A Fateful Encounter

On February 1, 2016, Alex Bozzette, our former Ecuador Project Coordinator for our pilot study, passed away suddenly. Alex became involved with Alma Sana in January 2013 when my sister Rachel, who was friends with him at Georgetown University, recommended him to design our colorful info guides for mothers and nurses in Peru and Ecuador to supplement the bracelets. He did a fantastic job and when I mentioned I was hiring a Project Coordinator to manage the study on-site, he jumped at the opportunity and put in his application. During our interview, we ended up talking for three hours. It was much longer than any other interview I had conducted and it was fascinating discussing everything from how best to design programs that reached people in remote areas to measuring the impact of new interventions.

He was passionate about improving health care for people in disadvantaged areas and he was committed to joining our team. At the time, Alex was completing his Master of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He spoke with the school and managed to get approval to take a leave of absence, just before final exams, to join Alma Sana for 8 months. He would plan to take his exams and complete his thesis the following year, and he didn't think twice about that decision. I met Alex in person in Cusco, Peru in May 2013 where our entire team met for training and beginning enrollment in Cusco before Alex and I, and Alma Sana's VP and Grants Administrator, Trish, went to Ecuador to launch the study there. Alex's commitment and enthusiasm were invaluable to forming a positive, hardworking team spirit, and his self-discipline and humanity were the reason our Ecuador site, where he was our sole team member managing Ministry of Health nurses, were critical to our success. He documented his time in Ecuador with beautiful photos of the nurses, mothers, babies, and rural clinics that became his daily life and showed the world our bracelets in action. After our study ended in January 2014, Alex returned to London to complete his Master's degree. Yet Alex regularly stayed in touch with me, connecting me to funding opportunities, sharing positive updates on his life in Burundi, Sweden, London, and Vermont, and offering his support wherever possible. I knew Alex would remain a close friend for life, as we supported each other in our paths to change the world. 

I was lucky to see Alex again in December 2015, when he stayed with me on his cross-country road trip from his hometown of San Diego to Burlington, Vermont. He loved his new role and colleagues at Population Media Center and life in Vermont. An image I often have of Alex is wearing a backpack, confidently smiling, and with spunk in his step, walking off into the world, ready to take on his next big adventure. In the days leading up to his passing, he told me he was excited to review the final version of our research paper before submission. Sadly, he never got the chance to. We have dedicated the paper to Alex's life and memory, to thank him for his incredible legacy and contributions to saving children's lives. 

The Legacy of a Life Well-lived

I don’t know how to make sense of this tragic loss. Alex Bozzette was truly one of those rare people you meet who inspires you to be a more joyful and more grateful human being simply by interacting with him. His intense curiosity of how the world worked and what was important to people - and that infectious laugh that made the journey of finding out so fun - was a daily inspiration to me. He told the best stories and made you feel like you were right there with him. I gleefully looked forward to the fantastical tales of the wonderful people he met around the world and colorful adventures that brought them together.

Alex walked through life with a deeply rooted and focused sense of purpose, and that purpose manifested itself into pragmatic action. He questioned the state of health care because he knew the world could do better, and it was his mission to improve the health, safety, and happiness of people in underresourced environments. I deeply admired and respected Alex for his strength of character, his integrity, and his ability to see the best in every person and every situation. He was his own person – resolved, genuine, charismatic, and magnetic. He made the good times even better and the bad times something we’d get through together with persistence, optimism, and creative problem-solving. Just by being himself, Alex inspired me to become a better person and a better public health professional. He was passionate about the many dedicated people and immersive experiences he cultivated that enabled him to learn about and change the world. His conviction in his beliefs of equality and access, his conscientiousness, and his earnest attention to detail impelled him to naturally go the extra mile to do a task as thoroughly as possible so the project would have the greatest impact on the people it aimed to serve.

Alex impacted my life profoundly. He was one of the first people to join Alma Sana Inc. and was a major reason for its success – he designed our info guides, managed our Ecuador project site, and fostered a strong sense of camaraderie on our team. I was proud to call him a close friend, constant advocate, and lifelong ally in the long but important fight to improve people’s health. Although his life was cut short, unquestionably Alex had the impact he had always intended – he saved lives, improved health outcomes, and deeply touched the souls of thousands of people. Alex, I can’t believe you’re gone… but know you were deeply loved and you will be in our hearts and minds forever. We will carry your torch for you and we’ll see you again.

- Lauren Braun, founder

AuthorLauren Braun
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Contact: Terri Jackson, Alumni Affairs & Development
terri.jackson@cornell.edu or 607-255-2061


Human Ecology Alumni Association honors top alumni

ITHACA, New York -- Two distinguished Human Ecology alumni will be honored for their extraordinary accomplishments during the Cornell Alumni Reunion on Saturday, June 7 during the Human Ecology Alumni Association’s annual meeting and breakfast on the University campus.  

The 2014 Helen Bull Vandervort Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed on a Human Ecology alumni who has attained outstanding success and distinction in their chosen profession and made significant contributions to their profession and community. The recipient of this award has demonstrated creative effort and accomplishment with societal and educational value, made a lasting impact through outstanding voluntary and philanthropic endeavors, and has been recognized by professional organizations through honors, awards, and media attention.

