In conjunction with our 60 Days of Scholars feature, we are taking a look at the different impact areas of our remarkable 2022 class of Tillman Scholars. Our scholar community has found their passions leading them to diverse fields of studies all with the same goal in mind, unite others and advance ideas that change the world. From business and STEM to education and public service, each week we will be highlighting our brand new scholars and how they plan to make their impact.
We have made it to the last, but certainly not least, impact area highlight! This week’s round up is showcasing our 2022 Tillman Scholars who have dedicated their careers to public health. Check out how they are planning on making their impacts below!
Amanda Higginson, Syracuse University
Currently the interim Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Amanda supports students on their journey to achieve their personal, academic, and career goals. She continues to practice general outpatient pediatric medicine, caring for children in a largely rural, underserved area. Choosing to enter law school as a mid-career physician, Amanda saw law school as an opportunity to enhance her advocacy for children particularly related to social determinants of health, as well expand her knowledge of issues that impact the daily functioning of an academic medical center in order to more effectively advocate for her students. At the intersection of law and medicine, Amanda hopes to create structural change both at work and in her community to empower others to live, work, and achieve their goals at their full potential.
Bernard Toney Jr., George Washington University
Currently, Major Toney is a Master of Public Health candidate at The George Washington University and recently completed a graduate certificate in Global Health at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in May 2022. His combat deployments include Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) 2 and OEF 3 as the Special Operations Team-Alpha Team Sergeant and senior French Linguist for 3rd Battalion 3rd Special Forces Group, and OEF 4 as the Secretary of General Staff for 30th Medical Command. Major Toney began his pursuit of public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During his service in the WHMU, he conducted 84 domestic and five overseas missions in support of the President and Vice President. Consequently, he assessed hospital systems and witnessed the social determinants of health that lead to health disparities and inequalities in the United States and worldwide. His goal is to partner with cross-sectoral stakeholders to foster equity and impact the most disenfranchised populations on the margins of society.
Chelsea Romero, University of Texas—Houston
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Chelsea expanded her future in medicine and population health by enrolling in the dual Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. As a medical student, Chelsea has demonstrated humble leadership by advocating for women’s health, the LGBTQ+ population, and BIPOC communities through research, curriculum reform, and mentorship, most notably as President of Medical Students for Choice. At The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Chelsea helped to develop the Women’s Health Scholarly Concentration, where she has been accepted into the Inaugural Scholars Class. She aims to complete residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology, where she can improve lives through patient-centered, trauma-informed care across the full spectrum of reproductive health. Chelsea intends to advocate for policy reforms centered on Reproductive Justice, enabling the population and her individual patients to choose care that aligns with their family-building goals and values.
Jodi Jarett, University of North Texas
After serving four years on active duty, the losses Jodi experienced due to military-related trauma and suicide were nothing short of devastating. The impact of one loss, in particular, forever changed the trajectory of her life. Once preparing to take the L-SAT and apply for law school, Jodi decided enough was enough and that she needed the tools to fight the thing that kept taking her friends away. Jodi chose to dedicate her life to a new kind of service and launched a mission to support positive mental health outcomes for service members and their families. She is also a prominent voice in advocacy for the concerns of BIPOC and marginalized communities. As a current Ph.D. student, Jodi is already combating the stronghold of trauma in underserved communities. While preparing for her future, she is at hard work decolonizing and destigmatizing mental health to equip community members with relevant tools for success. Jodi recognizes the transformative power of community support and looks forward to more opportunities to multiply her impact and empower others.
Lior Vered, University North Carolina
Dr. Vered graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in chemistry from Fayetteville State University and received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Her dissertation research focused on studying the response of cells to environmental changes with a combination of experimental and computational techniques. After graduating, Dr. Vered worked as a policy advocate and consultant for environmental organizations. She led several state and national coalitions promoting sensible and equitable solutions to environmental challenges faced by our nation. After her veteran husband lost the battle with post-traumatic stress, Dr. Vered vowed to dedicate her life to ending veteran suicide. She founded Heart Redeployment, a community mutual-aid project fostering protective relationships and community support to combat mental health challenges in the veteran community. She is also pursuing her master of social work at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, where she researches resiliency and protective relationships among active-duty military battling mental health challenges. Additionally, Dr. Vered is a public speaker on mental health and suicide prevention.
Timothy Spalla, Saybrook University
As a US Army Ranger and Iraq War veteran, Timothy experienced and witnessed immense pain, suffering and the sense of isolation that can emerge from unresolved trauma. He’s witnessed this same level of pain manifest in the war-torn communities where he has lived and worked the past two decades. From al Qaeda in Iraq to frontline wildlife rangers in Africa and most recently, the incarcerated men and women he now spends his days working with as a mental health counselor – Tim knows trauma is global. Timothy has also lived in his own struggles with PTSD, depression, anxiety and addiction. It wasn’t until the birth of his son in 2018 that Timothy was compelled to pursue deep inner-soul healing work, a journey that brought him to plant medicine healing and mindfulness-based therapies. He is now continuing to work toward fulfilling that destiny while in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology from Saybrook University where he will combine an advanced education in Consciousness, Spirituality and Integrative Health with traditional mental health counseling practices and plant medicine healing in order to assist fellow veterans, and other marginalized communities to address deeply rooted trauma and addiction issues. In doing so, he wants to help others overcome the shame, suffering, and isolation that can result from unwitnessed and unprocessed mental illness.