UA Health Sciences Colleges Convocations 2019: Meet Some of the Graduates

Following are a few of the inspirational graduates of the UA Health Sciences colleges.

UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Class of 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Marian Frank, 602-827-2022,

Inspirational 2019 UA College of Medicine – Phoenix graduates include:

Luce Kassi:

Jamil Jaber:

Omar Hussain:

Roshan Panchanathan:

UA College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Nadia Whitehead, 915-276-6803,

Nathan Sherman will earn his medical degree as part of the College of Medicine – Tucson’s dual degree MD-MBA program, earning the Master of Business Administration in health-care administration in May 2018. He is a “Wildcat for Life” and already holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the UA.

Sherman will earn distinctions in community service and research from the College of Medicine – Tucson. Students who earn the community service distinction log more than 180 hours of volunteer time while in medical school. For Sherman, this included providing free primary care services to low-income, uninsured patients at the Shubitz Family Clinic, one of the college’s Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) program clinics for the Tucson community. He also volunteered with low-income geriatrics patients at Tucson’s St. Luke’s Home.

Sherman is the co-owner of Tucson’s Heart and Soul Kids Activity Center, a gymnastics, tumbling and dance school for children of all ages in Tucson and Oro Valley. The centers were awarded Best Gymnastics Studio and Best Dance Studio in Tucson in 2017 and 2018 by the Arizona Daily Star.

Sherman will pursue his residency training in orthopaedic surgery at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

Marisela Mariscal is a member of New Mexico’s Pueblo Laguna tribe and also of Hispanic descent. Raised in Tucson, she is the first in her family to get a college education, holding a bachelor’s degree in physiology from the UA. She has known since high school that she wanted to be a doctor.

“I am interested in working with underserved populations, whether that would be on a reservation or in the community,” Mariscal says. “I think health care should be a right and not a privilege.”

Mariscal joined the UA College of Medicine – Tucson through the UA Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway (P-MAP) program, which introduces highly qualified, underrepresented students to the pursuit of medical education. Upon completion of P-MAP, students earn a master’s degree in cellular and molecular medicine from the UA and automatically are accepted into the College of Medicine – Tucson. When she enrolled in P-MAP in 2014, she had a 3-year-old son. As Mariscal earns her medical degree this May, her son will be 8.

Mariscal will pursue her residency training in family medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson South Campus.

Julie Tomkins dreamed of becoming a doctor since middle school. But as an undergraduate, she majored in English and French and ended up pursuing her passion for language, literature and travel instead. The decision led her to a successful 15-year career in teaching.

But on Thursday, May 9, 42-year-old Tomkins finally will fulfill her dream and earn a medical degree, officially kick-starting her career in medicine.

Tomkins will graduate with a distinction in community service, which is awarded to students who log more than 180 hours of volunteer time while in medical school. Tomkins volunteered regularly with the MIND Clinic, one of the college’s Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) program clinics for the Tucson community, providing free mental health screenings to patients with little or no health insurance. She also gave free monthly check-ups to residents of local nursing homes.

As a student, Tomkins served as co-president of the Integrative Medicine Student Interest Group. She also co-founded the Pathology Student Interest Group. After graduation, she will pursue her residency training in psychiatry at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

UA College of Nursing Class of 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Will Holst, 520-626-2512,

Angelina Nguyen (PhD student)

Angelina Nguyen was drawn to the nursing field at a young age. As a high school student, she was impressed by how caring the nurses were who aided her mother after an emergency appendectomy. She knew immediately that she wanted to extend the same level of care and compassion to others in need.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American distance student based in Henderson, Nev., chose UA Nursing’s PhD program because of the ease of its online access and for the esteemed faculty who would mentor her.

Last year, Nguyen was one of six graduate students from across the country to be awarded a scholarship funded by the Johnson & Johnson/American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Campaign for Nursing’s Future program. Developed to help address the current faculty shortage while enhancing diversity among nurse educators, the program provides financial support to graduate nursing students from minority backgrounds who agree to teach in a school of nursing after graduation.

In her dissertation, Nguyen examines mixed methods to explore the risk perception of developing diabetes in Vietnamese Americans with prediabetes. She was inspired to pursue her topic after being diagnosed with pre-diabetes herself. “I was interested because I see that it’s a problem, but also the personal agenda of needing to learn about this for myself so I can figure out how to prevent or at least delay diabetes,” she said.

After graduation, Nguyen plans on looking for a tenure-track position at a tier-one nursing institution, and to continue her diabetes research. “I can see so many ways that the research will grow and the impact that I can make on health outcomes for Asian-Americans, and potentially different ethnic groups later on,” she said.

UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Class of 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Gerri Kelly, 520-626-9669, cell phone 312-437-7007,

Linda McCallister (Online Bachelor of Science with a major in public health)

Linda McCallister is a mom, veteran and military spouse who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She is the first military affiliated student to graduate from the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health online undergraduate program, having used the GI Bill to fund her education.

