Students

Our MPH students have a diverse set of academic interests and professional backgrounds. This diversity, combined with world-renowned faculty and a rigorous course of study, provides an unmatched educational experience in public health. Listed below is a brief introduction to some of our current students. 

First YEAR PFMH GRADUATE STUDENTS

Tiffany Firebaugh is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health and is pursuing a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. Originally from Texas, Tiffany completed her undergraduate studies at Columbia University, earning a BA in International Affairs. After college, she entered the field of non-profit fundraising, working for the likes of Center for Migration Studies and UNICEF. While at Mailman, Tiffany will be exploring how climate change acts as a threat multiplier for vulnerable populations and the ways that public health officials can help to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of populations forced to migrate due to a changing climate. 

Rebecca Liron is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. She was born in France, raised in California, and studied Political Science and International Studies at Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, Rebecca worked on refugee research initiatives for the Center for Forced Migration Studies, and conducted her thesis research on asylum seekers' rights and experiences in Tel Aviv, Israel. She moved to Nairobi, Kenya as a Princeton in Africa Fellow at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Kenya, focused on grant management and reporting for the IRC in Kenya's Dadaab, Kakuma, Lodwar, and Urban Programs. Rebecca then worked for two years as a Senior Caseworker with the CWS Resettlement Support Center (RSC) Africa, conducting in-person interviews with refugees across Sub-Saharan Africa for resettlement to the US. There, she gained experience in the Family Reunification Unit, and worked as a Resettlement Officer deployed to UNHCR in Bujumbura, Burundi to write Resettlement Registration Forms. Rebecca is committed to continuing her work in the forced migration field, and plans to focus on mental health and psychosocial services for forcibly displaced populations during her time at Columbia.

Connor Wright is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. Connor grew up in Los Angeles, where he worked as a volunteer for AIDS Project: Los Angeles (APLA) working in health promotion with the LGBT population living with HIV. He received his B.S. in Public Health from Tulane University where he worked alongside Global Green conducting qualitative research identifying the specific causes of elevated lead levels among children in New Orleans. For his undergraduate practicum Connor worked as a health promotion intern in Rabat, Morocco with l’Organisation Panafricaine de Lutte contre le Sida (OPALS). There he collaborated on educational efforts to inform vulnerable populations of HIV/AIDS and other STI related complications by conducting HIV screenings and health consultations at the OPALS clinic and local hospitals. After his time in Morocco, Connor went on to work in education for the French Ministry of Education at the Academy of Nice. During his time at Mailman, Connor aspires to use his knowledge, experience, and new skill set to serve as an advocate for international human rights, health equity, and LGBT health.

San Ling Lau is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health. She grew up in Tasmania, a small island state of Australia and home to the Tasmanian Devil. Prior to joining Mailman, she worked as a pediatric doctor at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and researched children’s brain tumors at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.  She has volunteered in remote Indigenous Australian communities and underserved rural communities in Nepal, in addition to having tutored immigrants from Afghanistan and El Salvador. She is interested in improving the health and welfare of children, particularly from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds. Her interests include pediatric infectious diseases (particularly HIV/TB), child health and child protection in humanitarian settings, refugee and immigrant health, and children in detention.

Carlie Skellington is a first-year MPH candidate in the Department of Epidemiology with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. She received a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Health, Medicine & Society from Lehigh University. Carlie’s interests in humanitarian work spurred during a nine-month Fulbright fellowship in Palangka Raya, Indonesia, during which she taught English at an Islamic high school. While living near the heart of Borneo’s rain forest during the 2015 El Niño—extended dry season—Carlie learned first-hand the importance of strong emergency response management and organized public health systems during a natural disaster, particularly in low-resource settings. Since then, Carlie has worked as a Clinical Information Manager in a Level II regional trauma center, written research grant proposals for the UN NGO Committee on Mental Health, and assisted NYSPI epidemiologists of the Boricua Youth Study in analyzing mental health implications of Hurricane Maria among cohorts in both Puerto Rico and the Bronx. Her interests reside in the psychosocial impacts of humanitarian crises, as well as early warning surveillance and coordinated health response during emergencies.

Sylvia Abdullah is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. Sylvia has a BA in Human Rights from Barnard College, and her undergraduate activities included serving as a delegate to the Northwestern University Undergraduate Conference on Human Rights and studying abroad through Boston University's International Conflict Resolution program. She has six years of professional experience at grantmaking organizations, most recently managing grants for cancer research. Her numerous volunteer and leadership roles include peer health educator, job placement volunteer with IRC Los Angeles, board member for New York Abortion Access Fund, New Leaders Council fellow, and advocate for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.

