH alumni.

Melissa is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Emory where she is investigating the political and cultural histories of sickle cell disease in the U.S. and Brazil and their impact on governmental intervention.  She retains her roles at the CDC and in the non-profit community.

Alison L. Smith, 05MPH

Alison L. Smith

Alison L. Smith, MPH is a 2005 alumna who is making a difference in the field of global HIV/AIDS. After earning her degree at age 24, Alison began working as a contractor in the Global AIDS Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a public health analyst on the HIV Surveillance Team, she was responsible for obtaining estimates of the number of people infected with HIV across the globe - often risking her own safety to do so.

Alison's leadership in establishing surveillance systems and conducting epidemiological trainings designed to teach public health workers how to process, analyze, and report data from public health surveys has produced the first reliable HIV/AIDS data for countries like Kenya, Angola, Guyana, Guatemala, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The result has been an increased and improved response to the AIDS epidemic in the most affected areas of the world.

Alison is also committed to helping others in her own community. She is a mentor for a young girl with HIV and a dedicated volunteer for the non-profit organization H.E.R.O. She has delivered meals to families with HIV, counseled and tested homeless men and women for HIV, and conducted volunteer public health research related to depression and suicide at Atlanta homeless shelters.

Alison exemplifies someone who, early on in her career and life, is making significant contributions to the field of public health and improving the lives of others both in her community and abroad. She is a young woman who makes personal sacrifices to improve the likelihood that someday HIV and the millions of lives the disease takes each year will be a thing of the past.

Alison is a first-year medical student at Mercer University.

Rebecca Vander Meulen, '03 MPH

Photo of Rebecca Vander Meulen

When Rebecca Vander Meulen graduated from the RSPH, she had two options: serving as a presidential management intern in Washington, D.C., or as an HIV/AIDS volunteer in Mozambique. She chose the latter, for which she has received the Matthew Lee Girvin Award.

When Vander Meulen first arrived in the remote province of Lichinga in Mozambique, churches there viewed HIV/AIDS as a curse rather than a disease. Attitudes definitely have changed.

As founding coordinator of Programa de Vida, Vander Meulen has mobilized more than 300 congregations in the Diocese of Niassa to develop HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives. Last fall, some 5,000 people attended Diocesan Family Day in Messuma, where the Vida team hosted HIV teaching sessions and tested 130 people for HIV. The bishop of the diocese and his wife were among those tested.

Through other initiatives, Vida staff sponsor recreation and school programs for children orphaned by AIDS, provide seeds and farming tools to plant gardens that nourish HIV patients and orphans, and make home visits to ensure that HIV/AIDS patients adhere to treatment. Vida assisted with a local hospital expansion to accommodate confidential HIV testing and treatment.

Because Vander Meulen was in Mozambique during the alumni award presentation at Emory, her parents, Doris and David Vander Meulen, accepted the honor on her behalf. David described his daughter's commitment to helping communities control their destinies. "I was dying," he said, quoting a congregation member from an email sent by his daughter. "Now we are living."

Leisel Talley, '00 MPH

Photo of Leisel Tally

Leisel Talley, 00MPH, has helped make a difference in the lives of people affected by human catastrophe. For these efforts, she received the Matthew Lee Girvin Award, presented to young professionals who have improved the lives and health of others. The award honors the memory of Girvin, a 1994 graduate who died in 2001 during a U.N. surveying mission.

Since Talley joined the International Emergency and Refugee Health branch of the CDC eight years ago, she has assessed the nutritional needs of populations in Sudan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Tanzania. In 2006, working with UNICEF, the World Food Program, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and the ministries of health and agriculture in Sudan, she completed an emergency food security and nutrition assessment in war-torn Darfur, which informed government and humanitarian assistance in that region. Talley also developed culturally appropriate mental health interventions for Karenni refugees in Thailand who fled there from Burma to escape civil war and persecution.

In the course of her work, she often heeds the advice of global health professor Stan Foster. "He taught us to expect the best but be prepared for the worst," said Talley, upon accepting her award. And like Foster, she shares lessons learned with her own students in the RSPH, where she teaches the course "Food and Nutrition in Humanitarian Emergencies" as an adjunct faculty member.

