2020 College of Public Health Alumni Award Recipients
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Linda Ohri, PharmD, MPH
BS of Pharmacy 1974, MPH 2008
Linda Ohri, PharmD, MPH, has made significant contributions in teaching and research in drug information, pharmacist-initiated vaccination services and in public health. Ohri, who retired as Associate Professor, Emeritus, from Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions (CU-SPAHP) in August 2018, has been recognized locally, regionally, and nationally for her accomplishments and contributions to her profession.
The primary example of Dr. Ohri’s commitment to public health has been her work with the Immunization Task Force - Metro Omaha (ITF). Dr. Ohri has worked with the ITF for over 20 years in volunteer and leadership roles. The organization is a non-profit coalition dedicated to educating the public & healthcare providers about immunizations. As part of this work, Dr. Ohri has served as Chair several times, including most recently in 2018.
She has led the legislative/advocacy committee for the organization, and has been involved with the speaker’s bureau, student service learning, and outreach to fellow health professionals regarding the importance of vaccination. Her work in advocacy on behalf of optimizing immunization across the life span has extended to meaningful involvement on several key legislative bills before the Nebraska Legislature and with the Nebraska state government. Dr. Ohri’s work in this arena is guided by a commitment to improve the health of individuals and communities.
As a teacher, Dr. Ohri was described by her students as an adviser who is dedicated to their success. She has taught a wide range of courses in the CU-SPAHP Department of Pharmacy Practice, including courses in public health. In addition to her 30-year teaching career at Creighton, Dr. Ohri previously served as a pharmacy clinical instructor for 12 years for the UNMC College of Pharmacy. She currently serves as a volunteer preceptor for UNMC College of Public Health students on behalf of the ITF for service-learning projects. She has advised students in their research and capstone projects throughout her career.
Dr. Ohri has been recognized for her work in public health with the Governor’s Points of Light Award Winner for 2010 (individual) and as part of a group for the Immunization Task Force. In 2016, she earned the St. Ignatius Award from Creighton University, which recognizes faculty and staff who live the spirit of St. Ignatius to include a strong spirit of personally caring for others. This is a prestigious award on the Creighton campus.
She has provided consultation regarding immunization best practices and other community health issues to several Omaha and Nebraska based organizations, including: the Nebraska Medical Association, OneWorld Community Health Center, Douglas County Health Department, the March of Dimes, and countless others. In retirement, she has been an active volunteer with Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) and with Nebraska Appleseed, particularly advocating for Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska.
She has been a member of several professional associations – related to both pharmacy and public health, including the American Public Health Association and Nebraska Public Health Association. She has held several roles within the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy throughout her career.
Dr. Ohri is an alum of UNMC twice over. She received her bachelors of science degree from the UNMC College of Pharmacy in 1974, her doctorate of pharmacy from the University of Michigan in 1977, and her Master’s in Public Health from the UNMC College of Public Health in 2008, with a concentration in Public Health Administration.
Dr. Ohri’s contributions to public health through leadership, practice, teaching and scholarship, research and community service embody the criteria of a distinguished alumnus.
Early Career Achievement Award
Jocelyn Herstein, PhD '18, MPH '16, '17
Jocelyn Herstein was privileged to attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health from 2014-2018, during which time she received both an MPH and PhD in Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health.
Two weeks into her first semester as an MPH student, the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit (NBU) received their first patient with Ebola virus disease. She was hired as a Graduate Assistant for the NBU in January 2015 and remained working for the unit ever since. As a GA, she co-developed and led three national assessments to evaluate domestic preparations made in the United States in response to the West Africa Ebola epidemic.
The projects resulted in 9 publications, 7 of which she first-authored, and data from the assessments were requested by the National Security Council and U.S. Congress to inform national preparedness efforts. In 2017, as a PhD student, she was hired full-time as the Program Coordinator for the Global Center for Health Security, the first staff member of the center. As Program Coordinator, she led the management and coordination of multiple national and international health security projects. She was the lead coordinator on a validation study to improve readiness of the Transport Isolation System, the aeromedical isolation system used by the Department of Defense in transport of personnel with highly hazardous communicable diseases.
After graduating with her PhD, she moved into the position of Co-Director of the National Disaster Medical System Infectious Disease Training Program. This national three-day training program, now held in the Training, Simulation, and Quarantine Center at UNMC, is held twice monthly for Disaster Medical Assistance Teams from around the United States. She serves on the leadership team, co-leads the development of education curriculum, and coordinates a large multidisciplinary team of faculty and instructors from the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, College of Public Health, College of Nursing, College of Medicine, and iExcel.
In January 2020, she moved into the position of Director for Sub-Saharan Africa Region for the Global Center for Health Security. In this role, she is responsible for establishing and managing research, education and training collaborations in Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Rwanda, with an emphasis on programs to support surveillance and outbreak response efforts. This role offered the opportunity to relocate to Kumasi, Ghana for what was to meant to be at least half a year; however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought her back to Omaha to support national and local response efforts including co-developing an online COVID-19 Just-In-Time Training for federal first responders and co-developing guidelines and a Playbook for mitigating COVID-19 risks in meat processing plants.
To date, she has 25 publications and three book chapters, 12 of which she has first authored. Her research team’s work has been nationally recognized, including being awarded the highest honor in the field of Industrial Hygiene in 2018. Her research has focused on preparedness infrastructure for highly hazardous communicable diseases, with an emphasis on training and education.
“I had the fortunate circumstance to begin my career at UNMC’s College of Public Health just as UNMC was being pushed to the national forefront of highly hazardous communicable disease preparedness and response,” Herstein said. “Strong mentoring, a supportive team of established researchers and public health practitioners, and unique opportunities have led to my success over the last five years.”
Herstein has contributed widely to the field of public health through research (both academic and applied), leadership in national training programs, and through the impact the programs in the Global Center for Health Security have had on local, national, and international levels. This has all happened early in her career.