The George Washington University Announces the First Michael & Lori Milken Public Health Scholars

Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University (GW) has announced the first four Michael & Lori Milken Public Health Scholars. In March 2014, Milken Institute SPH received three gifts totaling $80 million from the Milken Institute, Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation, representing the largest donation ever received by GW. The donations will support new and ongoing research as well as the creation of the public health scholarship program. The scholarship program was created to address some of the world’s public health challenges by creating new opportunities for top scholars to become future leaders in the field and catalysts for change.

The scholarship recipients include, Wendy Ellis, MPH, who will be pursuing a Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH) in health policy through the school’s Department of Health Policy, Jennifer Schindler-Ruwisch, MPH, and Vinu Ilakkuvan, MS, who will both be working towards a DrPH in health behavior through the Department of Prevention and Community Health, and Qiushi Huang, MPH, who will be pursuing a PhD in epidemiology through the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.  

“With the creation of the Michael and Lori Milken Public Health Scholars program, we are now able to recruit some of the most talented scholars in the world into our public health graduate programs,” said Lynn R. Goldman, MD, MS, MPH, the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of Public Health at Milken Institute SPH. “I’m thrilled to welcome these scholars and value the diverse personal, academic and professional experiences they will contribute to the larger Milken Institute SPH community.”

Wendy Ellis is currently the manager of child health policy in the Office of Child Health Policy and Advocacy at Nemours, a non-profit children’s health organization. In this role, she focuses on leading policy research and development efforts in the area of healthy child development, prevention, population health, child health quality and health outcomes, and other children’s health issues. Ellis holds a Bachelor of Science from Seattle University and a Master of Public Health from the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. Ellis’ research on child mental health care access in Washington state, conducted while she was at the University of Washington, was published in the journal Health Affairs.

Vinu Ilakkuvan was born in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, and her family moved to the United States when she was just two months old. From a very young age Ilakkuvan has studied Indian classical dance and she continues to perform at events and charitable fundraisers. Ilakkuvan is currently a research associate at American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit in the District of Columbia devoted to tobacco control and prevention, where she works on tobacco-related research and evaluation of Legacy’s national youth-focused tobacco prevention campaign truth®. Ilakkuvan graduated from the University of Virginia with a double major in biomedical engineering and economics. She went on to earn her master’s degree with a concentration in health communication from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Qiushi Huang is from Beijing, China, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in biology at Peking University. She came to the United States to attend Cornell University where she received her Master of Science in food science in 2012.  She recently completed the Master of Public Health in epidemiology program from Milken Institute SPH, and will continue her studies at the school in the epidemiology PhD program. Before moving to D.C., Huang worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Cornell. Huang is most interested in lifestyle interventions in cancer prevention and treatment and how such interventions can be applied in her home country of China.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Jennifer Schindler-Ruwisch currently works with BLH Technologies, Inc. as a contractor for the National Cancer Institute. As part of this role, she helps develop tobacco control publications and reports, and provides research support on a variety of tobacco-prevention-related projects.  Before moving to DC, Schindler-Ruwisch worked as a research assistant on food policy and obesity prevention efforts at the New York University School of Medicine. In this capacity she provided technical assistance on wellness programming to schools for the NYC Department of Health.  Schindler-Ruwisch also designed and delivered a nutrition curriculum for children and teens in her NYC Washington Heights neighborhood, which continues to use and adapt the program. Since 2012, Schindler-Ruwisch has taught GED classes for young parents and pregnant young women, and recently transitioned from a volunteer position to a lead teacher. She received her Bachelor of Science in psychology and public health from the College of William and Mary, and her Master of Public Health with a concentration in health promotion from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She is also a Certified Public Health (CPH) professional.  

Read more about the Michael and Lori Milken Public Health Scholar program in GW Today