Scholars

A focus of the Dawn Gideon Foundation is providing scholarship assistance to deserving individuals who are pursuing a master’s degree in health care administration. In the selection of scholars, the Foundation works with the University to identify potential leaders who embody the skills, imagination, commitment and compassion that Dawn possessed. Going forward our hope is to build a community of scholars who will change and define health care and serve as mentors for all who follow. Being a force for change and creating time to pull others along were important to Dawn and those selected for scholarship will continue that legacy.

2021 Recipients

Mary Catherine Carr is a graduate of The University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and a specific focus in Addiction and Recovery. She has always had a genuine interest in the overall quality of life and healthcare for individuals. Along with working in research regarding opioid addiction and stigma, Catherine has worked as a case manager for an out-patient style substance abuse clinic for college students and as a peer health educator on campus to assist students with basic health information relevant to their current health status. As she studies towards her Master of Health Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, she hopes to continue to improve people’s health holistically through education and outreach on the most basic and persistent health issues affecting various populations and communities. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys baking, hiking, and anything outdoors.

Melissa DePaola, LMSW

I am currently a Master of Health Administration candidate at Stony Brook University, New York, graduating in May 2022.  I completed my undergraduate degree at Dowling College, NY, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  I received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Adelphi University, NY and I have been licensed to practice Social Work in the state of New York since 2012.

My interest in health administration comes from my experience working in fast-paced, challenging environments.  Being in the center of these types of situations and being able to be a part of a team which restores order, builds cohesiveness amongst staff, and fosters strength and unity while overcoming hurdles, led me to enhance my social work degree with a degree in healthcare administration.  I emphatically believe that this additional degree will further my ability to cultivate and lead the fundamental changes the healthcare field requires, especially in these unpredictable times.

From 2002-2018, I was employed with the Suffolk County Department of Social Services where I served in several different capacities.  In 2018 to the present, I had an opportunity to transfer to the Suffolk County Department of Health, to lead an initiative to improve maternal and infant health outcomes for at risk, high-need, and low income, women and their families.

In 2006, as an older adult and single mother, I decided to return to Dowling College to complete my undergraduate degree I had begun, and then set to the side when I became a mother.  With the encouragement and support of my parents, I was able to complete this degree in three years.  At this point, having spent four years in social services, I was keenly aware I had developed a considerable passion and commitment to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, and I decided to immediately purse a Master degree in social work.

I am currently the Vice President and Student Liaison of the Future Healthcare Leaders of Stony Brook (FHLSB).  In these roles, I inform and promote students in regards to the benefits of FHLSB membership, facilitate innovative speakers for the students to experience and foster affiliations with, and lead efforts for incoming students into the MHA program to facilitate smooth transitioning. I am also currently a Student Mentor.  In this role, I have develop relationships with new students and facilitate ongoing communications throughout the semester for any needs they may have.  Another role I am presently involved with is as a Teacher Assistant with the MHA program at Stony Brook.  Presently, I assist Professors with the set up and flow of zoom sessions, monitor discussion boards, answer student’s questions, coordinate guest speakers, and create class announcements.  Additionally, I have participated in the Seton Hall Case Challenge in 2020 and 2021.  As a Team Captain, I was tasked with leading my team through arduous processes in order to be able to compete against other top level, returning graduate school students, as well as proudly represent Stony Brook University.  As a member of the Student Advisory Board at Stony Brook University, I participate in providing my input to the Director, Assistant Director, and adjoining staff regarding the MHA program, as well as encourage other graduate students to safely contribute their opinions and feelings as well.  I am currently a member of ACHE and HLNY and spend time attending events, networking with these professional organizations and encouraging fellow students to as well.

I am the recipient of the 2021 Stony Brook University Ann Tempone Award recipient.  This is an award to honor Ann's memory and the inspirational impact she had on the Stony Brook University community for continuous learning, professional growth, and a drive to make societal contributions in new ways.  This Award recognizes a determination to make dreams a reality, no matter how difficult the challenge of doing so may be, along with considerable enthusiasm for learning, the insight to raise questions which go deeper into content, and to challenge yourself and others.

