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2014 Presidential Ambassador Scholars announced

Posted on Thursday, May 01, 2014 · Volume: XLVII · Issue: 9

The new Presidential Ambassador Scholars are (left to right) Turner Conrad, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Melissa Aguilar, School of Nursing; Eithan Kotkowski, School of Medicine; Kelli Hand, School of Health Professions; and Kyle King, Dental School.
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The new Presidential Ambassador Scholars are (left to right) Turner Conrad, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Melissa Aguilar, School of Nursing; Eithan Kotkowski, School of Medicine; Kelli Hand, School of Health Professions; and Kyle King, Dental School. clear graphic

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By Tina Luther

Five students — each representing one of the five schools at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio — have been named 2014 Presidential Ambassador Scholars. President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, made the announcement at a reception April 22.

They include:
  • Kyle King, Dental School;
  • Kelli Hand, School of Health Professions;
  • Melissa Aguilar, School of Nursing;
  • Turner Conrad, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and
  • Eithan Kotkowski, School of Medicine.
“This recognition is a well-deserved honor,” President Henrich said. “It is apparent that your efforts have been recognized by the deans who have chosen you for this significant award. You have been selected because you are excellence student leaders. We are confident that you will be outstanding representatives of your school and the Health Science Center.”

Each ambassador scholar received a scholarship from community donors and will represent their school and the Health Science Center at various functions throughout the year.

Kyle King
King is an Eagle Scout who graduated from Texas A&M University. He is in his third year of Dental School and has been class president every year. In 2012, King was the UT System Student Advisory Council representative. He is a member of Xi Psi Phi International Dental Fraternity, the American Student Dental Association and the Christian Medical and Dental Association.

Actively involved in community service, King has participated in mission trips to the South Texas border and Mexico, and has volunteered with the Texas Missions of Mercy program, which assists the underserved in receiving dental care.

Kelli Hand
As a first-year student in the Respiratory Care program, Hand has led a number of service projects with Habitat for Humanity, the Food Bank and the ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) Association.

Hand has been a volunteer for the Walk a Mile in My Shoes Geriatric Symposium where she spearheaded a group that used simulation to experience what it is like to be an older patient with arthritis, and difficulty hearing and seeing.

In addition, Hand has volunteered at recruiting events for UT Austin and the Health Occupations Student Association. She also is involved with the Respiratory Care program’s 2+2 Asthma Education Program, which teaches elementary school-age children in North East Independent School District how to manage their asthma.

Melissa Aguilar
Aguilar graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UT San Antonio, where she was active in the National Hispanic Institute and created Study Breaks magazine that is published for college campuses throughout the city.

After graduation, she was a small business owner and was active in community health care as a program planner and with Public Allies, a group that promotes leadership to strengthen communities and promote civic participation.

Aguilar is on the dean’s list and plans to obtain a graduate degree in nursing. Aguilar has been an exceptional leader as class president and she recently was elected president of the Nursing Student Council. She also teaches group exercise classes at local fitness club.

Turner Conrad
Conrad graduated from McDaniel College in Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in biology followed by an internship in the applied physics laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.

At the Health Science Center, he is in his third year of graduate school as a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology & Immunology program. He conducts research on chlamydia and functional genomics, and holds a fellowship from the Center for Excellence in Infection Genomics.

Conrad has two peer-reviewed publications including one with first authorship. He earned second place in the San Antonio Vaccine Symposium poster presentation and first place for his poster at the Department of Microbiology & Immunology’s annual retreat.

He also serves as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Eithan Kotkowski
Kotkowski was born in El Paso and attended elementary school across the border in Ciudad Juarez. He later continued his schooling in El Paso, but spent his senior year of high school at the United World College of Southern Africa located in Swaziland, where he was involved in several volunteer projects with a local orphanage and pediatric HIV clinic.

He began his undergraduate work at UT El Paso where he worked on breast cancer research at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. While there, Kotkowski published research and presented a poster at the annual American Association of Cancer Research national conference.

Kotkowski completed his undergraduate studies at UT Austin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked for two years as a bilingual second grade teacher in South Austin through the Texas Teaching Fellows program.

Today, Kotkowski is a first-year medical student enrolled in the UT Health Science Center San Antonio’s M.D./Ph.D. program. He has begun performing neuroimaging research mentored by Peter Fox, M.D., professor and vice chair of research at the Health Science Center.

Kotkowski also works as ateacher in the School of Medicine's intermediate Medical Spanish course elective and is president of Frontera de Salud, a health outreach and education program with the mission of improving the health of the underserved in San Antonio and South Texas. He also is on the School of Medicine’s Cultural Competence Committee.

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