The Recent Alumni Achievement Award recognizes a recent graduate of the College who has made a commitment to excellence in their post-collegiate life and who is dedicated to extraordinary work, research, and volunteerism. The recipient is one who has gained notable prominence through professional endeavor and involvement with local, regional, and the global community, who has been recognized as an emerging leader, and demonstrated innovation in service projects, business, or original enterprise.

The honored alumni and their awards include:

The 2014 Helen Bull Vandervort Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Laurie Miller Brotman ’86 of NEW YORK, NY

The 2014 Recent Alumni Achievement Award

Lauren Braun ’11 of WESTFIELD, IN


Dr. Laurie Miller Brotman ’86 of NEW YORK, NY

After graduating from the College of Human Ecology, Laurie Miller Brotman completed her doctorate in Clinical Developmental Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University funded by the National Institute for Mental Health.  She joined the faculty at Columbia in 1993 and has been a tenured faculty member at NYU School of Medicine since 1998.  Dr. Brotman holds the Bezos Family Foundation Professorship in Early Childhood Development and is Professor of Population Health, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychiatry. She is the Director of the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development (CEHD) in the Division of Health and Behavior in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center.  Under Dr. Brotman’s direction, CEHD is a leader in national efforts to reduce the achievement gap and health disparities for vulnerable children.  Over the past 15 years, Dr. Brotman and CEHD faculty developed and tested ParentCorps, a family-centered, school-based program to engage families and promote high-quality learning environments for young

Laurie Miller Brotman, continued

children. Rigorous studies provide a solid evidentiary foundation for impact on family engagement, early learning environments, and children’s learning, behavior and health.  Dr. Brotman is leading efforts to ensure that early childhood programs serving vulnerable children include high-quality programming and supports for families.  At NYU, Dr. Brotman serves as a volunteer member of the School of Medicine's Committee on Appointments and Promotions, the Community Engagement and Population Health Research Faculty Steering Committee of the Clinical Translational Science Institute, and the Coordinating Council of the NYULMC’s Community Service Plan.  Dr. Brotman served on the board of directors of the Society for Prevention Research and Free Arts NYC. 

Dr. Brotman earned a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell. She was a member of the Omicron Nu Honor Society and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and graduated with Distinction in 1986. Dr. Brotman served as a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and she completed an internship at the Heathland School for autistic children in London England as part of the study abroad program. Dr. Brotman was a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority. 

In 2009, Dr. Brotman was awarded the Society for Prevention Research Community, Culture, and Prevention Science Award and was named to the YWCA Academy of Women Leaders. Dr. Brotman was elected to the Sigma Xi scientific research society in 1990


Lauren Braun ‘11

Lauren Braun is the President and founder of Alma Sana Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to increasing timely childhood vaccination rates through the use her patent pending vaccine reminder bracelets. Lauren came up with the idea of using bracelets to remind mothers of their children's immunization appointments during her 2009 summer internship in a public health clinic in Cusco, Peru. After receiving a $100,000 Gates Foundation grant in 2012 to implement her idea, Lauren left her corporate job at Humana, a Fortune 79 health insurance company, to pursue Alma Sana full-time. She recently finished a 6-month feasibility study on the bracelets’ use in Peru and Ecuador with a team of 20 people. She is now preparing to apply to the Phase II grant from the Gates Foundation to scale up her innovation.

Over the past four years, Lauren’s Alma Sana project has received local, national, and international praise. She has presented her idea at six global health and social entrepreneurship venues, including at Yale and Cornell, and her idea has won or placed highly in seven national and global competitions, including at Harvard, Cornell, and the Dell Social Innovation Competition. More than 20 articles have been written in praise of Alma Sana, notably at FastCompany, the Cornell Alumni Magazine, and LINK: Human Ecology Alumni Magazine.

Lauren gave the keynote speech at the Opening Event of WEFOUND World Women Startups and Entrepreneurs and was recently nominated and screened for Forbes Magazine’ prestigious “30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs” 2014 list, which highlights global change makers implementing groundbreaking solutions to poverty alleviation, job creation, and improved healthcare.

Lauren Braun continued

In 2013, Lauren gave a TED talk on campus at TEDxCornellU entitled “Conscientious Innovation” and her startup social enterprise, Alma Sana, was a Nominee for the 5th Annual CLASSY Awards, the largest social impact award ceremony in the United States, and is sponsored by the UN Foundation.

Before her graduation, Lauren was named “2011 Outstanding Senior in Human Development” for being the first Human Development student in school history to hold a provisional patent while still an undergraduate. In 2009, Lauren was named an “Ashoka Campus Changemaker” by her professor for her innovative vaccine reminder bracelet idea.

Lauren graduated from Cornell in 2011 with a B.S. in Human Development and two minors in Inequality and Global Health, and she is planning to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. Currently Lauren is participating in a 4-month program in design thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany. In her spare time, she consults early-stage startups and mentors college students looking to work in public health. 

AuthorLauren Braun

November 12, 2013 (Ithaca, NY)-- The Center for Transformative Action is hosting TEDxCornellU on November 17. In light of Cornell University’s mission as a land grant institution—a university dedicated to enhancing the lives and livelihoods of people in New York State and around the world—this event celebrates the many ways in which knowledge is put to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being. 

AuthorLauren Braun

INDIANAPOLIS, November 1, 2012– Alma Sana Inc. announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Lauren Braun, president and founder, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Alma Sana: Immunization-Tracking Reminder Bracelet”, that aims to increase immunization rates in Peru and ensure that all children live to see their fifth birthday.

AuthorLauren Braun