I am the 2021 recipient of the Director’s Award for Student Excellence in Service to Public Health at Stony Brook University.  This award recognizes my involvement in Stony Brook University’s Diversity, Inclusion, Culture Competence, and Equity (DICCE) committee, which acknowledges a need and commitment to taking the initiative to improve our environment.  This committee also represents and is dedicated to making exceptional contributions to create new opportunities for dialogue and education to support a culture of anti-racism and inclusion, as well as a dedication to promote a more positive community that is committed to sharing diversity of life experiences and ideas, contending with harassment and discrimination, and helping to create an atmosphere where students, faculty, and staff feel truly valued and respected.

In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my children and grandchildren, gardening and reading.

Finding your passion and then realizing you have found your calling is something many people hear, yet sometimes have trouble discovering.  I am honored to have spent the last 19 years in civil service, as this journey has provided me the opportunities to explore my passion, purpose and commitment in serving my community and making a difference to those less fortunate.  To be able to be a part of someone’s story and empower them to improve their lives is an astounding gift and honor.

My father always told me, “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”  I am proud I can truly say I followed his advice and would not a change one step of my career journey.  As I get ready to graduate in May 2022, I look forward to the next chapter of my journey and all the new opportunities I will have to bring about necessary change and make significant impacts on the lives of those who need it most.

Kirstyn (KiKi) Parker

I am a current MBA/MHA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors's degree in Consumer Economics and minors in health policy/management and public health from the University of Georgia. I came into UGA as a pre-med student: shadowing providers, volunteering at health facilities, and conducting stem cell research in my 1st and 2nd years. As I saw the gaps in United States healthcare and experienced my own disappointments within the system, I realized I wanted to make a bigger impact on the population level, especially for women and minorities.

Because of my interests in women's and minority health I have worked in a multitude of different healthcare settings. My passion for management came from an internship I completed with WellStar Health System administration which is located in Marietta Georgia. Throughout this internship: I was able to meet with and sit in on meetings with executives and board members, work as a patient access advocate, and complete independent projects on enhanced workflow and provider time improvement. I was introduced to population health and preventative health in a system based on fighting disease instead of implementing procedures to prevent it from occurring in the first place. At Northside hospital, a health system in Atlanta, Georgia, I worked full time as patient safety support staff throughout the pandemic in the geriatric endocrine sector. Here I enforced new policies and procedures for clinical operations during a health crisis, learned the importance of family care, and helped widen access for more patients to be seen. These experiences amongst others inspired me to change my focus to healthcare administration with the intent of improving the health system in the United States, which is why I moved to Pittsburgh in pursuance of my MHA/MBA degree.

I am currently interning with Strategy Solutions a woman ran healthcare consulting firm in Pittsburgh that focuses on community health and am obtaining a certificate in health systems engineering's along with my master's degrees. While I hope to run a hospital or healthcare consulting firm one day, I also strive to increase diversity within other programs like mine and on the executive level, make healthcare more accessible and affordable for minorities, and increase the importance of preventive medicine and population healthcare within the United States.

Breanna Wilhelm graduated from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Healthcare Administration with a concentration in leadership. During her undergraduate career, Breanna spent time working as a revenue cycle admin at Phoenix Physical Therapy and was both an intern and an electronic medical record implementation specialist at Interim Healthcare. As a Pittsburgh native, Breanna is excited to back in her hometown while pursuing her Masters in Health Administration at the University of Pittsburgh. During her time in the program, she will be working as an administrative resident at Magee Women’s hospital. Breanna is very interested in overall hospital operations and specifically would like to work on quality improvement, process improvement, and patient satisfaction.

