Public health passion and promise celebrated at annual scholarship receptionOct 14, 2019
Twelve Colorado School of Public Health students are recipients of scholarships funded by Dr. Richard and Molly Hoffman for the 2019-2020 school year. These students, along with ColoradoSPH Dean Jonathan Samet and former Dean Dick Hamman, and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman, gathered at the Hoffmans’ home on October 7 for a celebration of their achievements with the people who have made their scholarships possible.
Richard Hoffman has long been a champion of public health in Colorado. He first got his start in 1976, when he was practicing medicine with the National Health Service Corps in Saguache, Colorado. After receiving his master of public health (MPH) degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1985, he joined the Epidemiological Intelligence Service, where he was assigned back to Colorado to focus on communicable disease control in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He spent 15 years with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and was a faculty member in the CU School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics—the precursor to the Colorado School of Public Health. He played a prominent role in the creation of the school in 2008 and stayed on as faculty after the transition.
Since the school’s inception, the Hoffmans have established several scholarship funds for graduate public health students. The Hoffman Communicable Disease Control Scholarship supports students aspiring to work in control and prevention of infectious diseases. The Hamman-Hoffman Scholarship, named in part after the school’s founding dean, funds epidemiology doctoral students working on their dissertations, and the Hoffman Endowment Fund for Public Health Scholarships support master’s level students who have high potential for academic success, contribute to the diversity of ColoradoSPH and have a focus on addressing health disparities.
This year’s Hoffman Communicable Disease Control Scholarship recipients are Kathleen Angell (MPH, Epidemiology), Leslie Baldwin (MPH, Epidemiology), Jessica Lopeman (MPH, Epidemiology), and Sabrina Rahman (MPH, Epidemiology). The Hamman-Hoffman Scholarship recipients are Musheng Alishahi (PhD, Epidemiology), Patrick Carry (PhD, Epidemiology), and Kristen Polinski (PhD, Epidemiology). The Hoffman Endowment Fund for Public Health Scholarship recipients are Bernadette Kopetzky (MPH, Community Health Education), Brianna Robles (MPH, Global Community Health Education), Gabriela Santos (MPH, Community and Behavioral Health), Rachel Steinberg (MPH, Epidemiology), and Kanku Sumbundu (MPH, Community and Behavioral Health).
As the conversation moved around the room, the students shared what brought them to the field, what questions they want to answer and what their public health dreams are. They come from a variety of backgrounds: some have been interested in public health since college, while others discovered the field after working for several years in other disciplines. There is a doctor, a nurse, a hospital administrator, a medical researcher and a former museum anthropologist. Several students discovered public health while working for AmeriCorps or Teach for America and decided to get an MPH to better help the communities they had been placed in. Anthropologist and epidemiologist Paul Farmer was cited repeatedly as an introduction to public health and a source of inspiration.
Many of the students are studying infectious diseases: hepatitis C, emerging and antibiotic-resistant infections, and infectious diseases in children. Others are studying type 1 diabetes, substance abuse disorders in Native American populations, or biostatistics. Several of this year’s scholarship recipients have dreams of working with state health departments and the CDC, and a few indicated their desire to follow in the path of their scholarship donor and join the Epidemiological Intelligence Service.
All of the students spoke about their gratitude for the flexibility their scholarships offered. For the Hoffmans, providing public health students with financial support has been a goal since Dr. Hoffman received his own scholarship during his MPH at Johns Hopkins. To him and the leadership of the school, scholarships allow ColoradoSPH to attract the best students and help them succeed.
Dr. Hoffman is retired now and doesn’t practice public health much anymore, but it’s still his passion. “I have a strong affinity for it. It’s where my heart is, and that’s why I’m a part of this,” he says.