Public Health

Turning research into innovative solutions: Meet Fanta Drame ’18

Fanta Drame PortraitTurning research into innovative solutions is the ultimate goal for Falk College public health alumna, Fanta Drame ’18. She originally accepted her offer to Syracuse University to pursue the pre-med track and become a pediatrician, her childhood dream. However, she learned about public health during her summer experience at the Clinton Foundation and changed her major within the first week. After sitting in Professor Jim Byrne’s Personal and Social Health class, she knew this was one decision she would never regret. Pursuing the public health route allowed her to merge her passion for health, interest in travelling and goal of enacting change to serve a larger population.

The year 2017 was an exciting time for her as she leveraged her classroom experiences and teachings as an intern at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was the first to take part in a global comparative study abroad program for her last semester. She was accepted to the IMHOTEP Summer Program and was placed at CDC’S NCEH/ATSDR Department. She completed an independent project in health and risk communication where she assessed and analyzed the official messages distributed in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic. Using readily available, free to low-cost software, she tracked the changes in message priority, new additions, changes in wording, and changes in perceived emotional tone and its correlation with the trajectory of reported cases.

Fanta then advocated for herself to be the first Syracuse University student to complete the School of International Training’s International Honors Program. After receiving support from the faculty of Falk and the Syracuse University’s Study Abroad office, she travelled from Washington, D.C. to New Delhi, India, then Cape Town, South Africa and lastly Sao Paulo, Brazil for her last semester. “This was a fulfilling experience. I learned about different cultures, gained four new homestay families, met wonderful people and got in touch with my nature side.” While studying the health care systems as well as the socio-political and economic climates of each location, she analyzed maternal and child health globally, assessing the gap between theory and practice.

Fanta’s commitment and love for public health led her to pursue her MPH/MPA and then eventually her DrPH. “I have created my purpose and found a way to make a difference and pay it forward,” she says. Her career goal is to open her own non-profit organization geared towards alleviating maternal and child mortality globally.

Drame was one of twelve seniors named as a 2018 Syracuse University Scholar, the highest undergraduate honor the University bestows. She is described by her teachers as an outstanding scholar who blended her studies in public health with a strong portfolio of research and community service to prepare for a career aligned with her unwavering social justice values. As a Syracuse University Scholar, she shared remarks during Falk College’s May 2018 Convocation:

Read Fanta’s 2018 Falk College Convocation Speech

Discussion Series for PTSD Awareness Month this June

Scott and his dog Dash pose for a photo
U.S. Air Force veteran Scott Aubin with his dog Dash. Scott will present “Dealing with Unrecognized PTSD” on Wednesday, June 13th.
To educate the local community about issues related to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Syracuse University’s Falk College is offering a discussion series during the month of June, which is designated as National PTSD Awareness Month. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events, such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault.

The discussion series to raise public awareness of PTSD and its effective treatments is free and open to the public. It takes place in conjunction with the Trauma Research Education for Undergraduates program, a joint effort by Syracuse University, SUNY Upstate Medical University and SUNY Oswego to improve access to research experiences for groups typically underrepresented in research.

The project, “Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans,” is directed by Brooks B. Gump, Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health and co-directed by professor Karen Wolford, who also coordinates the interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in trauma studies at SUNY Oswego.

The discussion series includes:

Supported by a National Science Foundation Research Education for Undergraduates grant and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), this REU program spans one year, including an intensive four-week summer program in June. This program provides research training to increase skills in conducting trauma research while increasing a student’s ability to gain admission to competitive graduate programs.

“Through a competitive national review process, we have selected a group of student-Veterans and traditional students to complete this research training this summer,” says Wolford. “The students will be paired on teams with mentors to research PTSD and will later present their research at national conferences”.

“As part of this research training, we invite guest speakers who have expertise in the area of PTSD to inform our research trainees on cutting edge developments on traumatic stress research. We open these expert talks to the community as part of the June Posttraumatic Stress awareness month, which is an ongoing national effort to educate about PTSD,” Wolford adds.

For more information about the speakers or REU program, contact Ivan Castro at or visit

Research training program for veterans accepting applications

REU 2016 students group photoTo 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 2018 program June 4-28, 2018 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 seventh 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, 2019. 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 The application deadline is March 14, 2018.

