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Alumni reception

Hundreds gather during APHA meeting

More than 400 Rollins alumni attended a reception at the Capital City Club in Atlanta during the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in November.

The evening included remarks by Emory President Claire E. Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, and the presentation of the Distinguished Achievement and Matthew Lee Girvin Alumni Awards.

Rollins Alumni Association Awards

A role model in mental health treatment and an advocate of health security locally and internationally

Distinguished Achievement Award


A 2004 graduate of Rollins, Dr. Raymond Kotwicki now holds the endowed Charles B. West Chief Medical Officer position at Skyland Trail, a private, nonprofit residential and day treatment organization for adults with mental illnesses in Atlanta. In this role, he oversees all of the clinical, educational, and research activities within the organization. His uniquely holistic, public health approach to caring for patients with psychiatric conditions has transformed patient care at Skyland Trail and redefined the model for effective, recovery-focused mental health treatment nationwide. The Skyland Trail Integrative Model has set the bar for integrated preventative services by incorporating active living and nutrition education into treatment. The approach earned a special presidential commendation from the American Psychiatric Association in 2015.

In addition to his direct clinical work and innovative program development, Kotwicki champions public health in other educational roles. He has served as an associate professor at Emory School of Medicine and at Rollins, led medical student education for Emory’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and remains an adjunct faculty member at Emory, as well as at the University of Miami.

Kotwicki is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, president of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians’ Association, and former president of the board of directors for Positive Impact, the Southeast’s premier prevention and mental health program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS. He co-edited a book to train police officers on how to recognize people with signs of mental illnesses.

He is the recipient of numerous distinctions, including Emory’s “Golden Apple” Teaching Award, Leadership Atlanta Class of 2011, Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, Mental Health America and Eli Lilly’s “Heroes in Fight” Clinical Team Award, and the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses’ Exemplary Psychiatrist Award.

Matthew Lee Girvin Award


Since graduating from Rollins in 2008, Lieutenant Aneesah Akbar-Uqdah, United States Marine Corps, has dedicated her career to supporting the prevention, detection, and response efforts of infectious diseases threatening societies around the globe. Whether volunteering as a hometown diplomat, supporting the professional development of Rollins students, or responding to global epidemics, Akbar-Uqdah leads with compassion and integrity.

As a public health analyst at the CDC Division of Global HIV and TB, Akbar-Uqdah is merging her background in anthropology, military training, and public health experience to serve civilian and military communities afflicted by HIV/AIDS and to advance health security at the local and international levels.

Prior to joining the CDC, she worked at Rollins’ Interfaith Health Program as a senior research coordinator, which provided her with a foundation in health diplomacy and exposure to those who continue to fight the AIDS epidemic in Atlanta.

Highly active in the community, Akbar-Uqdah, routinely volunteers with Refugee Family Services, the Health Initiative, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She supports the selection of Marine Corps Officer candidates at universities throughout Georgia as a physical training instructor. She currently serves as the president-elect of the Rollins School of Public Health Alumni Association Board, as well as the president of the newly created CDC Employee Association of Emory Alumni.

Akbar-Uqdah has been awarded the Bernard M. Rosoff Master’s Thesis Fellowship from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, inducted into the Golden Key International Honor Society, and spotlighted in CDC Connects three times for her work engaging communities at home and abroad. Her desire to enhance the lives of women and girls leads her aspirations to become an Ambassador of Global Women’s Issues and to run as a candidate for President of the United States in 2044.

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