Student Profiles

Nina Agrawal

Nina Agrawal, MD is board-certified in child abuse pediatrics and has spent much of her career providing care to children experiencing various forms of maltreatment. When the pandemic hit and school went remote, Nina knew first-hand that there would be ripple effects on kids, many of whom were already at risk. She published an op-ed in the NYTimes about it to reach as many people as possible about the critical public health issue.

After publishing this piece and building connections with staff at CUNY SPH, Nina enrolled in the Health Communication for Social Change program. The Times piece was followed by other opinion articles, including one in the NY Daily News where she shared her unique insights on addressing child sex trafficking.

“Being able to meet face to face – or by voice in this digital world – is important to me – personally and professionally.” She’s now getting to know others involved in the program and is excited by the prospect of building bridges between more pediatricians and public health professionals.

In addition to her clinical work, Nina is expanding her focus, through writing and grassroots organizing, to “effect broad systems change” for young people who have historically been marginalized. Through the program, she’s entering a broader “public health framework.”

Nina takes courses part-time, which, she says, “gives me the time to devote to my clinical work and advocacy work for various child health issues. It also allows me to apply the skills I’m gaining through the program in real time.”

Magdalen Harris

A New Yorker by way of Aotearoa New Zealand, Magdalen Harris only considered studying at CUNY, “I wanted to study public health in a public institution.” Her experience in community organizing and housing justice propelled her into the MS HC4SC program. With years under her belt as a statistical analyst and marketing strategy consultant, Magdalen felt prepared for her courses, but was still excited to gain new practical knowledge. “Our class assignments build skills that can directly be applied to work in the field,” she says.

After three semesters in the program, Magdalen is about to become one of our program’s first alumni. Her capstone project explored the experiences of student veterans in accessing mental health care, and has resulted in an article soon to be submitted for academic publication.

According to Dr. Palmedo, “Maggie’s research has been extraordinary, and will contribute to a better understanding of how colleges can be more responsive to their student veteran needs.”

Magdalen says, “I realized my research could have a real impact on the efficacy of mental health communication, so I decided to analyze the data for publication. I have been supported by CUNY faculty each step along the way.”

Magdalen is now planning to pursue a PhD, something that was also inspired by her capstone research. “I enjoyed every single part of the process, from interviewing and coding the data to analyzing themes and drafting the results. I want to continue studying this field and set myself up for a career in research.”

Camilo Parra

Camilo Parra

Camilo Parra describes himself as “passionate about making healthcare more accessible to individuals, specifically LatinX and Hispanic-American communities.” He says that, “lack of access to healthcare exists in different forms, but one of the biggest factors is language. Through my degree, I hope to learn more about how to create access for these undeserved communities.”

Camilo enrolled in the program after graduating from NYU (pre-health) with a BA in Global Public Health & Anthropology. While he contemplates further graduate studies in public health or a possible future in medical school, he feels this program will help with the decision. In the future, he hopes to gain experience in hospital management, biotechnology, medical sciences, and community development.

Camilo currently works as a Covid contact tracer for NYC, where he says, “I’ve seen firsthand the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has had on LatinX and Black New Yorkers, and how it continues to further widen health disparities. I hope that through this degree, I will continue to learn how I can better serve my city.”

Konul Karimova

Konul Karimova

“In my work, I have realized how important it is to make communication evidence-based,” says Konul Karimova, who works as a Communication Associate in the Azerbaijan Country Office of UNICEF while earning her MS in Health Communication for Social Change.

“I am now learning to think strategically, and design programs to actually reach people … this knowledge has allowed me to be a more effective colleague at work.”

Born in Azerbaijan and raised in Turkey, Konul graduated from Bahcesehir University with a BA in Public Relations. At UNICEF she supports the Communication for Development program and general external communication for the Azerbaijani office. She has been involved in communication campaigns for early childhood education, inclusive education, and adolescent development.

“The birth of my daughter inspired me to continue my studies,” she says. “I am very excited to become a communication for social change professional to reach vulnerable groups around the world and contribute to change.”

Anne Marie Imbornone

Anne Marie Imbornone

I have been working as a personal trainer for more than 20 years now, and I have witnessed my clients have really great health outcomes as a result of our work together. The things that most Americans are prescribed medications for—high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, etc.—do not impact my clients who have access to regular fitness and wellness measures. This led me to the question, why has wellness become a perk of the wealthy?

I have realized when I have given time to working with people who cannot pay me and wouldn’t normally be able to access my kind of services, that they could be so much better, physically and mentally, if they had the same access as my higher socio-economic status clients. This pushed me toward looking into a Public Health program so that I could help underserved populations.

Wellness should be a basic human right and I chose the MS in Health Communication program because it is built on the pillars of that exact sentiment. I believe this program will help me do my share of getting this world to a more equitable place. It seems especially important to me that during my time in this program I will learn to advocate efficiently for what is essential to people’s wellbeing and that I will be able to communicate so that my message is heard. These are the skills you need to push through the tough roads ahead!

The program has been completely enlightening thus far. The online and asynchronous aspects allow me to be able to still work and take care of my nine-year-old son who is home for virtual school. It also enables me to research things at my own pace or gear them toward the directions of my interest. There have been plenty of opportunities to connect with both faculty and other students as well. The fact that you can also take synchronous classes is great and helps to provide an even deeper connection to the school.

Something else that has come as a pleasant surprise is learning about what an amazing institution CUNY is. They have so many wonderful initiatives and faculty members that it is easy to be inspired and motivated, and pushed toward things you may not have even known you were interested in. My experience so far has been invigorating!

Shanaz Hosein

Shanaz Hosein

I have been working in public health for seven years now. In the beginning of my career, I was involved in projects related to diet and acculturation of immigrant families; however, the bulk of my work in public health has been around communicable diseases and harm reduction in New York City.  Through all those experiences I learned that I love working with communities and being a part of the work on the ground.

I was lucky to know that public health was the field for me very early on. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in public health from CUNY Brooklyn College and I knew right away that I wanted to also pursue a master’s degree in public health. When I started at CUNY SPH, I found it challenging to pick a specific MPH concentration. I began in the MPH in Community Health track but switched to the MS in Health Communication track because it better aligned with my career goals.

Thus far in my career, I have learned the importance of communication, and this degree reinforces these foundational skills. It also emphasizes the importance of collaboration, entrepreneurial ventures, passion, and advocacy needed to address public health issues. This degree is helping me build skills to effectively communicate, promote public health issues, develop new programs and initiatives, and engage in multi-sector partnerships.

My experience in the program so far has been personable, encouraging, and supportive. The perks of this being a new program is that we are a part of a small cohort. The CUNY SPH staff and MS program chairs are involved in every aspect of my graduate experience. Professor Chris Palmedo and Professor Scott Ratzan have always made themselves available, and are there to provide guidance not only on the MS program but also on career opportunities post-graduation.

After this challenging year, we cannot deny the importance of effective public health communication. If anyone was frustrated this year by the ineffective and confusing information that we the public endured, or have ever been frustrated in the past and want to be a part of the change, I highly recommend joining the MS program. It is not only for the typical public health students but welcomes anyone interested in entrepreneurship, technology, digital communications, and a variety of other spaces.