Cheryll J. Cardinez, ’99 MSPH

Photo of Cheryl Cardinez

Cheryll Cardinez holds a MSPH from the Rollins School of Public Health.  After earning her degree in 1999, Cheryll began her career as an Epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society conducting, analyzing, and publishing original research on the causes and prevention of cancer.   In 2004, Cheryll joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemiologist for the Surveillance Research Team.  Many of her projects with the CDC focus on the use and quality assessment of data from CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries, which supports population-based cancer registries in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.  She currently leads the NPCR-National Longitudinal Mortality Survey Linkage project, serves as the liaison between 10 NPCR state registries and the U.S. Census Bureau, and serves as the project manager for the American Indian/Alaska Native monograph that will describe the burden of cancer in this population.  Cheryll has also led the production of the annual United States Cancer Statistics, made significant contributions to the design, packaging, and marketing of the USCS website, and co-authored several manuscripts using NPCR data.
In addition to her contributions to scientific literature and providing the scientific base for many public health programs, Cheryll is an active member of the Rollins School of Public Health Alumni Association Board and a mentor for RSPH students.

Mr. David A. Bray, '04 MSPH

Photo of Mr. David A. Bray

David is the CDC Associate Director of Informatics and IT Chief within the Divisions of HIV/AIDS Prevention and the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program. He has led the CDC's public health IT response to 9/11, anthrax, West Nile virus, SARS and several other outbreaks. He has also led the technology components of CDC's HIV/AIDS surveillance and prevention programs. One of David's colleagues describes his work as "often a behind the scenes thankless job; as David's best public health work is when things succeed seamlessly, without notice."

In addition to his work at the CDC, David volunteers with the Jimmy Carter Project and Habitat for Humanity International where he serves as a crew leader and EMT. He is also author of a book entitled "A Willful Volunteer" which advocates for more committed volunteer leaders around the world.

David will receive his award during the RSPH graduation ceremonies on Monday, May 15, 2006. Please join the RSPH Alumni Association in congratulating David on receiving this well deserved honor.

Ms. Chanda Mobley, '96 MPH

Photo of Ms. Chanda Mobley

Ms. Mobley is currently the Director of the American Lung Association of Georgia's Camp Breath Easy Program where she has made tremendous strides in increasing the number of campers and raising public awareness about the issues of asthma. She also provides expertise and training in asthma-related issues as well as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and diabetes to various community and state organizations.

Please join the RSPH Alumni Association Board in congratulating Ms. Chanda Mobley on receiving this honor!

Lyrna Siklóssy '97 M.P.H.

Photo of Lyrna Siklóssy

Lyrna Siklóssy, a 1997 Rollins School of Public Health MPH in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, has worked as a public health professional in a variety of capacities. Immediately after graduating from Rollins, Siklóssy worked in a study on veterans and substance abuse at the VA Medical Center; results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.Siklóssy recognized the serious need for bilingual health educators in the Latino community in the metro Atlanta area and decided to devote her attention to health education and community advocacy. She initially focused on designing and implementing sexual violence prevention programs for Latinos, but later expanded these efforts to include other groups for whom English is not a first language.

She created the Multicultural Outreach Program at the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center where she brought a creative approach to the position, working directly with members of the community via churches, schools, beauty salons and radio stations.

To date, Siklóssy has made her greatest contribution to public health with her involvement in one of CARE Ecuador's reproductive health programs for adolescents in Cuenca, Ecuador. In conjunction with CARE Ecuador, the Clinica Humanitaria, and the European Union, she put together the area's first center for specialized medical attention for adolescents including the following services: psychological support, family planning, gynecology and internal medicine, testing of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), prenatal care classes, partum and post-partum care for adolescent mothers, and health education classes. Her work in Ecuador also included the design and implementation of health promotion and prevention programs in two schools through the training of students, teachers and parents. The trainings included topics rarely if ever dealt with in Ecuadorian schools: self-esteem and identity building; basic concepts in sexuality and family planning; and the prevention of substance abuse, violence and sexually transmitted infections. Both programs were designed to be replicated and rolled out across Ecuador and would not have been possible without the contributions made by Siklóssy.

Future plans for Siklóssy entail continued work with Spanish-speaking adolescents and women in the United States and abroad.

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