The Charger Blog

Public Health Graduate Student Discusses Success at Conference, Research Opportunities, and Impact of Mentorship

As he prepares to graduate, Pradeep Rajbhandari '24 MPH reflects on the meaningful experiences he’s had at the University, including the opportunities he’s had to collaborate with his faculty mentors and to attend a leading public health conference – at which he accepted two prestigious awards.

December 8, 2023

By Pradeep Rajbhandari '24 MPH

Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH (center) at the conference.
Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH (center) at the conference.

Pradeep Rajbhandari '24 MPH recently attended the American Public Health Association annual meeting in Atlanta, receiving received two prestigious awards from the Student Assembly for Campus Liaison of the Year and the Keogh Memorial Occupational Health and Safety Section Scholarship Award.

Several of Rajbhandari’s faculty mentors also attended the conference. Karl Minges, Ph.D., MPH, associate dean for research and assistant professor, presented his research – on which he collaborated with Rajbhandari.

“I have had the privilege of mentoring Pradeep in the conduct of public health research over the past two years,” said Dr. Minges. “He has supported my NIH-funded grant and ancillary projects as an exceptionally strong research assistant. Pradeep continually strives to be his best – whether in the classroom, lab, or internship – and he is professional, responsible, and ethical.

“His excellence as a student, public advocate, and researcher is exemplified in the prestigious awards he received at the preeminent meeting in the field of public health,” Dr. Minges continued. “The University is fortunate that such a high-achieving student decided to pursue his graduate studies with us – and indeed grow professionally as a result. It is a brighter day for public health with Pradeep in this field!”

Dr. Minges (far left) and Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH (second from left)
Dr. Minges (far left) and Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH (second from left) were among the Chargers who attended the American Public Health Association annual meeting.
‘Many opportunities for students’

Pavani Rangachari, Ph.D., director of the MHA program, and Maggie Holland, Ph.D., MPH, also attended the conference.

“Pradeep has proven himself to be a trailblazer of sorts by being recognized with both these prestigious public health service awards, concurrently, in such a highly competitive space as the APHA annual meeting,” said Dr. Rangachari. “It is indeed a remarkable accomplishment and one that will go a long way in building a reputation for the University’s MPH program at a national level!”

Dr. Holland, who earned the second NIH grant in the University’s history for research examining home-visiting programs for new mothers, says the conference was a wonderful opportunity for students such as Rajbhandari.

“APHA is a large conference with many opportunities for students to learn about different aspects of public health,” she said. “Oral and poster presentations by researchers can help students see what topics are currently being studied and what methods are used and talk directly to researchers.”

Below, Rajbhandari reflects on his experience at the conference, as well as his time as a candidate in the University’s MPH program.

Pradeep Rajbhandari '24 MPH

The American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference is one of the biggest public health gatherings that happens across the globe. This gathering of minds, held last month, brought together professionals, researchers, and advocates from across the nation and around the globe to delve into the latest advancements, challenges, and opportunities in the realm of public health. This is a transformative experience, offering a panoramic view of the current state and future trajectory of public health not just in the United States, but also throughout the world. It was such an honor to represent my university, to receive awards, and to participate in this mega-event.

In the heart of Atlanta, more than 12,000 participants gathered to witness the mega gathering of public health students, professionals, as well as specialists from all over the globe. I was gearing up to grasp the opportunity to listen to the experts and meet individuals from different backgrounds with similar objectives and themes.

Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH received two prestigious awards at the conference.
Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH received two prestigious awards at the conference.

The conference covered a wide range of public health themes in sessions that were a melting pot of cutting-edge research. From innovative methods of illness prevention to talks on the social determinants of health, each presentation illuminated the complex web of variables impacting communities throughout the country. Prominent speakers and panelists contributed their knowledge, offering a wide range of viewpoints that enhanced the group's comprehension of public health issues ranging from gun violence to reproductive rights.

Participants had the opportunity to network with experts in a range of public health fields, creating an atmosphere conducive to sharing ideas and networking. From discussions on healthcare disparities to strategies for improving community health outcomes, the sessions provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges ahead.

For me, this conference was of high significance and full of new expectations, excitement, and a renewed sense of purpose because I was going to be bestowed with two awards and Dr. Karl Minges was going to present a research paper that I was also part of. Moreover, I was thrilled to understand the upcoming roadmap to build a common consensus of the hope to create a profound impact on the future of public health.

‘A milestone in my journey’

The year 2023 marked a significant chapter in my professional journey as a passionate advocate for public health. It was a great honor for me to be awarded among campus liaisons from all over the U.S. I had the honor of receiving the prestigious APHA Campus Liaison of the Year Award for 2023, a recognition that symbolized my achievement among individuals working toward a healthier, more resilient future.

The award not only resonated with my efforts for building a healthy nation, but it also echoed and reverberated the name of the University of New Haven and caught the attention of APHA, laying the foundation for the recognition to come. From being a recipient of an enrichment fund scholarship last year to being a recipient of this award, I have greatly enjoyed my journey of holding this position and getting involved in professional duties.

Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH (left) received the Campus Liaison of the Year Award.
Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH (left) received the Campus Liaison of the Year Award.

Choosing to become a campus liaison was itself a challenge to me as I was wearing numerous hats and had to balance between academic life and other on-campus positions I was involved in. During this position, my role was to serve as a conduit between the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the active community of aspiring public health professionals on our campus. Driven by a commitment to raising awareness, fostering collaboration, and rallying support for public health issues, I enthusiastically and unwaveringly took on the responsibilities that came with the role. Receiving the APHA Campus Liaison of the Year Award in 2023 was a milestone in my journey as a public health advocate and professional motivated to serve the community and represent the University of New Haven.

