BenU alumna receives distinguished public health award

October 25, 2017

Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine’s Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) program offers students an education that not only helps them prepare for the vast array of careers in public health, but helps them to stand out from their peers at other universities. 

For the past three years, BenU students have earned the Illinois Public Health Association’s (IPHA) Distinguished Public Health Student Award, which recognizes a public health individual or group of students who make an outstanding contribution of major significance to the public health movement through community service.

In September, Katelin Kornfeind, who earned an M.P.H. from Benedictine in May, became the most recent student to receive the award at the IPHA’s 76th Annual Meeting in Springfield.

“I felt extremely grateful and honored to have been nominated, let alone win. It was due to all of the opportunities presented by Benedictine that allowed me to do the work that I did,” Kornfeind said.

Past recipients include Rebecca Carlstrom, M.P.H.’14, of Hickory Hills, in 2014 and Amar Pandya, M.P.H./M.B.A.’16, of Aurora, in 2016.

Susan Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of BenU’s department of Public Health, said M.P.H. students participate in all aspects of a public health education not just in the classroom, but to gain a broad understanding of working in the community.

“Students from the Benedictine M.P.H. program thus have both a well-established foundation in the academic training to become a public health professional, as well as a tradition of developing and engaging in community-based activities and projects,” Cheng said.

Kornfeind, who is from Aurora, began her graduate studies at Benedictine in the fall of 2015.

“I was drawn to public health due to the emphasis the field has on creating healthier communities through prevention and the commitment to improving the lives of all through health equity,” she said.

In her nomination letter for the award, Elizabeth Bormann, an instructor in the Department of Public Health at Benedictine, said Kornfeind was an outstanding student with a commitment to excellence.

“Even after graduation, she is continually seeking opportunities to enhance her academic and professional skills to elevate her impact and her ability to improve the health and well-being of diverse populations,” Bormann said.

As vice president of the M.P.H. Student Advisory Panel, Kornfeind planned activities for April’s National Public Health Week and oversaw 25 different events, ranging from career development presentations to poverty simulations in collaboration with the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

She assisted Heather Sipsma, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health on research projects examining the impact of hospital practices on breastfeeding. She also prepared several papers for publication, including a submission to the Maternal and Child Health Journal on the impact of maternity leave length on subsequent depressive symptoms among mothers working full-time.

Kornfeind continues to collaborate with Sipsma on research studies that focus on maternal child health. She is currently a research associate at The Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. She conducts literature reviews, analyses and creates surveys related to standards The Joint Commission recommends to clients in the health care industry.

Benedictine’s M.P.H. program is nationally accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health and combines traditional face-to-face learning with innovative online technology. To learn more about Benedictine University and its highly ranked M.P.H. program, visit


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has a branch campus in Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, or visit

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