“To my fellow graduates—Congratulations, Mazal Tov, and Mabrook!” So began the speech of Nechama Averick ’15 at the 2016 Braun School of Public Health of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem graduation ceremony. Averick, who will be starting a career in public health in Israel, is a College of Staten Island (CSI) Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumna.
In Jerusalem, Averick addressed an audience of 200 graduates, government ministers, foreign ambassadors, family, and friends with farewell wishes and resonating messages. A Biology major with minors in Biochemistry and Political Science at CSI, Averick discussed public health as a career, its importance on a global level, and the questions that many still have about the evolving field.
“Public health is an inclusive field that includes all the current events happening around us. Yet, compared to other health professions in the health sciences, it seems to be least known among the general public,” said the 24-year-old native Staten Islander who now resides in Jerusalem. She explained that, “public health literally touches every field of human study—from demography, biostatistics, epidemiology, economics, genetics, and anthropology… In short, public health is the great equalizer that allows those born in poverty or marginalized populations to enjoy the benefits of modern medicine. It is the catalyst for a better, healthier future to be enjoyed by everyone.”
CSI Distinguished Professor Fred Naider, PhD noted that Averick’s contributions at CSI and the local community, and current global contributions are “a testament to the student’s hard work and dedication.”
While at CSI, Averick was affiliated with the Pre-Medical Society, where she served as president for three years. Graduating with a 3.8 GPA, she was also a Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar and received an honors undergraduate research stipend from CSI to conduct laboratory research, which she conducted with Krishnaswami Raja, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry.
Averick currently holds a research position in Israel’s Ministry of Health, Tuberculosis, and AIDS Department.
Through the MHC, Averick spent one undergraduate summer conducting breast cancer research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and a winter semester studying tropical ecology in the Virgin Islands.
She is grateful for the “tremendous support from the wonderful administrators including Lisa French, Anita Romano, and Charles Liu” as well as guidance from Biology Professor Grozdena Yilmaz.
Averick remembers that, “Dr. Charles Liu was an incredible source of inspiration. He made every student feel wanted and welcome… we would always remark how Dr. Liu was the epitome of loving life and following your passions.”
Her advice to college students is to work hard because “there is just no way around it. The best way to ‘alleviate’ that pain is to develop your support system, without them, I would not be where I am today. Find what you love to do, and if you don’t know, push yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable. Perhaps the most difficult thing in your path towards success is to recognize and grow from your failures; they will make you wiser and humbler. Remember, you get to define success for yourself, no one else has that privilege.” Averick is also proud that that her brothers, Saadyah, Chaim, and Amram, graduated from CSI.
Dr. Naider noted that, “CSI continues to be a place where students learn, grow, and prepare for academically rigorous challenges, scholarly endeavors, and global contributions.”