Epidemiology and Biostatistics Student & Alumni Spotlight


Ayanna Besson

Photo of Ayanna Besson

Our students’ learning in public health extends beyond classroom! Meet one of our DrPH students, Ayanna Besson, who is currently the Community Outreach Co-chair for SUNY  Downstate’s  Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group (LMIG). Ayanna's short-term goal is to work towards finishing her degree while engaging in as many extracurricular activities as she can. Upon completion, she would like to do a post-doctoral fellowship and work on her certification in lifestyle medicine, while continuing to work.

"My long-term goal is to build a secondary school in the US and an adjacent school in Africa that focuses on cultivating the next generation of public health professionals. I believe public health courses should be introduced in high school.” – Ayanna Besson

Click here to read Ayanna Besson's full interview.

Rebecca Hill

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Our students come from diverse backgrounds! Meet one of our DrPH students, Rebecca Hill, who has an MA in criminal justice and MPhil in criminology and decided to pursue a doctoral degree in public health. Rebecca had spent several years working as an analyst at several academic research institutions, spanning the fields of policing, terrorism, and higher education.  Most recently, Rebecca spent several years as an epidemiologist at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and played an active role in the initial COVID-19 response. Currently, she is working for the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness at Oregon Health & Science University, supporting projects that focus on Medicaid policy reform and evaluation.

"I've been lucky to have a varied work history, and while slightly unorthodox, has brought a unique perspective to all of my professional endeavors…I think that there is the assumption that in order to pursue a career or advanced degree in public health that one needs a background in science. This is  absolutely not the case. One of the best things about public health and the program here at SUNY is that it is truly interdisciplinary. I've had classmates and professors with all sorts of professional and educational backgrounds.” – Rebecca Hill  

Click here to read Rebecca Hill's full interview.

Meaghan (Meg) Schurr

Photo of Meaghan Schurr

Our students benefited from the skills, perspectives, and knowledge they gained from SUNY Downstate! Meet one of our MPH students, Meg Schurr, who was admitted to our program through SUNY Downstate-SUNY Old Westbury partnership. Meg is interested in the intersection of mental health and reproductive  health, and  is currently working in research administration at the Guttmacher Institute, a leader in sexual and reproductive health research and policy analysis. 

"If you have enjoyed and appreciated your time at SUNY Old Westbury, you will love SUNY Downstate and all it has to offer. The class sizes and faculty attention are comparable to SUNY Old Westbury, and you will be surrounded by peers from all different backgrounds and walks of life, which adds perspectives and knowledge that you will not experience in other programs.” – Meg Schurr

Click here to read Meaghan Schurr's full interview.


Mazin Khalil

Photo of Mazin Khalil

When Mazin Khalil was a MPH student at SUNY Downstate, he was honored with the Muslim New Yorker of the Year Award. The Muslim New Yorker of the Year Award was given by the Majlis Ash-Shura, an umbrella organization of over 90 organizations and mosques. Beyond officially representing the Muslim community, Majlis Ash-Shura strives to take up and promote just causes for Muslims and other communities.

"I was given the Muslim New Yorker of the Year Award due to my work with the non-profit that I founded while I was a high school sophomore, which seeks to get young black men off the streets and into positive community building. For 10 consecutive years, my organization has had a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate for young black men, while the city's average is only 56%. Furthermore, the award was given due to my work with the Sudanese Revolution and my efforts to support the revolution in my home country..” – Mazin Khalil

Michael Megafu

Photo of Michael Megafu

Our alumni are committed to transforming clinical healthcare to promote health equity! When Michael  Megafu studied in our MPH program, he was one of our most awarded student researchers, and he continues to excel in his study in the DO program at the A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. In 2018, Michael was honored at the prestigious Sportsball Gala, an awards ceremony hosted by the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health that celebrated trailblazers in health equity. Michael was awarded because he exhibited “the ultimate drive” as a Health Science Academy (HSA) alum. He had been teaching the Research Methods module to the high school students in the HSA program and served as a mentor and role model for youth hoping to pursue careers in medicine and healthcare.

"I personally just like to approach things one day at a time. No matter how stressful or impossible a situation may seem, I am reminded to take things one day at a time. Medicine and public health are definitely challenging fields...The biggest advice I have is to always look at the future and remember your why. The professionals that are in your field already went through the stages and if they were successful in doing it, you can do it too.” – Michael Megafu

Click here to read Michael Megafu's full interview.

NYC Epidemiology Forum Student Participation

The annual New York City Epidemiology Forum (NYCEF) conference provides a venue for epidemiologists working in the New York City area to present their work and discuss opportunities for collaborations. The conference typically includes oral presentations, posters and discussion sessions, with a special focus on works from junior researchers, including junior faculty, post-docs, fellows, and doctoral students. In the past years, our students had participated and presented their work at the conference.

Below are the photos of some of our students who had participated in NYCEF. Click on each photo to get an enlarged view.


Fiona Berry


Estefania Gonzales


Christopher Jimenez


Kristen Weisbeck


NYCEF 2020