Student Profiles

Saif Choudhury

Saif Choudhury

Saif Choudhury’s passions and experience sit at the intersection of comedy and mental health. Saif has seen firsthand, in his family, himself, and at work as a counselor, the ways in which mental illness can disrupt people’s lives. He’s also seen how comedy can disrupt tragedy … and bring people joy.

Through the Health Communication for Social Change program, he’s building his skills in communication to become the “best salesperson for hope.” His goal is to both explain the intricacies of mental health that are often glossed over and to empower people with the information and hope they deserve to take control over their lives.

He’s finishing up his final semester in the MS4SC program, working on a capstone focused on building awareness around specific facets of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and “Pure O,” and how people with OCD can get the help they need.

Saif has held many hats during his professional career, as a mental health counselor, SAT and ACT tutor, comedy tutor, and sketch comedy comic. He says, “No matter how many times I might fail – which happens a lot in comedy as I’ve come to find out – my true goal in life will always be to use the power of comedy to help people feel better.”

Check Saif out onstage at Bragging Rights, a live sketch comedy competition, during its Spring 2022 run at the Asylum Theater NYC!

Dunstanette Macauley-Dukuly

Dunstanette Macauley-Dukuly

“I want people to live a wonderful life.”  That’s how Dunstanette Macauley-Dukuly describes the motivation for both her work as a career counselor and her public health aspirations. For the last few years, Dunstanette has mentored students in STEM and connected them to career opportunities, through her position in higher education career services,

Dunstanette grew up around activism and faith-rooted organizing in Newark, New Jersey. She’s known since she was young that there are systemic roadblocks that impede many people from being well. In undergrad, she studied public health, digging deeper into the history of global systems that obstruct health equity, particularly for Black and low-income people.

She came back to public health education last year by enrolling in the Health Communication for Social Change program and, now, she’s gaining communication skills to amplify the voices of marginalized people in hopes of creating more equitable systems. “One of the things I’ve really appreciated about my public health education is that it’s so practical,” she says.

Dunstanette has applied her public health skills professionally in social marketing, advocacy, event planning, and career services. And now, she’s optimistic about how combining theory and practice in communication can make changemaking more accurate, efficient, and effective.

“I’m excited for the type of professional I’ll be after I graduate.”

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

Anne Marie’s been working as a personal trainer for over 20 years, and she’s witnessed her clients have great health outcomes as a result of their work together. Over time, she’s seen that her clients who have access to regular fitness and wellness measures don’t have many of the same health issues that others do in the U.S. This led her to the question: “why has wellness become a perk of the wealthy?”

Anne Marie says, “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. 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 enlightening thus far. The online and asynchronous aspects allow her to continue working, take care of her young son, and to conduct research at her own pace and according to her interests. “The fact that you can also take synchronous classes is great,” she says, “because it helps to provide an even deeper connection to the school.”

Something else that has come as a pleasant surprise for Anne Marie is learning about what an amazing institution CUNY is. She says, “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

Shanaz Hosain loves working with communities and being a part of the work on the ground. She’s been working in public health for seven years: at the beginning of her career, she was involved in projects related to diet and acculturation of immigrant families, but the bulk of her work has been around communicable diseases and harm reduction in New York City.

She knew public health was the field for her very early on. She obtained a BS in public health from CUNY Brooklyn College and knew right away that she wanted to also pursue a master’s degree in public health. She began in the MPH in Community Health track but switched to the MS in Health Communication track because it better aligned with her career goals.

Thus far in her career, she’s learned the importance of communication, and appreciates that 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 her build skills to effectively communicate, promote public health issues, develop new programs and initiatives, and engage in multi-sector partnerships.

Shanaz’s experience in the program so far has been personable, encouraging, and supportive. She shares that the perks of it being a new program is that she’s part of a small cohort. Professors Chris Palmedo and 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.

She says, “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.”

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