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Top YSPH Educators Recognized

May 20, 2021
by Michael Greenwood

Three members of the Yale School of Public Health’s academic community have been selected by the Class of 2021 for their commitment to promoting academic achievement and advancing the student experience.

The awards – Distinguished Teacher and Distinguished Student Mentor – were announced by Dean Sten H. Vermund. Each of the honorees – Yasmmyn Salinas, Jacob Wallace and Michael Wininger – will be recognized at next week’s commencement (Monday, May 24), and their names will be added to the awards wall outside Winslow Auditorium.

“We are grateful for their dedication to world-class public health education, student success and creativity in their research efforts,” said Vermund, M.D., Ph.D. "Quality academic and thesis mentoring is one of the most important influences on a student's experiences at Yale. These three people do it tremendously well.”

Distinguished Teaching Award

Yasmmyn Salinas, Ph.D. ’19, M.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, received the YSPH Distinguished Teaching Award, the school’s highest honor.

The students who selected Salinas cited her “passion for research, thoughtfully prepared course and instruction materials, and detailed yet succinct delivery of the material.” They also praised her “incredible passion” for teaching.

Her research focuses on the intergenerational transmission of obesity and its comorbidities, approaching their issue from a genetic lens. She has conducted genetic epidemiologic studies to examine cross-ethnic differences in the genetic determinants of body mass index and to elucidate the shared genetic determinants of asthma and body mass index. Salinas is also exploring the interactions between genetic factors and early-life risk factors in relation to obesity and other metabolic outcomes across the life course.

I am extremely honored to receive this award,” said Salinas. “I feel incredibly grateful for getting to teach such bright, inquisitive, and hard-working students. Interacting with the students is my favorite part of teaching.”

She said that some of my most joyful moments over the past year were ones she spent in the (virtual) classroom. She loves witnessing (and being partially responsible for) students' lightbulb moments.

“I have loved talking to them about how to apply the methods we're learning to their current and future research. I have loved seeing them grow as epidemiologists,” Salinas said.

She joined the faculty in 2019 and currently teaches Principles of Epidemiology II and Advanced Applied Analytic Methods in Epidemiology.

Two Distinguished Student Mentors

Jacob Wallace, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and Michael Wininger, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Biostatistics, were jointly recognized with the Distinguished Student Mentor award.

The mentoring award recognizes educators who are leaders in shaping the next generation of public health professionals and who serve as role models for their students. It also conveys passion for public health and their specific field of study; and who have clear and high expectations of their students; encourages their students to grow and achieve their full potential; is sensitive to students’ needs and concerns; provides ongoing feedback and makes extraordinary efforts to help their students.

Wallace was praised by his students for generosity with his time and attention to the individual student thesis process.

“He continuously found the time to patiently guide me through my thesis and treated the project with the importance of one of his own projects,” a student wrote in nominating Wallace for the award.

Wallace’s research is focused on the economics of health insurance markets, with particular emphasis on the impact of managed care in public insurance programs. This area of research is growing in importance, as the government is increasingly contracting with managed care plans to deliver benefits in Medicaid and Medicare.

“It's an honor to receive the Distinguished Student Mentor award. Learning from, and being inspired by, the students at YSPH is the best part of this job,” Wallace said. “It never ceases to amaze me what our students are capable of achieving, even in the most challenging of circumstances.”

Wallace joined the faculty 2017 and teaches Methods in Health Services Research.

Wininger was praised by students for being extremely accessible and concerned about their progress, and is even known to respond to student emails in the wee hours of the morning.

He goes beyond teaching with his impact and even asks students no longer enrolled in his course about their concerns, feelings, and insights,” a student wrote in their nomination of Wininger.

Wininger, meanwhile, said he works to create an environment where students realize quickly that they're with family, a place where they can ask all their questions without self-consciousness, learn without friction or fear and can create with maximum freedom.

In his course, Biostatistics in Public Health, he has a scaffolded approach to mentorship, and everyone gets to participate. He cited incredible teaching fellows, who are impeccable role models for our first-year students. He also promotes mentorship among students: mid-way through the semester, he puts out a call for those who feel comfortable with the material, and want to step forward as “tour guides” who will help others further explore the content.

“This sets up a framework where mentorship is much less vertical, and much more horizontal,” said Wininger. “We can all be mentors to each other and get the mission accomplished.”

Wininger’s primary area of focus is in clinical trial design and operation. He is the lead statistician on Safety and Efficacy of ICD implantation in the Elderly and specializes in analysis of continuous data streams from biomedical devices, including electromyograph (EMG), interfacial pressure measurement, intracranial pressure monitoring and kinematic measurements. He joined the faculty in 2015.

“I'm so thrilled to be recognized,” said Wininger. “I, myself, would like to thank my mentors, on faculty, staff and administration levels, who took care in guiding me and had direct influence in my approach to mentorship and teaching.”

And while he does sometimes respond to emails at very early hours, Wininger noted that he works hard to maintain a good work-life balance.

“I just love getting emails from my YSPH family, so when I get them, I’m genuinely excited to reach back,” he said. “Honestly, emails from students tend to be the highlight of my day.”

Submitted by Ivette Aquilino on May 20, 2021