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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Maryland: Leyla Merlo selected as a USAID Payne International Development Fellow

Recent University of Maryland School of Public Health alumna Ms. Leyla Merlo was selected as a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Payne International Development Fellow, where she will receive funding to enter graduate school, pursue internships and fellowships, and transition into a career with the foreign service.

Ms. Merlo graduated in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in public health science and a minor in sustainability studies. While at the University of Maryland, she was the president of ROOTS Africa, a student organization that works to promote sustainable agricultural practices in developing countries. She traveled to Liberia with the program, and received an award from the Do Good Institute for her work. 

Ms. Merlo says this experience cemented her decision to pursue development. “It just made me think there is so much I can do, so much I want to do to help others to improve their health,” she said. 

Ms. Merlo also worked with researchers in the school’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, where she studied environmental exposures to air pollutants and pesticides in U.S. Latino communities. As a McNair Scholar, she was able to give both oral and poster presentations on her research. 

Since graduation, Ms. Merlo has been working for the school’s Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, where she is working on a team developing a smartphone app to promote health in African American and Latinx communities. 

Ms. Merlo hopes to pursue a Master of Arts in international development with a concentration in global health this coming fall. After completion, she will spend five years working as a USAID foreign service health officer. 

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