January 19, 2016
Two graduate students from the Arnold School of Public Health have been named 2017 Breakthrough Graduate Scholars. With nominations from graduate program directors across the University, each year the Office of the Vice President for Research selects around a dozen (13 in 2017) outstanding students who demonstrate excellence in the classroom, actively contribute to research and scholarship in their fields and exhibit potential for future success. Rifat Haider (Ph.D. in Health Services Policy and Management (HSPM)) and Morgan Hughey (Ph.D. in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB)) earned Breakthrough Scholar awards through exceptional performance and achievements in their programs.
Originally from Bangladesh, Haider studied medicine, health economics and population sciences at the University of Dhaka and then gained experience as a medical officer in public health projects, technical consultant on a research project related to micro health insurance, and lecturer of public health at a prestigious university. Building on these experiences, Haider moved to the United States in 2013 to enter the HSPM department’s doctoral program (Ph.D.) and make an even bigger impact on population health.
While maintaining a perfect grade point average inside the classroom, Haider also immersed himself in numerous research projects (e.g., cancer screening/costs, opioid prescription drug use, waterpipe tobacco smoking, health disparities). Working with HSPM Chair Mahmud Khan and Assistant Professor Zaina Qureshi, Haider has already published five peer-reviewed papers (with six more under review) and delivered 17 presentations at national and international conferences. In last APHA annual meeting he got best student poster award. The Arnold Fellow’s dissertation research, which is funded by the World Health Organization, focuses on the economic burden of tuberculosis and an economic evaluation of tuberculosis control programs in Bangladesh.
After his 2017 graduation, Haider will pursue a career in academia as a health services researcher. He plans to use his developing health economics and healthy policy expertise to improve the health and wellbeing of the populations in both developed and developing countries.
Hughey’s interest in public health research was sparked when she was an undergraduate student studying health and exercise science at Furman University close to where she grew up in Gaffney, S.C. She completed the Arnold School’s Master of Public Health in Physical Activity and Public Health program in 2013 and enrolled in the HPEB’s doctoral program (Ph.D.) that fall.
The Arnold Fellow connected with HPEB Assistant Professor Andrew Kaczynski, joining her mentor’s Built Environment and Community Health (BEACH) Laboratory to study how neighborhoods and communities affect the health and wellbeing of their residents. Though always evolving, Hughey’s research generally focuses on finding solutions that prevent childhood obesity and chronic disease and lead to healthier communities.
Her efforts have positively impacted the communities she studies and resulted in several awards (e.g., USC SPARC Award, Gerry Sue and Norman J. Arnold Emerging Scholar in Childhood Obesity Graduate Student Research Award, APHA Physical Activity Section Best Poster Presentation). Meanwhile, Hughey has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and published nine peer-reviewed papers (with three more in press). She also prioritizes mentoring undergraduate students and serving in various other leadership roles. After graduating in May, Hughey plans to continue her line of research aimed at chronic disease prevention/building healthy communities and mentoring future public health researchers and professionals with a career in academia.
The 2017 Breakthrough Graduate Scholar award recipients will be featured in a special supplement of Breakthrough magazine and honored at the Breakthrough Graduate Scholars Luncheon in the spring.