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Outstanding Graduates to be Recognized at UNLV's Winter Commencement

Two students will be honored as outstanding graduates for their advancement of healthcare research, academic and personal achievements Dec. 17.
Campus News  |  Dec 12, 2013  |  By Afsha Bawany

UNLV students Gabriella Chong and Sanae El Ibrahimi will be honored as Outstanding Graduates during the 2013 Winter Commencement ceremony. Graduates were selected for the honor after a semester-long nomination process. Students are chosen based on academic achievements, community outreach and their ability to overcome adversity.

Gabriella Chong - Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Gabriella Chong will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and graduates with an impressive 3.986 GPA. Chong is an integral part of a research team examining how often older adults with chronic illness use complementary and alternative medicine.

As a volunteer research assistant in the psychology lab, she is contributing to a manuscript, creating online surveys, and conducting research. According to Jason Holland, assistant professor of psychology, Chong "demonstrated a level of skill on par with a second or third year graduate student."

She was also a participant in federally-funded McNair Scholars Program for high achieving first generation and underrepresented college students. Chong is a cancer survivor who volunteers her time as a peer counselor for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She offers support, guidance and information to children and families coping with cancer. Chong plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology.

Sanae El Ibrahimi - Master of Public Health

Sanae El Ibrahimi will receive a Master of Public Health with an excellent 4.0 GPA. She is writing two research manuscripts in the areas of cancer epidemiology and cancer health disparities. One of her studies is co-funded by the National Cancer Institute and examines whether elderly Hispanic diabetics are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer. She has presented poster and oral presentations at several peer-reviewed local and national conferences. In addition, she won first prize for a student poster presentation at the 2013 North American Association of Cancer Central Registries.

She has received several awards and more than $15,000 in scholarships and research grants. El Ibrahimi was named a Phi Kappa Phi Honors Graduate by the UNLV chapter in February and received a certificate of commendation from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. She has an exceptional drive for learning and conducting research, according to Paulo Pinheiro, assistant professor of epidemiology.

El Ibrahimi received her master's degree in international economics and bachelor's degree in business administration from Morocco. During her time at UNLV and in Las Vegas, El Ibrahimi has volunteered for neighborhood watch programs, assisted in UNLV's Make a Difference Day activities, served in the planning committee for Festival of Communities and has taught the English language to Spanish speaking community members. She accomplished all this while also being a mother to a 3-year-old and working full time. She will begin her Ph.D. in public health working in epidemiology and biostatistics at UNLV in the spring.