 

2020 Recipients

Monica Avila

As a young master’s student and public health advocate, my initial passion for cancer research and prevention stems from my roots in the state of New Mexico. There, limited access to medical screening, medical care and research has it ranked 48/50 for access to care in the nation. The central medical center holds all the options for most women, including a large portion coming from the Navajo Reservation that do not know about prevention or investigative medical options. In the last decade, this has been aggravated nationally due to a significant decline in funding/availability of prevention and research in female oncologic health.

My initial interest in women’s health was sparked in my undergraduate years when I began studying the tumor environment in inflammatory breast cancer, a cancer that disproportionately affected African-American women. This work would earn me a title of Hispanic Congressional Scholar following my research in the Department of Biochemistry and Biology. I then interned in the New Mexico Department of Health STD Prevention Program, where I would treat sexually transmitted infections/cancers while being responsible for tracking communicable diseases across the state. However, it wasn't until I ventured abroad that I found my niche population. On a medical trip to the highlands of Cuzco, Peru I ran a rural health campaign for imprisoned women alongside CerviCusco, a non-profit organization and mobile clinic geared at providing cervical cancer screening to rural Peruvian women. Upon arriving home, this grew my personal interest in education and lifestyle modification of vulnerable populations into preventative and therapeutic clinical trials in cancer medicine.

            Currently, I am completing the final year in my master’s at UT Houston SPH. In the future, I want to focus on clinical trial medicine and increasing the recruitment of vulnerable populations (advanced age, BMI and multiple co-morbid conditions) into national and international clinical trials through the groundwork laid currently through my employment at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The natural evolution from here is to find novel ways to provide access to those women who may not previously had it and advocate nationally with organizations like the NCI to advance education, screening and lifestyle optimization for female cancers. My ultimate goal is push the needle of cancer lifestyle prevention and early detection at the national level.  

Jennifer Miller is a graduate of Hofstra University with an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering and minors in Mathematics and Chemistry. Jennifer moved to Pittsburgh upon graduation to work for the UPMC Artificial Heart Program, where she monitored patients with Ventricular Assist Devices, which provide cardiovascular support for patients in heart failure as a bridge to transplant or destination therapy. She also spent time as a Laboratory Manager at Carnegie Mellon University for the Cook Cardiopulmonary Engineering group developing artificial lung devices. Jennifer’s background as a clinical hospital employee has led to her interest in improving healthcare delivery and patient satisfaction, ultimately leading to her pursuance of an MHA degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Jennifer aspires to become a hospital administrator and achieve FACHE distinction. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys reading, travelling, and yoga.

Danielle Nahas is a graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.S. in Neuroscience and a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in chemistry and a certificate in the conceptual foundations of medicine. During her undergraduate career she also worked as a research assistant on a psychology research study focusing on socioeconomic status and parent/child relationships and in an infectious disease/microbiology lab focusing on the impacts of gene mutations on neurocognitive decline in HIV+ patients.   She currently works at Western Psychiatric Hospital in Oakland as a milieu therapist in the center for autism and developmental disabilities, catering to patients that are children, adolescents, and adults.

Danielle is currently a first year MHA/MBA student at Pitt with an interest in operations in behavioral health care. She aims to be a hospital administrator in a psychiatric healthcare facility and work on resource and service allocation to cater to a greater population of clients. Her passion for the field of mental health care administration stems from her undergraduate majors and her current clinical role in the hospital. In her spare time, Danielle enjoys playing tennis and golf alongside traveling to new places!

Lea Wenger graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh.  Lea has worked as an Artificial Heart Engineer at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital working with patients on mechanical circulatory support systems such as LVADs. She currently works for UPMC Corporate Revenue Cycle in the Department of Business Optimization where she focuses on process improvement, project management, data science, process automation, and data analytics. Lea is currently pursuing her dual MHA/MBA at the University of Pittsburgh. She aspires to strategically and sustainably improve healthcare processes to improve efficiency and equity through a career in healthcare consulting.

