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Education Diversity

Well-Honed Resilience Highlights Stories of Spring Graduates

Take a moment to be inspired by a few stories from the Class of 2021

Author Staff | Publish Date May 26, 2021
What You Need To Know

Considering that the latter portion of an already challenging college career was marked by a pandemic, the Class of 2021 is an exceptionally resilient group. The members of this class bring intelligence and compassion to their healthcare fields, but, given what they’ve been through, also a well-honed adaptability and creativity that promises to carry them far. Here are just a few of their remarkable stories.

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and a semblance of normalcy on the horizon, it’s gratifying to celebrate yet another bright spot this May – our CU Anschutz Spring graduates. Each student faced various obstacles, including the pandemic, but intelligence, resilience and purpose propelled them to graduation and beyond.

We are excited to share stories about several members of the CU Anschutz Class of 2021.


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From Congo to Colorado: MPH Grad Envisions Outpacing Diseases

A recommendation from a boyhood friend brought Papy Bawongo from the Congo to Colorado. Now, after applying coursework theories to a real-world pandemic, Bawongo envisions a career in epidemiology in a high-need, low-income country.


 

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Bettering the World Through Data (and Spreadsheets)

Alexa Hansen graduated in December from the Colorado School of Public Health. She talks about her unique academic journey and the mentors who made it possible.


 

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Kuwaiti Grad Finds Creativity in Dentistry

When Mohammad Alshemali witnessed a near-fatal accident as a teen in Kuwait, his decision to work in the healthcare field was solidified. He was playing soccer with his family, and his cousin ran into the road after a ball and was hit by a car.


 

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Family’s First Doctor of Pharmacy Joins Long Line of Pharmacists

Eric Hartsfield was well into a management career when something changed. After a taste of college re-ignited a love of learning, he felt a pull toward a common family profession. At this week’s spring commencement, Hartsfield will become a fourth-generation pharmacist in his family – and his new career would astound the matriarch who launched the legacy.


 

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Get Ready, Poland: ‘Odalis Day’ in the Lab Is Coming Your Way

Odalis Castro, a first-generation college student, tapped her deep reserve of gumption and sought out mentors. She cold emailed a slew of professors at CU Anschutz, asking if she could work in their labs so she could pursue her scientific dreams. That was the start of a rewarding college career that now finds Castro with a bioengineering degree and a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in Poland.


 

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Hips Don’t Lie: Injury Unlocks Athlete’s Flair for Pharmacy

Just a few years ago, Peter Tonsits couldn’t envision a future in which he was not playing sports. When a soccer injury sent him into full stoppage of nearly all physical activity, he discovered a passion for pharmacy. He graduates from the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences this month with a PharmD degree, a promising fellowship and a cheerful enthusiasm for advancing the work of pharmacists across the industry.