REU program prepares students for trauma research in veteran populations

Karen Wolford and student
SUNY College at Oswego professor Karen Wolford and former student Arthur Delsing are developing a mobile phone application to help people with anxiety disorders, particularly veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Rea
Honoring veterans’ military service and attending to their re-entry into civilian life are important parts of how our nation celebrates veterans during the month of November. For some veterans, re-entry may involve enrolling in college. Moving from military to college life can be challenging. A program at Syracuse University’s Falk College now in its seventh year, with support from the University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), addresses this challenge by training undergraduate students, including veterans, to conduct research on trauma’s effects in veteran populations. Part of a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans program helps students look at the chemical, clinical, cognitive and family factors associated with the various outcomes of trauma.

Read the full NSF article

Remembrance Scholar’s passion for medicine leads her to public health at Falk

Kelsey Montondo portrait
Kelsey Montondo ’18

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.

Non-traditional paths part of special Syracuse tradition

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.

Timothy Bryant portraitTimothy Bryant is a 2016 graduate of the Falk College Public Health program. Timothy enjoyed school as a child growing up in a tough New Jersey neighborhood, but, at age 9, he was the victim of a violent crime and was crippled with raging Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that hindered his ability to finish school. After eventually completing his GED, Timothy became a licensed massage therapist, and assumed that this path would be his life’s journey. Until Falk College Professor of Public Health, Sandy Lane walked into the Syracuse spa where Bryant was working, helping him realize his potential and encouraging him to go back to College. Timothy received the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) from University College. He made the Dean’s list every semester, and received one of SU’s highest student honors—the Chancellor’s Award for Public and Community Service. National recognition came from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) in 2016, which named Bryant the Outstanding Continuing Education Student of the Year. Last year, Bryant learned that his bachelor’s degree would not be the end of his educational journey. He was admitted to SU’s Ph.D. program in Sociology, with four years of funding.

Elaine Sartwell portraitElaine Sartwell is a 2017 graduate of the Falk College Social Work program. As a young widow with six children, Elaine Sartwell found it necessary to “recreate” the future she had envisioned before her husband died. “I had always wanted to go to school, but let that dream fall by the wayside as I raised my children,” Sartwell says. Years later, after working in the human services field, Sartwell says she felt “trapped at the front line without a qualifying degree to apply for higher positions.” So, she enrolled at community college, earned an impressive GPA, and was invited to transfer to Syracuse University. “I wasn’t sure if SU was out of my league, but was delighted to find out I was accepted into the Social Work program with an Achiever Scholarship from University College.” Sartwell quickly discovered that she was right where she belonged. Not only has she made the Dean’s List every semester, she received one of Syracuse University’s highest honors recently when she was named a 2016-17 Remembrance Scholar.

Monica Brown portraitMonica Brown, spent 20 years working in the field of social work, but it was only when she earned her degree (B.S. in Social Work) from Falk College that she felt she became a marketable professional. “Most employers want more than just experience, and having a college degree is essential in today’s workplace,” she asserts. “It was shortly after I graduated from SU through University College that my CEO approached me with a proposal for a promotion.” Monica discovered that almost every day, she applies something she learned as a part-time student to her work as a marketing representative at Tully Hill Chemical Dependency Treatment Center. “I could be meeting with potential patients, therapists, doctors, nurses, human resources personnel . . . I’m always applying skills without even meaning to. It’s a natural part of what I do,” she says.

Syracuse Lead Study continues recruitment

SU researcher with child in the labThe 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

Associate Professor Bergen-Cico assigned to Rotary Peace Fellowship in Thailand

Dessa Bergen-Cico portrait
Dessa Bergen-Cico, Ph.D.

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.”

Congratulations Class of 2017!

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.

We invite you to stay in touch and connect through social media, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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.

Learn how to stay connected to the ‘Cuse Community in regions all around the world

Answer these quick questions on how to reach you after graduation

We have many photos to share that recap some of the celebration events of this past week:

Check out more photos of commencement weekend on Collage or at #SUGrad17.