GMU Biodefense Graduate Student Awards – 2019

We’re so proud to announce two recipients of awards within the biodefense program this year. Below, you can read more about Stephen Taylor (recipient of the Outstanding Biodefense Student Award) and Jennifer Osetek (recipient of the Outstanding Doctoral Student in Biodefense award).

This year’s outstanding biodefense student aware goes to Stephen Taylor – Stephen’s passion for biodefense and global health security was shaped by his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique. He not only observed first-hand the impact of infectious diseases on the local community, he even suffered a bout of malaria himself. Thankfully he made a full recovery and went on to enroll in our program. Stephen has been an outstanding student both inside and outside the classroom. He achieved an impressive 3.97 GPA while working full time for the animal parasitic diseases laboratory at the USDA. Outside the classroom, Stephen took advantage of opportunities offered by the Schar School to pursue his passion for global health security. He was a regular contribute to the Biodefense program’s blog and weekly newsletter, The Pandora Report, where he wrote about range of health security issues. In 2017, he was selected to be a Mason Global Health Security Student Ambassador, to attend the 4th Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Summit in Kampala, Uganda, which was attended by heads of state and senior health officials from 50 countries. Following the conference, Stephen led an effort to establish a chapter of the Next Generation Global Health Security Network at Mason, to engage more students and young professionals in this important field. Stephen’s commitment to global health security and his leadership abilities make him well-deserving of this award.

This year’s outstanding doctoral student in biodefense goes to Jennifer Osetek – Jen’s dissertation, The Last Mile: Removing Non-Medical Obstacles in the Pursuit of Global Health Security asks the question, “Does the current approach to public health response planning and execution adequately incorporate all known obstacles to delivery of care and resources?” Drawing on evidence from multiple disease outbreaks over the last thirty years, her answer is an emphatic no. To fill this important void in the literature on global health security, Jen introduced the concept of non-medical obstacles, which are material and intangible factors that slow or prevent the timely delivery of available critical healthcare resources to populations in need during a public health emergency. She then applied this framework to the eradication of smallpox in West Africa and India, and modern Ebola outbreaks in Africa, in order to derive valuable lessons for how to reduce the impact of these non-medical obstacles on current outbreak responses. For her persistence in completing the last mile of her dissertation, and providing a new conceptual approach to strengthening global health security, the faculty recognize her achievement.

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