2019 Recipients

Mara Menk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Following graduation, Mara worked as a Lab Manager in a newly formed immunology research group examining the role of long noncoding RNA in innate immunity. Most recently, she transitioned from the benches to the trenches. This involved coordinating resources for individuals to provide necessary long-term services and supports. She will be pursing her dual MHA/MBA at the University of Pittsburgh and a certificate in Organizational Leadership. In her free time, Mara enjoys exploring art through different medias, volunteering, and baking.

Scarlett Minnie is a graduate of Miami University, with a BS in Supply Chain and Operations Management from the Farmer School of Business. After working in Pittsburgh in both the retail and tech industries, she aspires to translate her foundational experience in operations, project management, and technology best practices to the healthcare arena. She began this journey by enrolling as an MHA-MBA joint degree candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Joseph M. Katz School of Business (anticipated graduation - May 2022). As a young professional who is excited and passionate about the challenges presented by healthcare operations, Scarlett is looking forward to diving into the areas of: process quality improvement, reducing instances of physician and RN burnout, and patient satisfaction. In addition to her involvement with the Dawn Gideon Foundation, she also plans to join project committees through the local chapter of American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) as a student member, and participating in Katz’s Operations Club events. In her free time, Scarlett enjoys playing guitar and singing to her four cats, camping, and reading the latest thriller novel.

2018 Recipient

Emily Joesph is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in Public Affairs. After working in education and politics in Indiana and Rhode Island, she returned to her roots in Healthcare Administration and has worked for the past three years as a hospital analyst in process and quality improvement. While in Rhode Island, Emily also helped start an organization to teach medical students about civic action and political advocacy; the organization now works with more than 12 medical schools around the country. Emily will be pursuing her MHA at the University of Pittsburgh in the class of 2020. In her spare time, she enjoys hosting dinner parties, exploring Pittsburgh, and being involved in local politics.

2017 Recipient

Zoe Kaufman, a Connecticut native, has recently moved to Pittsburgh to begin her studies toward an MHA degree. She received Magna Cum Laude honors for her Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Entrepreneurship from the University of Connecticut. Always an interest in medicine, Zoe did an independent study on the history of psychology in the United States. Recently she has been chosen to serve as the Pitt Public Health Alumni Relations Committee representative. Also, Zoe decided to become an active member on the Pitt Public Health Student Government Association by taking the position of social chair. In the near future, she is eager to start volunteering in a medical environment and become involved in local organizations. Beyond academics, Zoe has a passion for traveling the world, reading, and playing golf.

2016 Recipient

Kristin Free completed her undergraduate career at the University of Pittsburgh in Rehabilitation Science and Psychology with certificates in Psycho Social Issues in Disability and Children's Literature. After working clinically as a Brain Injury Specialist she decided to return to school to pursue her MHA so that she can make a larger scale difference. Additionally, Kristin is pursuing a certificate in Global Health. Kristin is currently in an extended residency position at Allegheny Health Network in the department of Informatics. In Kristin's free time she enjoys volunteering at local hospitals with her Greyhound providing therapeutic support and riding horses.

Being the first recipient of the Dawn Gideon Scholarship has been a humbling experience. From what I have heard is that Dawn was an exceptional woman who had an incredible way of solving complex problems. Every person who I have met through the foundation has shared an incredible story about Ms. Gideon impacted them, that is what has inspired me. Receiving this scholarship has inspired me to really be my best, but not only my best but to be someone who stands out, who everyone I touch has a great story about me. Additionally, the foundation has provided me with a networking of the most supportive people I can imagine.

During the "Raise the Brow" golfing event someone came up to me and quoted Saving Private Ryan by saying "Earn It". This moment has really resonated with me throughout the program thus far. Every time I think I am doing good enough, I remember that good enough is not what I set out to do.

The Dawn Gideon Foundation is proud to provide recognition to individuals involved in healthcare administration who demonstrate the high ideals that Dawn believed to be so important. With these awards the Dawn Gideon Foundation continues to build the distinguished network of professionals who are a part of that proud legacy.

