There are few things more difficult than walking a loved one through illness. For the caregiver, the challenges can magnify their strength to love, to advocate, and to serve. In the process, some discover a new calling both unexpected and beautiful: the desire to extend their hearts and hands to others in similar circumstances by entering the field of medicine. That is how Kelsey Montondo ’18 found herself studying public health at Syracuse University’s Falk College.
Montondo grew up in a single-parent home with her mother and sister. “Although our father had left when I was young, there was never a lack of love or feeling of family. My grandparents acted as second parents, and my grandfather was the father figure every girl needed growing up.” When Montondo was still very young, her grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder that affects motor skills. She recalls feelings of helplessness and sorrow, accompanied by a desire to understand the condition. Throughout his treatment, she witnessed the best—and the worst—in healthcare: providers with intense compassion, others who seemed to lack empathy. Both of whom inspired her. “Each of these experiences solidified my passions and helped me make the decision to pursue a career in medicine. Being on both sides, patient and caregiver, I hope to relate my experiences, both good and bad, to my future in medicine.”
In 2014, she came to Syracuse University. “I visited a plethora of colleges during my search but none of them gave me the same first impression that SU did.” A large university is something she always wanted to experience, she says, and she is grateful for the campus’ diverse population and the people she has met here. “The sense of community, not only among the students, but also to members of the Syracuse area, who all have a similar bond and love for the Orange, is something that definitely drew me to SU,” she adds. Plus, it was close enough to easily visit family in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.
At Falk College, she majors in public health to study disease prevention and the promotion of people’s long life and overall good health. “I often get asked the question ‘what is public health?’ and I normally give the sarcastic answer of ‘public health is everything and everywhere,’ which in fact I find to be very true. It is difficult to find something that does not relate to public health in some way,” Montondo explains. She minors in nutrition, a Falk College program which celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this year. “So many of the courses taught in Falk College overlap, and often times, one cannot be discussed without the other.” She believes Falk programs are inherently interdisciplinary, and in her four years, she has noticed increasing opportunities for students in subjects like the environment and policy.
It was October 2016, the start of her junior year, when Montondo’s grandfather passed away. “Losing the man that raised me, that I looked up to, that I learned from, that pushed me to be the best person I could each and every day was a very hard loss. However, from this loss I also found clarity. I was reassured about my passions and my dreams and to never settle for anything less than what I know I am capable of.”
And Montondo did not settle. This fall, in a competitive selection process, she was given the great honor of being named one of 35 Syracuse University students in the 2017-18 Remembrance Scholar cohort, which, she says, is “without a doubt one of my most proud accomplishments.” These scholarships were established as a way to honor the 35 Syracuse University students who, alongside 235 others, tragically lost their lives in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. “Being given the honor and responsibilities that come along with being a Remembrance Scholar is something I will carry with me, not just for this year but for a lifetime,” says Montondo. The Remembrance Scholars will lead a number of events during Remembrance Week on October 22-28, 2017 to “Look Back, Act Forward.”
At Syracuse, Montondo is actively involved in a number of research projects, including the Syracuse Lead Study led by Brooks Gump, Ph.D., M.P.H., Graduate Director and Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health. Montondo says she has gained new skills from the study and, by working directly with individuals from the Syracuse community, has also discovered a new passion for eliminating health disparities in underprivileged communities.
Montondo also works as a Certified NYS Emergency Medical Technician for Syracuse University Ambulance and Syracuse University Health Services. She serves as president of Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity and volunteers her time at Camp Kesem, a summer camp for children of parents with cancer.
Long-term, her goal is to become a clinical healthcare provider. She plans to use her public health knowledge to apply preventative medicine to her practice. “All of my experiences thus far at Syracuse have only reinforced in myself that medicine is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” says Montondo.
Nearly 100 years ago, Syracuse University became one of the first universities in the nation to open its doors wide to “non-traditional” students. That night, 18 evening courses met in downtown Syracuse, which marked the beginning of University College. These classes attracted hundreds of students who wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree but who—unlike traditional undergraduates—had to work all day or could not afford to pay full-time tuition.
According to Chancellor Kent Syverud when referencing the many successes of University College notes, “the college is further widening the pathways for those some call ‘non-traditional’ students, but who I think of as a great Syracuse tradition.” In the 99 years since, University College has stayed true to that original mission while growing to encompass many areas of study in courses offered with all of the University’s schools and colleges, including Falk College.
The Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition at Syracuse University’s Falk College continues to actively recruit for the Syracuse Lead Study. Eligible zip codes are 13202, 13203, 13204, 13205, 13206, 13207, 13208, 1321, 13211, 13212, 13214, 13215, 13219, 13224, and 13057. The study is examining environmental toxins (lead) that collect in our system and how that impacts stress response and cardiovascular health.
“We currently have 270 participants and recruitment will continue until we reach our goal of 300 participants,” says Dr. Brooks Gump, Principal Investigator for the Syracuse Lead Study and Falk Family Endowed Professor at Syracuse University. In addition to residence in the outlined zip codes, participants need to be 9, 10 or 11 years of age and consider their race as black or white. Siblings are eligible for participation. Children and their parents/guardians will be compensated for their time with a stipend of up to $150.00.
The study consists of two appointments that involve a blood draw, collection of hair and urine samples, body measurements, two echocardiograms, questionnaires and computer games. Visit appointments will occur on and off-campus and will take approximately seven hours in total. For more information about the Syracuse Lead Study please call (315) 443-4907 or visit our website at syracuselead.syr.edu
The Rotary Foundation has selected associate professor of public health, Dr. Dessa Bergen-Cico, to receive a 2017 Rotary Peace Fellowship as part of the Rotary Peace Centers program. She has been assigned to the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. The three-month program in peace, conflict prevention and resolution begins June 12, 2017.
For the past seven years, Bergen-Cico has been working with the local peace activists, former gang members and the greater Syracuse community to address the impact of violence on trauma and addictions. “I feel that it is more important now, perhaps more than ever, for people to practice non-violence—in our words and actions—and to learn strategies for effectively modeling, teaching and cultivating mediation, negotiation, conflict transformation and non-violence,” says Bergen-Cico.
Bergen-Cico explains that Syracuse has one of the highest poverty and homicide rates in the United States, a result of multiple factors including gang-related violence. Additionally, a substantial refugee population resides in Syracuse, representing many war-torn regions around the world. Furthermore, the city is home to a military veteran population that has also been impacted by violence. “All of these people have been affected by violence and represent how conflict and violence across the globe affects each of us,” Bergen-Cico adds. “Our city is a mirror of the global situation and the work I will be able to advance through my participation this program will be influenced by, and applicable for, many cultures.”
Dean Diane Lyden Murphy, along with the faculty and staff of Falk College, congratulates the Class of 2017! We are excited to see where your careers take you. Remember that you are “forever orange” and will always be a part of Falk College and Syracuse University.
As alumni, you will now receive FalkTalk, Falk College’s email newsletter for alumni, parents and friends. FalkTalk keeps you up-to-date with news headlines, student highlights, and upcoming events delivered to your inbox at the end of each semester.
We have many photos to share that recap some of the celebration events of this past week:
- Falk College Convocation & Reception
- BSSW Awards Celebration
- MSW Graduates Headed to Europe
- Human Development and Family Science Celebration
- Public Health Food Studies and Nutrition Awards Presentation
- Public Health Posters
- Marriage and Family Therapy Graduation Luncheon
- Sport Management Senior Reception
- Convocation photos from Sport Management
Bruce Carter, Katherine McDonald, Gina Pauline named 2017 Falk College Faculty of the Year
Faculty members from the Departments of Human Development & Family Science, Public Health, Food Studies & Nutrition, and Sport Management were honored for excellence in service, research and teaching with 2017 Falk College Faculty of the Year Awards. The honorees, who are nominated by their peers for outstanding performance and contributions to students, Falk College, Syracuse University and beyond, were recognized by Diane Lyden Murphy, Dean. For more information about the teaching, research, service and scholarship activities of these honorees, visit falk.syr.edu.
“It is with great joy that we honor professors Bruce Carter, Katherine McDonald, and Gina Pauline.,” says Diane Lyden Murphy. “Falk College is privileged to have faculty like these, who are truly dedicated to the success of our students. We appreciate their many contributions to their respective academic departments, as well as to the college and Syracuse University as a whole.”
Falk College announced today that the New York State Department of Education has approved two new programs: the new 150-credit Public Health B.S./M.S. and 144-credit Public Health B.S./M.S. Global Health programs, each designed to provide high-caliber students at Syracuse University with the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in Public Health and a master’s degree in either Public Health or Global Health in five years.