McCallister served in the U.S. Army for five years and moved a lot. She completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in 2008 and completed military occupational specialty training at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz. During her military career, McCallister was awarded the MOS 35M for Human Intelligence Collector, responsible for information collection operations. She was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington for a year before being permanently stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. In 2010, McCallister deployed to Mosul, Iraq, in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. She received an honorable discharge in 2012.

After leaving the military, McCallister moved back to Arizona with her husband, who is active duty Army and assigned to Fort Huachuca. She enrolled at the UA as a main campus transfer student. When the daily 90-minute commute became too much of a burden, McCallister transitioned to the online Bachelor of Science program in the fall 2017.

“I initially was an on-campus full-time student and commuted from Fort Huachuca to campus and didn't have time to work especially with my long commutes,” said McCallister. “I commuted for a year and finally made the decision to switch to UA online for my final year. Since transitioning to online it has made home life easier to spend more time with my son since my husband is active duty Army.”

In her final semester, Linda completed an internship at the Fort Huachuca Preventative Medicine Office in Sierra Vista.

“What I did was a lot of screening for tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and postpartum education and vaccine promotion,” said McCallister. “The benefits of the internship I honestly believe is that it does give you the hands-on experience you do need when you start your career. The hands-on experience is so worthwhile. I feel I have all the tools I need to start my career in public health.”

“The reason I chose public health is because I like the idea of being able to prevent diseases and educate people about health,” McCallister added.

McCallister says her passion is to work with the military community. After graduation, she intends to seek employment at Fort Huachuca or Fort Gordon in Georgia where her family will be moving next year.


Omar Contreras (Doctorate of Public Health)

Omar Contreras is the first generation in his family to graduate from both college and graduate school. He will add a Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH) degree in public health policy and management to his academic career.

He is the recipient of the 2019 Dr. Maria Teresa Velez Marshall Dissertation Scholarship and University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

“I owe this recognition and success not only to the training received at the College of Public Health, but to the leadership and mentorship of Dr. Cecilia Rosales,” said Contreras.

Dr. Rosales is interim associate dean of community engagement and outreach and associate dean of Phoenix programs at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“The college has provided me with excellent opportunities to serve and advance the health of Hispanic/Latinx/Chicano communities and this award would not have been possible without these experiences.”

Contreras received his Master of Public Health degree from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health.


Priscila Ruedas (Bachelor of Science in Public Health)

Priscila Ruedas will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She was eight years old when her family moved to the United States in 1998 from Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, and settled in Yuma, Ariz. She is the first in her family to graduate from college.

In her speech at the 2018 Student Scholarship Luncheon, Priscila shared her journey to get to the UA. As the oldest child, Priscila had a great deal of responsibility.

“I was lucky enough to learn English within one month of arriving in the U.S., but with that came the responsibility of being the only member of the family that spoke the language. At eight years old, I was translating every day conversations at the grocery store as well as legal conversations,” said Ruedas.

Ruedas is the recipient of scholarships from the Hispanic Women’s Corporation and Chicanos Por La Causa. During her time at the UA, Ruedas has been involved in many community outreach programs at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, including “Juntos Por la Salud” Primary Prevention Mobile Unit in Tucson and volunteering for Casa Alitas, a program with Catholic Community Services of Tucson to help immigrants who have left their home countries seeking asylum.

“I am not your typical college student. I am a migrant, first generation, non-traditional student who had an extra $50 two years ago and decided that maybe working the rest of my life in the restaurant industry is not what I wanted out of life.”

For her next steps, Ruedas is considering graduate school and a dual degree in immigration law and a Master of Public Health.

“Ultimately, I want to educate Latinx about their rights, and encourage those of us who can to vote and be aware politics and to vote and demand our rights,” said Ruedas.


Magdiel Habila (Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology)

Magdiel Habila was born in Nigeria, and arrived in the United States a decade ago. Now a permanent resident, she will graduate with a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology.

She is a 2018 Cancer Epidemiology Education in Special Populations (CEESP) fellow, a research program that took her to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where she focused on breast cancer related research. As a graduate assistant, she served as hearing officer in the Student Accountability and Assistance program in the Dean of Student’s Office. She is a member of the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Student Affairs Committee and served as co-chair of the 2018 Social Justice Symposium.

“I think that living in the United States with all the privileges that it has, it is easy to ignore all of the poverty and hardship that people experience on a daily basis. I chose public health because it is an avenue through which I can work to identify the problems in our society that cause people to experience suffering. Public health also equips me with the tools that I would need to combat those issues and improve the quality of life for people who would otherwise be overlooked,” said Habila.

Habila will continue her education in the college’s doctoral epidemiology program in the fall.