Elis top USA Today rankings

Yale’s reputation for producing highly dedicated community activists should not be in jeopardy any time soon: 10 percent of the American college undergraduates named to USA Today’s All-USA Academic College Teams this year are Elis.

More students were selected from Yale than from any other school in the country for the rankings, which were released Thursday. Each year for the last 19 years, USA Today has profiled the academic achievement and community-outreach efforts of 60 college students from around the country. The students are divided into three teams, and members of the first team receive a $2,500 award from USA Today.

Last year, only one Yalie was chosen.

Nathan Segal ’08, one of the 10 Yalies selected, deferred his matriculation to Yale to help low-income seniors secure access to prescription medications. Working with the Prescription Assistance Senior Savings Program, Segal helped elderly citizens in Florida take advantage of patient-assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies that provide discounted prescriptions.

“I encountered a breadth of systemic failures in the health care system,” Segal said. “And I discovered that numerous pharmaceutical companies offer programs to assist senior citizens in accessing their drugs at low costs or for free, yet these programs often go under-utilized.”

Emily Morell ’09 was named to the first team for her work with HIV/AIDS patients and their families in Rwanda. She collaborated with a student at Brown University to found Gardens for Health International, a program that helps HIV/AIDS patients create community gardens to alleviate malnutrition, a significant roadblock in HIV/AIDS treatment. The program now has over 4,100 registered participants and is looking to expand.

Also recognized for her concern with public health was Nadim Mahmud ’08, a pre-med student who was named to the second team. Mahmud worked in Bangladesh last summer at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, performing research and writing government proposals about the benefits of breastfeeding and childhood vaccination.

Mahmud said he is particularly interested in practicing medicine abroad in areas where there are destitute populations and diseases are often preventable. He is currently a finalist for the Fulbright Scholarship and said he will return to Bangladesh this summer if he receives the award.

“Public-health interventions can make a huge difference in a place like Bangladesh,” Mahmud said. “And the internship gave me a good understanding of health policy and how to bring about change.”

Mark Beyersdorf ’08 was also selected for the second team for his work to promote awareness of domestic sex trafficking. He said most people think of sex trafficking as an international problem, but it is just as prevalent in the United States as abroad. Beyersdorf is currently working on bringing speaker panels about trafficking to Yale in April, and he has also done on-location work at a women’s shelter in South Korea.

Robert Nelb ’08 said he used to browse through the profiles in his parents’ copy of USA Today, but now his face is in the paper. Nelb was selected for the third team based on his work with the Roosevelt Institution, a public-policy think tank founded at Yale in 2004. Nelb is the national policy coordinator for Roosevelt and is currently planning Roosevelt Rx, a national student health-policy forum that will take place in Washington, D.C., in mid-March. The event is being sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“My ultimate goal is to be secretary of Health and Human Services,” said Nelb, who is currently enrolled in the five-year B.A. program in public health. “But in the meantime, I’m doing anything I can to improve public health.”

Nelb is a staff columnist for the News.

The majority of Yale winners said they heard about the program through the International Education and Fellowship Program, which helps Yale students find grants for internships and projects abroad. Linda DeLaurentis, director of the fellowship program, said the selection process was very exclusive, as over 500 students applied for 60 spots.

“These are students with a global perspective who are destined to make a significant difference in the public arena,” she said. “Heartened by their achievements thus far, we are confident of their bright futures.”

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