Chris Severini is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. Born and raised in the D.C. metropolitan area, Chris graduated from T.C. Williams High School and studied Biology at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. While completing his undergraduate studies, he spent his summers interning with the HIV Working Group, a volunteer-driven HIV/AIDS education, outreach and advocacy initiative at The DC Center for the LGBT Community. After graduation, Chris served as a Community Health Educator in the U.S. Peace Corps in Belize, where he planned and implemented maternal & child health and non-communicable disease prevention programming in a rural village setting. He also organized Boys Reaching Out Belize, a national youth leadership camp striving to promote gender equality and health ownership among preteen-aged boys. Chris is passionate about promoting and facilitating healthy lifestyle practices to fight non-communicable disease in humanitarian and complex emergency settings and aspires to learn more about program planning, monitoring and evaluation within these settings during his time at Mailman.

Ali Sussman is a first-year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health and is pursuing a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. Originally from New Jersey, Ali completed her undergraduate degree at Emory University where she studied International Relations with a focus on conflict resolution and a minor in Global Health. During college, she interned at the CDC in the Department for International Emergency and Refugee Health. Additionally, she was a health educator at the Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta. After college, she worked at the Population Council. Ali is interested in continuing to work in refugee health, with a particular interest in reproductive and adolescent health.

SECOND YEAR PFMH GRADUATE STUDENTS

Betsy Dankenbring is a second year MPH student in the department of Population and Family Health. Prior to attending the Mailman School, Betsy served as the interim clinic director at Clinica Verde, a non-profit health clinic in Boaco, Nicaragua. While there, she and clinic staff designed and implemented a prenatal nutrition and child development program that has since been adopted and expanded by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health across multiple rural clinics. Betsy served in Malawi on the Breast Milk, Microbiome and Immunity Project, studying the ethical, cultural and social aspects of the interrelationship between the human gut microbiome, breastfeeding and malnutrition. She also worked in refugee resettlement in Saint Louis, MO and aims to combine these experiences to work in maternal, child and reproductive health in conflict and post-conflict areas and with displaced communities. Betsy holds a Bachelor’s degree in International and Area Studies from Washington University in Saint Louis.

Christine Chen is a second year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health. She is an emergency medicine physician and global health fellow at Mt Sinai St Luke's-West Hospital Center.  She completed her undergraduate studies in Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley in California, followed by a short stint as a substitute teacher before enrolling in medical school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. Christine just finished her emergency medicine training at NY-Presbyterian/Queens, serving the immigrant population of Queens in Flushing, NY. While in various parts of her training, she volunteered in several small public health service projects including building stoves in Guatemala and helping launch several public health initiatives in Rwanda, and piloted a water bio-filtration project in a rural village. Her interests are broadly for the health improvement of those in vulnerable populations such as immigrants and refugees, but more specifically for women and children caught in conflict areas and their protection during humanitarian emergencies.

Hayes Wong is a second year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health. Originally from Atlanta, she received a B.A. in International Relations at Kenyon College in Ohio. After graduation, she collaborated with the Chinese CDC in Beijing on a hepatitis B vaccination program to prevent mother-to-child transmission in rural China as a Fulbright Scholar. Her passion for both public health and clinical medicine led her to medical school at Wake Forest University where she directed the free, student-run clinic in her second year. She completed residency in emergency medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle where she had the privilege to serve as Chief Resident and work with the WHO’s Emergency Medical Teams Initiative in Geneva. She joined Columbia as an International Emergency Medicine Fellow, and her interests include humanitarian emergencies, disaster preparedness, medical education and health care advocacy.    

Jamie Greenberg is a second year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health. She received a B.A. in Biology and Community Health from Tufts University in 2011. After graduation, she interned at Population Services International and Malaria No More in Washington, D.C., and most recently spent three years working in the Health and Education Departments of the RAND Corporation in Arlington, VA. She is interested in access to reproductive care in forced migration, fragile or conflict settings. 

Joolan Saroor is a second year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. Born in Yemen, she has firsthand experience in resource scarcity and welfare uncertainty brought on by internalized conflict. At a young age, she and her family relocated to the United States for political asylum. Joolan went on to college where she graduated with dual bachelor degrees in Biochemistry and Biology from Virginia Tech.  Prior to working in healthcare administration, she conducted biomedical research as an intern with the National Institutes of Health and volunteered on medical mission trips abroad. An avid supporter of human rights and health interventions, Joolan assisted in documenting vulnerable patients in Yemen and in writing affidavits to support those requiring proper medical care overseas. While at Columbia, she hopes to further explore her interests in improving the health of marginalized populations, investigate violations of medical neutrality within complex emergencies, and examine the impact remnants of war has on healthcare access in post-conflict context. 