Priyanka Santhapuram graduated from Purdue University with a Public Health degree in 2019. After graduating, Priyanka worked as an AmeriCorps member through an organization called City Year. She worked as a student advocate and tutor in an under resourced school. Working in this community gave her more insight into social justice issues and motivated her to want to work to increase accessibility for underserved communities.

Another passion of Priyanka’s has been women’s health specifically in regards to sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is something that continues to be taboo and not talked about within the South Asian community. As a result of this, there are many South Asian women facing the hardships that come with sexual misconduct everyday and are unable to share their stories. Priyanka and a friend recognized a need in the community, motivating them to create a platform called Dialogues of Desi Women. With this platform, South Asian women can anonymously share their struggles with sexual misconduct of any degree. The platform is now active on Social Media (Instagram and Facebook) and not only includes anonymous voices from South Asian women, but also resources and advocacy to help them with their trauma.

Priyanka is currently a Master’s of Health Administration student at Johns Hopkins University, and is hoping that her degree will help her improve and pinpoint healthcare needs of under resourced areas and populations.

Since Kaitlyn Chana was knee high she wanted to be a storyteller; she strives for purpose, brings truth, and helps others. It’s the crux of why Kaitlyn founded a nonprofit charitable organization called Reel Stories. Real People., Inc., in hopes, to tell positive stories of exceptional work being done in communities through video. Kaitlyn is working to obtain her master’s degree in Health Administration at the University of North Florida. She’s working on incorporating narrative storytelling in the health care industry to improve patient care. Her passion for storytelling cultivated in her early years after spending time with children with life-threatening illnesses in hospitals through her previous nonprofit organization, Love Letters: Random Cards of Kindness, Inc. As a teenager, she traveled the country speaking about volunteerism as a Congressional Gold Medalist, 2010 Winter Olympic Torchbearer and as a spokesperson for the clothing store, Aeropostale.

Upon Kaitlyn receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida, she planted her boots in Bangor, Maine as a television news reporter before moving to another market in Jacksonville, Florida. She asked people to tell their story on a daily basis, which, in turn, compelled her to share her story with you. Kaitlyn is a survivor of three different eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders. For about ten years her weight talked when she couldn’t verbally say how she was feeling. She’s now using her pain in an effort to change how schools nationwide approach mental health by designing an educational film and guided curriculum on eating disorders. She lives by the motto, “It only takes one person to move a mountain and then others will follow,” and she hopes this quote inspires others to do the unimaginable. 

Jordan McBride graduated with a degree in Nutrition Science from the University of Georgia. During her undergraduate education, she was a medical liaison intern for a pharmaceutical company where she researched and presented finding on potential pharmaceutical drugs and markets. After graduating, Jordan worked as a certified clinical medical assistant, where she utilized her clinical experience and understanding to directly care for patients and implement administrative changes to the clinic. Jordan is pursuing both her MBA and MHA at the University of Pittsburgh. Aside from academics, she enjoys playing sports, reading, and traveling.

Callie Parks earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Central Arkansas and is pursuing a Master of Health Administration at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is actively involved in the MHA student association and currently serves as the Vice President. Callie is completing her summer residency at Baptist Health’s corporate office in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was inspired by Dawn’s story and believes that her commitment to the field has paved the way for aspiring female healthcare leaders like herself.

Samantha Clark is a MHA student at the University of Washington, in Seattle. With a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University in Psychology, she served as a Social Worker in short-term rehabilitation and long-term care before returning to school. Currently, Samantha is also pursuing a certificate in Healthcare Analytics, and working as an Advance Care Planning Coordinator for the WA NW Providence Medical Group. Committed to fostering change, Samantha has implemented a Student Strengths event series to spur leadership development in her fellow classmates, and helped to create a teamwork-fostering school program for elementary students with Type One Diabetes. In her spare time, Samantha can be found exploring the vast beauty of the PNW with her dog, laughing with friends and family, and making the most of every moment she can.