Brit Colanter, MPH
County of San Diego, Epidemiology and Immunization Branch
Upon finishing her bachelor’s in Health Sciences and Community Health Education at California State University, Long Beach, Brit Colanter headed to Lusaka, Zambia to spend a year working in a primary healthcare outreach program. The extremely important role of public health to prevent illness was made evident during her time in Africa, prompting her to apply to the Master’s in Public Health Epidemiology program at SDSU after returning home to San Diego.
As a graduate student, she became focused on infectious diseases, specifically studying the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which proved useful since from day one, her work as an epidemiologist has included influenza surveillance, including the 2009 emergency of pandemic H1N1 influenza which started in San Diego.
Working for the County of San Diego’s Epidemiology and Immunization Branch as an Epidemiologist II for the past 15 years, Ms. Colanter performs year-round influenza surveillance, as well as many other morbidity and mortality data analysis projects. She is also part of a team that does daily syndromic surveillance to evaluate trends of emergency department chief complaint and diagnosis data for bioterrorism surveillance purposes, looking for increases in syndrome categories, clusters of illnesses, and following up with hospitals as needed. As part COVID-19 response, she is helping to confirm COVID-19 deaths were laboratory-confirmed, San Diego County residents, and if they had underlying conditions.
Tayo Fakunle, PhD, MPH
Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences
Dr. Tayo Fakunle started the program while pursuing postdoctoral research in bioengineering and regenerative medicine. After noticing the disparity in the population and research agenda of the community, she chose to pursue her MPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science.
As a MPH student at SDSU, she created opportunities for students to learn about stem cell research at Scripps. Students worked with her on participant engagement, informed consent process and community outreach. Besides her academics, Dr. Tayo Fakunle remained involved in several community organizations, including the National Society for Black Engineers San Diego Alumni Chapter and the Urban League of San Diego County. In 2010 her accomplishments led to her being awarded the Forty under Forty Inspired Leaders of Tomorrow by the San Diego Urban League. After her three years at Scripps, she became a co-investigator for research projects in South Africa, guest lectured for the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa, and in 2015, successfully defended her thesis and was awarded her MPH the following year.
Dr. Tayo Fakunle is currently pursuing her MBA and plans to innovate new processes in medical affairs that integrate her MPH knowledge. Her advice to students is to embrace adversity as an opportunity to grow and take advantage of every opportunity to learn.
Elinor Gaida, MPH
Health Promotion and Behavioral Science – Online Program
Elinor Gaida is a recent graduate of the School of Public Health’s online MPH-Health Promotion and Behavioral Science program. Throughout her time in the program, she continued serving as the Vice President of a marketing research company. Elinor entered the MPH program in search of a career shift. She found a connection between research methodology in marketing and the health behavior concentration which allowed her to succeed in her roles as a student and researcher.
Elinor completed a capstone project with the Health and Human Services Agency, Border Health Program where she conducted a program evaluation for the Partner Relay, a program providing public health and emergency information to non-English speakers in San Diego and Imperial countries.
Additionally, she continues her collaboration with San Diego State University (SDSU) and University of California San Diego (UCSD) Moores Cancer Center Partnership. With the Partnership, Elinor has completed literature reviews, revised logic models, and supported Grant applications that helped the program’s aims to increase the proportion of underrepresented minorities (URM) participating in cancer research. Her ongoing dedication to the institution and public health led to her being awarded the 2019 Hanlon Award, a high honor bestowed on students by the School of Public Health. Now, Elinor prepares to continue her transition to the public health world.
Sue Royappa, MD, MPH
Health Promotion and Behavioral Science
Chief Medical Officer, HealthSecure – EMR; Founder and CEO, HealthSecure Foundation
“The MPH program at SDSU allowed me to conduct student research in India, which gave me invaluable experience in global health, my area of interest. While at SDSU, I also had the privilege of receiving a Fulbright grant to study obesity in India. My MPH training, along with my Fulbright experience, prepared me to fulfill my lifelong goal of starting a non-profit organization focused on chronic disease prevention. The Indian Heart Initiative is one such project which directly uses my program planning skills learned at SDSU to implement heart disease prevention strategies for people in India.
These same skills again proved essential to my starting “She COPES”, a COVID-19 Peer Emotional Support online program for female college students in India, which will pilot in October as one of my non-profit programs. My hope is to expand this to males and other colleges around the world with limited access to mental health resources, to help young people cope emotionally and mentally with life’s challenges.
When the US government announced the Coronavirus Relief Fund, I proposed to the Mayor of Hideaway that we use those funds for a COVID-19 seroprevalence survey in our community. My learning in epidemiology and research design were key to the success of this program, the first phase of which was completed in mid September.
The continued support of my advisor, Dr. Hala Madanat, and the training I received at SDSU, have been crucial for the expansion of my non-profit public health works in the US and abroad.”