Lainey Freels is a second year MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health with a certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance. She joins the program from California, where she studied the complexities of globalization in urban China as a Global Studies major at UCLA. Prior to enrolling, Lainey helped address the staggering rates of road traffic injuries in high-risk countries as a Princeton in Asia Fellow in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, developing national behavior-change campaigns, public policy initiatives, and educational awareness interventions. She worked as an International Programs Advisor and Student Coordinator for two years at the UCLA International Education Office. Lainey has supported local health clinics and clean water initiatives in Honduras as well as children's rights and early development in Northern Thailand. Lainey is deeply committed to promoting more equitable health outcomes and aspires to be an informed advocate for vulnerable communities. She is interested in exploring the use of technology in humanitarian responses as well as health disparities in urban informal settlements. 

Victoria Sergent is a second year MPH candidate in the Department of Epidemiology. She received her B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University in 2012, with a concentration in Social and Personality Development. For the past two years, she worked as a Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, where her main area of focus was mitigating the social and structural drivers of HIV. At Columbia, she hopes to explore her interests in emerging health systems, as well as the health outcomes, including long-term mental health effects, that are associated with complex humanitarian emergencies, and refugee and migrant populations.

Ahmed Mahmoud is a secondyear MPH student in the Department of Population and Family Health. He was born in Sudan, but grew up in Virginia where he completed his undergraduate studies. After earning a BS in Biology from the Univesity of Virginia in 2013, Ahmed went on to work as an intern in Virginia Hospital Center's Cardiology Department and as a surgical tech for Cardiovascular and Thoraic Surgery Associates. His interests include emergency medicine, as well as mental health outcomes in forced migration. Ahmed hopes to utilize his education in public health and medicine to work  with intervention and treatment development for forcibly displaced populations with mental and psychosocial disorders. 

Laura Zebib is a second year MPH student in the Department of Epidemiology. She was born and raised in South Florida where she completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Miami. After completing a graduate certificate in geospaital technology, she became worked on projects relating to the geo-demographic indicators of gun violence in Miami.  Her interests include human rights, gender-based violence, and women’s issues in post-conflict settings. Laura hopes to pursue a career intersecting public health and law to understand human rights issues within the Middle East. 

Anna Hoover is a 2nd year MPH student in the Population and Family Health department. She has a BA from George Washington University, where she majored in International Affairs and concentrated in Global Public Health. Prior to attending Mailman, she worked as a research assistant at Boston Children’s Hospital, and gained an interest in fieldwork while working in the emergency department of a small hospital in Dakar, Senegal. She has a strong interest in maternal and child health in complex emergencies, and spent her summer practicum at UNICEF HQ in New York working on research, partnerships, and child rights advocacy with the various African missions to the United Nations. She currently works with the CPC Learning Network at Columbia University, and is eager to further explore the field of child protection programming.

Hannah Chandler is a second year MPH candidate in the Population and Family Health Department. Prior to joining Mailman, she worked as a research assistant with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. While there, she worked on policy projects to improve disaster preparedness and health security within the United States. Internationally, Ms. Chandler has worked as an intern with Heal Our World Intl. in Nigeria to fine-tune women’s health programs and improve laboratory accuracy in a rural hospital in Benin City. Most recently, she spent her summer practicum in Amman, Jordan with the Syrian Refugee Initiative within the Program on Forced Migration and Health, looking at the impact of family separation on Syrian refugees living in Jordan. Holding a B.S. in Biology from Azusa Pacific University and having grown up in Kenya for the first 18 years of her life, Ms. Chandler has a passion for improving access to essential medicines, vaccines, and healthcare in low income countries, particularly within crisis settings. She will continue to explore these issues this fall as MSF-USA’s newest Vaccine Access Campaign Intern. 

Sarah Hofer is a second year MPH student in the Department of Epidemiology. Originally from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, she moved to New York after graduating from Wheaton College (IL) with a B.S. in Biology in 2016. Sarah has volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, and spent the past summer in Uganda working with the Rakai Helath Sciences investigating the relationship between opinions about violence and experience of intimate-partner violence in couples. Her interests lie in gender-based violence and women's health, and she hopes to use her training in public health and medicine to work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence.