Commencement 2024

CUNY SPH graduates taking the public health pledge


Tuesday, June 4, 2024  2pm – 5pm  |  Apollo Theater

Watch Commencement live!

Watch as our graduates walk across the stage at the world famous Apollo Theater by tuning in to the ceremony livestream at 2pm on Tuesday, June 4.

See our digital program for ceremony details.

Honorary Degree Recipient and Keynote Speaker

Byllye Avery

Founder, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Byllye Avery

Byllye Yvonne Avery, a trailblazer in advancing global sexual and reproductive justice, has empowered Black women and girls across the world through her work to advocate for themselves by taking control of their health.

Born on October 20, 1937 in Waynesville, Georgia, Byllye Avery spent her formative years in DeLand, Florida. After studying psychology and completing her Bachelor of Arts at Talladega College in Alabama, she went on to earn a Master of Arts in special education from the University of Florida in 1969. In 1970, her husband suffered a massive heart attack at the young age of 33. His tragic death propelled her lifelong passion for improving health in the Black community.

Over the years, Byllye Avery became a fierce advocate for the sexual and reproductive health of Black women, co-founding the Gainesville Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic, in 1974 and Birthplace, an alternative birth center also in Gainesville, Florida, in 1978. In 1983, she convened the first national conference on Black women’s health at Spelman College, a historically Black college for women, which over 2,000 women attended. Following the conference, Byllye Avery founded the National Black Women’s Health Project, now known as the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), the only national organization exclusively dedicated to improving health and wellness among Black women. The BWHI is still serving Black women and will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2023.

In addition to her activism, Byllye Avery is a teacher and mentor. From 1991 to 1993, she was a visiting fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. From 2003 to 2010, Byllye Avery co-led classes on reproductive health and advocacy in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University. Her work and mentorship continue to inspire and support the department’s commitment to affirm access to sexual and reproductive health as a human right.

Byllye Avery has served on the Charter Advisory Committee for the Office of Research on Women’s Health of the National Institutes of Health and has received numerous awards for her work, including the prestigious MacArthur Genius Award for Social Contribution, the Essence Award for Community Service, and the Audre Lorde Spirit of Fire Award from Fenway Health. She holds honorary degrees from Thomas Jefferson University, the State University of New York at Binghamton, Gettysburg College, Bowdoin College, Bates College, Russell Sage College, and Simmons University. In 2018, she received the University of California at San Francisco Medal, the institution’s most prestigious campus award. Byllye Avery is currently retired and working on her memoir. She lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with her wife of 35 years, Ngina Lythcott. They have three children and one grandchild.

Public Health Champion

Alan Shapiro, MD, FAAP

Senior Medical Director & Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Montefiore Medical Center
Chief Strategy Officer of Terra Firma National

Alan ShapiroAlan Shapiro, MD, FAAP is the Senior Medical Director of the Bronx Health Collective and Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Health Systems. The Bronx Health Collective is a federally qualified health center and part of Montefiore Health Systems. In 2013, he co-founded Terra Firma, a holistic wrap-around model of service delivery that focuses on the complex needs of unaccompanied migrant children and migrant families. This model integrates legal services into the healthcare setting to improve outcomes for those served. He has also been leading Terra Firma’s latest response to the recent surge of newly arrived migrant families sent to NYC from the border, bringing mobile medical care directly to the shelters where migrant families are residing.

Dr. Shapiro served on the first Executive Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health. He co-authored the Academy’s policy statement, Detention of Immigrant Children, published in Pediatrics (2017). More recently he co-authored an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (2021), When Undoing is Not Enough – Repairing Harms Inflicted on Immigrant Children and in Journal of American Medical Association (2023), Persistence of Emotional Distress in Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Adolescents Primarily From the Northern Triangle of Central America. Dedicated to providing care to vulnerable children throughout his career he was the 2015 recipient of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Local Hero award and in 2023, Terra Firma was awarded the Academic Pediatric Association’s annual award for innovations in health care delivery. He has been an ardent advocate for the migrant children and has contributed to the ACLU’s case against the government for separating children from their parents in a written declaration. He has also participated in humanitarian groups monitoring the migrant detention facilities and migrant camps at the border.

In 2021, Terra Firma National, a nonprofit organization was launched that aims to replicate the model across the country, support the flagship program, and strengthen research and advocacy for migrant children and families. He is currently the Chief Strategy Officer of Terra Firma National after serving as its first Executive Director.

He received a BS from Emory University, a doctorate of medicine from State University of NY Health Sciences Center at Brooklyn, and completed a Pediatric residency at Montefiore’s Residency Program in Social Medicine in 1990.

Dean’s Awards

Valedictorian and Dean’s Merit Award for Scholarship

Adrian Blader (MPH, Community Health)

Dean’s Merit Award for Excellence

Hind Akasbi (MS, Population Health Informatics)
Kayla Bharat (MPH, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences)
Lauren Buscarino (MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
Laura Clemente (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Isabel Curro (MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
Jessica Dennehy (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Melani Ellison (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Alexandra Kern (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Jonathan Martinez (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Trichelle Phillips-Gardner (MPH, Community Health)
Fazel Powell (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Xin Yan Zhu Jiang (MPH, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences)

Dean’s Merit Award for Commitment

José Mazariego (MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
Anne Van der Veer (MPH, Community Health)

Dean’s Excellence Award for Research

Isabel Curro (MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics)

Dean’s Merit Award for Research

Turner Canty (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Nimra Rahman (MPH, Community Health)

Dean’s Merit Award for Service

Malika Christopher (MPH, Health Policy and Management)
Tala Mansi (MPH, Community Health)

Dean’s Dissertation Award

MIXED METHODS: Mary Cheruvillil (DPH, Community, Society, and Health)
QUALITATIVE: Lauren Cybulska (PhD, Environmental and Planetary Health Sciences)
QUANTITATIVE: Sarah Pickering (PhD, Community Health and Health Policy)

Dean’s Departmental Award

CHASS: Michelle Dearolf (MPH, Community Health)
EOGHS: Aikaterini Stamou (MPH, Public Health Nutrition)
EPIBIOS: Valeri Schwartz (MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
HPAM: Rifa Ehsan (MPH, Health Policy and Management)

Dean’s Merit Award for Mentoring

Terry Huang (Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management)

Dean’s Merit Award for Research

SENIOR: Nasim Sabounchi (Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management)
JUNIOR: Sean Haley (Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management)

Dean’s Merit Award for Teaching

SENIOR: Elizabeth Kelvin (Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
JUNIOR: Karmen Williams (Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management)

We look forward to celebrating the Class of 2024!

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