2018 Presidential Ambassador Scholars introduced

The 2018 Ambassador Scholars (from left) are Claudina Tami, Taylor Cook, Ariela Wilkins, and Natasha Bakunda. Sadiya Ahmad is not pictured.

UT Health’s new Presidential Ambassador Scholars for 2018 were officially recognized and introduced by President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, at an April 19 reception in the Academic and Administration Building.

The five scholars, one from each school in the university, are: Sadiya Ahmad, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Natasha Bakunda, School of Nursing; Taylor Cook, School of Dentistry; Claudina Tami, Long School of Medicine; and Ariela Wilkins, School of Health Professions.

“This recognition is a well-deserved honor,” Dr. Henrich said. “It is apparent that your efforts have been noticed by the deans who have chosen you for this significant award. You have been selected because you are excellent student leaders, and we are confident that you will be outstanding representatives of your school and UT Health San Antonio.”

Each ambassador is awarded a $2,000 scholarship. The ambassadors represent the student body and  the university at numerous events throughout the year.

Dr. Henrich thanked the 2017 Ambassador Scholars for their service, and asked them to assist in giving medals to the new scholars in their respective schools.

Ahmad, from the graduate school, is a third-year grad student in the integrated biomedical science Ph.D. program. She graduated summa cum laude from what is now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She works in the laboratory of Naomi Sayre, Ph.D., in the Department of Neurosurgery, where the focus of her research is to understand the molecular mechanisms that affect repair and recovery post-stroke.

Bakunda, from the School of Nursing, is an RN studying to become a family nurse practitioner. She said she’s excited to become an Ambassador Scholar partly because it will build her leadership skills. “It involves beginning with the end in mind, having a well articulated focus, and then transforming those around you to be the best they can be,” she said.

Cook, a third-year dental student, holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University. She said she was inspired to go into dentistry after a mission trip to Kenya in college. She presently serves as the president of the American Student Dental Association San Antonio chapter and is active in other branches of organized dentistry.

Tami is a is a first year dual degree M.D./M.P.H. student. She received her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Baylor University and graduated locally from Health Careers High School in San Antonio. Her interests include community health, research and health promotion, which she hopes to apply in her future medical practice.

Wilkins, from the School of Health Professions, is pursing a career in speech language pathology. During her time as an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Dallas, she was a teaching intern, volunteered at a number of nonprofits and was president of her sorority. She said her choice to study speech language pathology was decided during her first clinical observation. “I sat on the floor and watched a clinician use puppets to teach a toddler spatial terms, and I was enchanted,” she said.


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