Six accomplished alumni were honored during the closing night gala of Centennial. Ranging from recent graduates to seasoned professionals, the alumni were recognized for their hard work in three main categories: community leader in global health, junior leader in global health, and senior leader in global health. In addition, a special lifetime achievement award was created by the panel of Centennial judges to recognize one special alumna who had given so much both personally and professionally to the school.
COMMUNITY LEADERS IN GLOBAL HEALTH
Physician Alan Talens (MPH&TM ’99) received the Community Leader in Global Health Award for his career-long dedication to improving the health of disadvantaged communities. After his graduation from Tulane, he left his medical practice and joined
International Aid. With this non-profit he lived and worked in Kosovo for three and a half years, helping to rebuild community health systems after long years of conflict. After Kosovo he conducted similar work in Afghanistan, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Philippines. During that time he honed his passion for community-based maternal and child health care, the best approach he could identify to helping mothers and infants in under-resourced communities.
In 2009, Talens joined Christian Reformed World Relief where he currently is a health advisor in child survival and malaria. He has served as the organization’s health advisor, implementing child survival strategies in India, Bangladesh, and Malawi. Also in 2009 he chaired the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses of the CORE Group, an association of organizations and partners dedicated to improving and expanding community-based programs for underserved populations worldwide.
Apryl Brown (HSM MPH ’00) has received numerous awards in addition to the Community Leader in Global Health Award, all for her commitment to the health of communities as large as the nation and as small as families. She has served tirelessly on
boards and advisory committees to further the health interests of these communities, but she is equally committed to honing the level of expertise among public health workers.
Brown currently manages two related roles as Detroit Medical Reserve Corps coordinator and the founder and executive director of Public Health Committees Outreach, Inc., a not-for-profit community-based organization that houses the Detroit Medical Reserve Group. The Corps works on public health initiatives to improve health literacy.
Brown has also served two terms on the American Public Health Association Education Board, as well as two years on the National Board of Public Health Examiners. With the latter, she helped develop public health biology questions for the Certification
in Public Health Exam. She is also a Governing Councilor for APHA and has weighed in on APHA’s public position on issues affecting national public health. She has served as member-at-large for the APHA Black Caucus of Health Workers.
JUNIOR LEADERS IN GLOBAL HEALTH
Hsiao -Ling Huang (Epi MPH ’98, CHS DrPH ’07) originally trained as a nurse and expanded her health career with public health training at Tulane. After receiving her MPH at Tulane, Huang worked in the Nursing Department at Shu Zen College of Medicine and Management and served as both an instructor and as a mentor. In that role she helped students to gain experience working with communities and schools to prevent tropical diseases common to the area, such as dengue fever. Her efforts there were rewarded with recognition for her influence as an educator and a public health professional.
Since earning her DrPH, Huang has taught in the Department of Oral Hygiene at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, where she has been recognized for her expertise by the National Science Council of Taiwan. Besides outstanding teaching and service, she has published over 20 scientific papers in international peer-reviewed journals. After three years at the medical university, she was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure.
Robert Swayzer, III (CHS MPH ’00, DrPH ’11) received the Junior Leader in Global Health award for his commitment to improving the health of disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities. Swayzer currently serves at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as senior advisor for programs in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. In this role he provides leadership and guidance in the branch’s HIV/AIDS prevention activities, with a budget over $375 million.
While at Tulane completing his health education and communication training, Swayzer developed an HIV prevention program for African Americans in Orleans Parish. The HIV prevention proposal he developed was eventually funded by the CDC for $1.2 million, and he implemented the program while he was deputy director of Brotherhood, Inc., a local non-profit agency in New Orleans. He sought funding for $6.5 million in programming to reduce health disparities in minority populations in New Orleans. He also built, strengthened, and furthered the work of HIV/AIDS prevention coalitions throughout Louisiana, and developed opportunities within the organization for young public health professionals.
