Student's Compassion Earns Her State Award

Etienne Holder's warm smile and easygoing personality make her easy to like. But for those who know her personally, it simply underscores her compassion for others.

William Faraclas, chairman of the university's Public Health Department, says he is impressed by her record of volunteer service. That record includes having served as patient liaison in the Pediatric Emergency Department of Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, as well as serving on the Connecticut-Rhode Island Public Health Training Center Fellow, where she is contributing to a community health assessment for the Quinnipiac Valley Health District and assisting with a community garden event in Bridgeport.

"She is the student every professor dreams of having in class," Faraclas says of Holder, who has compiled a 3.7 GPA.

Etienne HolderFor her accomplishments in the areas of volunteerism, leadership and academics, she has been selected as the recipient of the first-ever Michael J. Perlin Student Award, which recognizes a current graduate or undergraduate student enrolled in a public health program. Perlin earned the title of professor emeritus of public health at Southern after retiring in 2009. His career in academia spanned four decades and he co-authored the state's original pre-trial alcohol education system curriculum in 1981. Perlin died in 2011.

During the annual summer International Health Field Study in Guatemala, of which Holder attended, Faraclas says he noticed her sense of adventure and compassion for the indigenous people of Guatemala. These qualities motivated Faraclas to nominate Holder for the award, which is presented by the Connecticut Public Health Association.

"To be acknowledged for my accomplishments was an amazing honor," Holder says. "I was at a loss for words."

The reception was held at the Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate in Middletown.

Holder says she always had an affinity for health-related subjects. When she was a kid, she aspired to be a cardiac surgeon because she liked the way the heart worked. She would eventually attend the University of Virginia, where she majored in medical anthropology.

Holder credits the Guatemala trip in solidifying her interests in global health, chronic disease and epidemiology. "The nomination (for the Perlin award) reinforced that this is what I'm supposed to be doing," she says.

Faraclas says Holder is an outstanding student who he believes will someday help change the field of public health through innovation, dedication and passion.

"I have so much more to do and prove," she says. " I want to be remembered for my love for people, health and cultures and the things I have done to make great strides in public health. I want to influence younger generations to push the limits and be all that they can be."