Students will attain advanced competencies in public health as the proposed program provides students with additional depth and breadth beyond the bachelor’s degree, and allows them to engage with graduate faculty that they may not otherwise have in their undergraduate studies. In particular, the proposed program will create opportunities for students to design original research projects under the mentorship of public health faculty.
In addition to saving students time and academic-related costs, these programs will improve their career prospects and competitive advantage in the marketplace and thus enhance their marketability. Increasingly, employers are favoring applicants with the additional education and experience that will be obtained by students in these programs.
Public Health B.S./M.S. students complete an internship experience in year 4 and a master’s thesis in year 5. Public Health B.S./Global Health M.S. students complete two internship experiences: a generalist public health internship in year 4 and an international global health internship in year 5. While not required, students will be encouraged to participate in a study abroad experience during their second or third year of study.
For more information about the Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition at Syracuse University’s Falk College, visit falk.syr.edu.
To improve access to undergraduate research experiences in the area of trauma for groups typically underrepresented in this research, including veterans, a collaborative venture between Syracuse University’s Falk College, SUNY Oswego, and SUNY Upstate Medical University is now recruiting students for its 2017 program June 5-29 on the Syracuse campus.
The Undergraduate Trauma Research Training program is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity directed by Brooks B. Gump, Ph.D., M.P.H., Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health, and co-directed by Karen Wolford, Ph.D., Professor Department of Psychology and Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program in Trauma Studies at SUNY Oswego and includes other faculty from these institutions as well as SUNY Upstate Medical University. This program brings together veterans and non-veterans in a safe environment to pursue trauma research activities.
This month-long immersion program involves coursework, mentored student-faculty interactions, and the development of a research project. Participating students receive a $3,000 stipend for attending the summer session. Room and board are provided free of charge, as needed.
The program, now in its sixth year, draws on personal experiences of veterans who understand the nature and context of traumatic events. By gaining a scientific understanding of trauma, students who complete the program gain essential tools they can use to improve the quality of life for themselves and others, including veterans. Read more about one REU participant’s experience here.
The program is purposefully structured to span one full year. Following the summer program, students continue their research under the mentorship of REU faculty during the Fall semester. Finally, students are expected to present their research at a national conference in Spring, 2018. The travel and registration expense for the conference is provided to the student through this program. For more information about the program, and to submit application for it, click here to go to the Syracuse University REU website or contact Ivan Castro at email@example.com. The application deadline has been extended to March 14, 2017.
Willis Sanders ‘16 came to snowy Syracuse University from Houston, Texas and declared a major in public health his sophomore year. “I knew that I wanted to help people and potentially save lives,” says Sanders. Recognizing physical health as one of the most basic foundations of life and that social circumstances have a profound impact on health, Sanders knew that a career in public health would give him opportunities to have a positive influence.
As part of its rigorous program accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, Falk College’s public health students complete a total of 480 hours of service learning work, culminating in the senior capstone internship, a nine-credit, 400-hour hands-on learning experience.
“Community-based learning experiences provide public health majors with opportunities to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to real-world public health challenges,” says public health associate professor and undergraduate director Maureen Thompson, Ph.D. “These are a critical component of the public health program at Falk College.”
Sanders completed his internship at the Central Village Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse, where Sanders worked with inner-city youth. “The children I worked with all came from underrepresented communities. Most did not have dominant male figures in their lives,” says Sanders. “I took this internship as an opportunity to motivate and encourage in these children the importance of self-worth and determination.”
But Sanders put more than his public health skill set into practice during his internship. He and the children starred in a music video for “Believe It,” a song Sanders wrote. “The idea of creating this music video came from my heart. Music has always been a passion of mine and I wanted to share my passion with these children.”
The lyrics speak about overcoming obstacles, not letting others define you, and being determined to succeed. “I wanted to encourage these children to believe in themselves despite the circumstances and situations that they may encounter,” Sanders says. “I wanted to inspire and motivate as many children as I could. I wanted to leave an everlasting impression that will never be forgotten.”
“I’m still trying to figure out exactly what career path I want to take with public health but I am positive that Oncology will be my field of interest,” Sanders explains. “I have family history with numerous relatives that have lost their lives as result of being diagnosed with cancer. I eventually want to find a cure and potentially try to save as many lives, and help as many people as I can.” Sanders graduated in December and plans to start his career at organ donation agency, LifeGift.