In 2006, Swayzer moved to the CDC as an Education Program Specialist in the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), serving as an expert in school health programs as one of DASH’s primary liaisons to assigned state education agencies, local education agencies, territorial education agencies, and national non-governmental organizations. While in DASH, he served as co-chair of the division’s disparities workgroup and was responsible for leading the workgroup in the development of resources and tools to better assist DASH grantees in addressing adolescent health disparities. Within two years he transitioned to the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and has since built an international career as a public health leader and program specialist.
SENIOR LEADER IN GLOBAL HEALTH
Marthelise Eersel (BIOS/EPI MSPH ’89) credits her public health training at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with giving her the foundation to move her health career to the next level.
“When I came to Tulane I had already been employed at the Bureau of Public Health in Suriname for some years, however without a sound scientific public health training,” she recalls. “The MPH program at Tulane provided me with the scientific knowledge in epidemiology, biostatistics, etc., needed to perform better as a public health professional when I returned.”
Today, Eersel, who also holds a medical degree from the University of Suriname, serves as director of health for the government of Suriname. In this position, she holds the national
legal authority to implement public health and healthcare initiatives. She oversees all healthcare programs, including urban and rural clinics, the Medical Mission, and hospital-based care. She also holds licensing authority for all health practitioners and chairs the Institutional Review Board, overseeing all research conducted in the country.
Most of Eersel’s professional posts have been in national Suriname agencies. Grounded in her public health work and training, Eersel developed the National Epidemiologic Surveillance System and the National Health Management Information System, which focuses on non-communicable diseases. In 2010 Eersel was awarded Malaria Champion of the American Continent by The Pan American Health Organization for her work on surveillance and prevention of malaria.
“The achievements that give me most pride is firstly control or near elimination of malaria in Suriname,” she says. “I have been part of the National Malaria Commission which coordinated this big effort over a period of approximately 12 years.”
She also counts the recent passage of a tobacco law preventing the use of tobacco in closed public spaces in Suriname as a significant achievement.
“It took many years of tackling the strong influence of the tobacco industry, mobilizing
the public, and educating our parliamentarians. But in the end we have been successful in passing the law without any restrictions,” she says.
Eersel has provided leadership and financial support for the first master of public health program in Suriname, which in July 2012 graduated its first cohort of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals trained in public health. As with public health education, Eersel has a global view and has worked collaboratively with numerous international organizations including UNASUR , CARICOM, and the United Nations. She is married to primary care physician Lucien Kloof (IHD MPH ’89).
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN GLOBAL HEALTH
Ann Metzinger (NUTR MPH ’75, IHD DrPH ’80), a longtime faculty member and supporter of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement in Global Health award. She is currently serving as secretary treasurer of the school’s Alumni Board and associate professor emeritus for the university.
Metzinger founded the dietetic internship program at the school, which will graduate its 40th class this spring. She has served as reviewer for a number of professional journals, such as the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and the Journal of Nutrition Education, and performed formal reviews of examinations for certified testing facilities.
Metzinger remains committed to the school’s growth and to the importance of training dietitians with a public health perspective. She has published widely in her field and has spoken frequently before professional associations in Louisiana and around the United States. Her philosophy and commitment to nutrition in public health has influenced a generation of public health students.
“Some of the main health problems in the world are related to nutrition,” she points out. Overeating is contributing to an obesity epidemic in much of the developed world while other countries face severe consequences from malnutrition. “ Managing different diseases also requires knowledge of nutrition,” she says. Metzinger was the first director of the dietetic internship program, which allows interns to complete one year or nine months of an internship in a supervised setting.
Metzinger, who served under Dean Grace Goldsmith in 1967, says she is impressed with the growth of the school, its increasingly international student body, and the success of the
undergraduate public health degree program. She and other board members have successfully funded a scholarship program that will support graduate students in their public health studies.
Receiving the award at the Centennial celebrations moved Metzinger deeply. “It was unbelievable, absolutely,” she says.
By Madeline Vann
Photos by Rick Olivier