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The Student Public Health Association (SPHA) leadership team are a group of current students at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health (CPH) dedicated to supporting the mission and vision of the College through campus and community events, and activities, that create engagement and connection with their public health peers.

SPHA acts as a liaison between students and faculty, promotes student involvement to develop healthy communities, and represents the needs of students of the College of Public Health.

The 2022/2023 SPHA student leadership team include:

  • Luke Karem, President
  • Raegan Persful, Vice President
  • Kelsey West, Communications Officer
  • Charisma Cornell, Secretary Officer
  • Julia Kollitz, Treasurer

Julia Kollitz | St. Louis, MO

I am the treasurer for the SPHA. I am responsible for managing the group’s funds and helping my fellow executive board members plan meetings and events.

I will be graduating with my BPH this spring and completing my MPH next year through the 4+1 program. I will be concentrating in epidemiology. After I complete these degrees, my goal is to work at a state health department or the CDC in infectious disease epidemiology.

I chose to major in public health because it allowed me to combine my interest in health with my love for people. This field focuses on people first and I love that we get to immerse ourselves in the communities that we serve and advocate for them. We get to give a platform to groups that haven’t had a voice, which is really powerful.

I can play three instruments (trombone, piano, and saxophone). I play the trombone in the Wildcat Marching Band and pep band.

Raegan Persful | Minneapolis, MN

I am the Vice President. I help out Luke, our president, with any tasks needed to have our org run smoothly, and I also typically coordinate with our guest speakers for events.

I will attend George Washington University in Washington DC, next year to pursue a Master of Public Health in Humanitarian Health. After completing my master's, I want to work internationally with refugees and internationally displaced people. Despite the circumstances of life, everyone deserves to have equitable access to care and live a full and healthy life.

I actually first learned about public health in middle school. My teacher gave me a book called The Hot Zone that told a story about filoviruses and epidemiology in Western Africa, and I was instantly hooked. At the same time, the Ebola outbreak was occurring, so I saw how public health initiatives could prevent thousands of people from ever getting sick in the first place. Now I love public health because it is rooted in justice and equity. Leana S. Wen said, "Public health is a powerful tool to level that playing field, to bend the arc of our country away from distrust and disparities and back towards equity and justice." This is why I love public health.

I once told my mom I was going for a walk, but my dad and I drove to Wisconsin to skydive. Best feeling ever.

Kelsey West | Homewood, IL

I am the Communications Chair for SPHA. I create graphics for our @ukyspha social media accounts which cover everything from event information to executive member spotlights. I also manage all communications we receive through those accounts.

I have accepted an internship position with StateFarm this summer. I will also be applying for my Master of Health Administration degree this fall and my future career aspirations include becoming an executive director within a healthcare system.

I knew I have always wanted a career in healthcare but wasn’t sure which major would be the best fit for me when applying to college. During my CPH 201 course freshman year, my professor made a simple comparison discussing how doctors help individual patients, in the field of public health, communities serve as the “patient”.

I love trying new restaurants and a goal of mine is to try as many in restaurants in Lexington before I graduate!

Charisma Cornell | Mount Washington, KY

I am the secretary of SPHA. I am responsible for keeping track of attendance and creating meeting notes (summary of everything that was said/took place) for every event. I also help out the other officers whenever they need me!

I will be staying at UKY to begin my Masters of Health Administration in the fall. I have accepted an internship with UK Healthcare while completing my Masters and an internship with Norton Healthcare in the Summer of 2024. After school I plan on working as an executive for a hospital, hopefully in an underserved rural area.

I like how I can help improve the lives of more than one person at a time. I also think public health will help me understand the broad present/future implications of any decisions I make when I work in a healthcare organization.

I have a dog named Captain America.

I will be serving as the Head Resident Advisor for the KY Governor’s Scholars Program at Murray State this summer.

In my spare time I like hiking, kayaking, reading, and playing sand volleyball.

Luke Karem | Louisville, KY

I am the president of the SPHA. My duties are to oversee the coordination of all our events and ensure that my team has everything they need to succeed.

I plan to pursue a legal degree after undergraduate and work on an international level to ensure that all people have access to the healthcare they need.

I choose public health because I want to help people. I believe all people should have access to healthcare and the work of public health professionals gets us closer to that goal every day.

I earned my black belt in martial arts at 10 years old.

National Public Health Week 2023

Centering and Celebrating Cultures in Health during April 3-7

Learn More