‘I am proud to represent my university’

I was equally thrilled to receive a second award: the Dr. James P. Keogh Memorial Award from the Occupational Health Science Section at APHA 2023. It was during my internship with the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH), that I realized that the safety of health professionals working in laboratories is a major concern. My concerns regarding biosafety levels and occupational hazards were recognized by the occupational health science section, and I was awarded the James P. Keogh Memorial Award and a conference scholarship.

This recognition fuels my commitment to continue advocating for occupational health safety and community engagement, building a consensus among the stakeholders, and constructing the transformative power of collaboration. As I look ahead, I am inspired by the belief that every individual can drive positive change, and this award serves as a reminder of the impact we can collectively achieve in the realm of public health.

I am sure the award-winning journey will prove to be a milestone for the innovative initiatives that have taken place and, I hope, leave a lasting impact on an enthusiastic batch of upcoming students. For me, winning both awards was more than a personal moment, and it was a celebration of the values and ideals upheld by the University of New Haven. When I was heading forward with an affirmation of my commitment to excellence, innovation, and engagement, I always carried the core values of the University of New Haven and our campus community. I am proud to represent my university, and its legacy of greatness, and to inspire others to reach for the stars.

‘A pivotal role in shaping...’

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be working as a Research Assistant for Dr. Karl Minges on his National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported study, "Translating Outstanding Performance in Skilled Nursing Facilities" and the project, "Interventions to Reduce 30-day Rehospitalization Rates in Skilled Nursing Facilities: A Systematic Review." I believe both of these studies are making a significant contribution to the medical community by suggesting ways to raise the caliber of skilled nursing facilities to lower rehospitalization rates.

Dr. Karl Minges presents his research at the conference.
Dr. Karl Minges presents his research at the conference.

In addition to reviewing papers and abstracts, my job is to support Dr. Minges with the NIH project in preparing a summary of high-performing and low-performing Skilled Nursing Facilities. Dr. Minges is an effective mentor who takes the time to ensure that the research assistants understand every goal of the study, and he knows when a mentee needs more explanation. The most impressive quality about Dr. Minges is his capacity for multitasking and his readiness to help students when needed.

Dr. Minges’s guidance and mentoring have played a pivotal role in shaping my various leadership roles in on-campus organizations as well as with national-level associations such as the American Public Health Association (APHA), Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS) as well as recognition of my roles on various platforms.

All of this could not have been possible without his guidance. Under the direction and mentorship of Dr. Minges, I have evolved from an inexperienced international student to the person I am today. This is undoubtedly the case for each and every University of New Haven student Dr. Minges instructs, mentors, and advises. I wish I could work for a longer period with Dr. Minges and learn more.

‘Fostered a sense of intellectual curiosity’

Engaging in research projects, working closely with professors, being a part of multiple on-campus activities, and participating in academic conferences have deepened my knowledge and skills as well as fostered a sense of intellectual curiosity and a commitment to building a healthier community and nation. These skills will undoubtedly serve me well in my career, where a capacity for research and analytical thinking is often crucial.

Being at the University of New Haven taught me not just the academic courses and theories of public health in classrooms, but it also provided a way of connecting with people understanding the core values of public health and applying them to real practice. I was fortunate to receive mentorship from respected professors and this helped me boost my confidence to strive for academic excellence as well as to earn prestigious awards, represent my university, and present research papers.

‘A profound impact’

I attended four different conferences and presented papers at two conferences over the last year. Presenting an original research paper at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS) conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October and sharing a piece of my review at the Connecticut Public Health Association (CPHA) conference recently is going to have a profound impact on my endeavor of contributing to clinical research.

Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH received the James P. Keogh Scholarship Award.
Pradeep Rajbhandari ’24 MPH received the James P. Keogh Scholarship Award.

Similarly, I received two more awards at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS) conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October. Moreover, I am thrilled to be promoted to section liaison co-chair of the Student Assembly of APHA. In the meantime, two of my clinical research papers done in my home country have been published in peer-reviewed journals recently.

‘I am so grateful’

It is hard to believe that I am nearing graduation. Soon, I will be a public health graduate. I am highly motivated to apply the knowledge and skills I gained as a public health student, clinician, and research enthusiast. I am looking forward to getting into roles in public health, clinical research, and academics.

Clinical research and teaching have always been my passion. I want to continue my passion for research, teaching, and promoting evidence-based medicine. I am highly interested in getting into the role of clinical researcher and academician in public health, unlocking the possibilities of opening new horizons in intervention methods for the early detection of fatal diseases such as cancer as well as promoting evidence-based medicine. In the meantime, I will continue helping my friends and colleagues in advancing their careers and academic degrees through experience sharing and mentorship.

Additionally, I will continue advocating for public health issues and in support of policies to make our globe a better place to live. I remember visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., last year and meeting a Congresswoman as a part of my advocacy.

I am so grateful to Dr. Karl Minges for all of the opportunities, advice, mentorship, and for being able to work in the role of a research assistant. This journey would not have been as smooth and rewarding without the support and mentorship of Dr. Minges. I will always be indebted to Dr. Minges for his support throughout this journey, as it has been instrumental in shaping my knowledge, skills, and capacity.

From the wealth of knowledge I gained and the meaningful connections established, I believe the MPH program and the mentorship of Dr. Minges served as a testament to my unwavering commitment to creating a healthier and more resilient nation. Additionally, the mentorship I received from my teachers, friends, and colleagues at the University of New Haven always helped me understand the importance of embracing advancements in public health and novel approaches to address evolving public health challenges. I will always be grateful to my professors, mentors, friends, and family.