Rice360 2024 graduation breakfast honors graduates, Karthik Soora and Michael Merson

Rice 360 grad breakfast photo

by Caroline Noxon
Special to Rice News

Graduates of Rice University’s global health technologies minor class of 2024 were honored at the Rice360 Institute for Global Health Technologies Recognition and Awards Breakfast May 3. This year’s ceremony included keynote speakers Dr. Michael Merson and alumnus Karthik Soora ’11. Yvette Mirabal, Rice360 executive director, opened the ceremony by welcoming the students and their families.

Rice360 Global Health Technologies 2024 graduates with Rice co-directors Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden and keynote speaker alumnus Karthik Soora ’11. (Photo by Nicole Moreno)

Soora was presented with the 2024 Rice360 Alumni Leadership Award by Rice360 Co-Director Maria Oden. The award recognizes leadership by alums of Rice360’s global health technologies minor. Soora offered that the skills learned in this program are “transformational and useful in all aspects of your life. It helps you learn to examine questions about who gets access, who gets funded and that every single person has potential when you invest in them.” He encouraged the graduates to consider their future roles in advancing access to high-quality health care for all people and to consider a call to politics as a way to make a difference based on their experiences from Rice360.

Soora graduated with a triple-major in political science, history and Asian studies and a minor in global health technologies. Following his time at Rice, Soora has given back to his community as a chemistry teacher in the Houston Independent School District and by leading initiatives to connect low-income students with enrichment opportunities. He has worked on solar energy and electrical storage projects and has engaged in political action through the Texas Chapter of TheySeeBlue, a volunteer organization dedicated to mobilizing South Asians in Texas. He ran for Texas State Senate District 15, the seat current Houston Mayor John Whitmire vacated, encompassing parts of Houston, Humble, Baytown and Jacinto City.

Soora receives award
Alumnus Karthik Soora ’11 (middle) after receiving the Rice360 Alumni Leadership Award with Rice360 co-directors Rebecca Richards-Kortum (left) and Maria Oden (right). (Photo by Nicole Moreno)
Merson receives award
Rice360 Co-Director Rebecca Richards-Kortum introducing keynote speaker Dr. Michael Merson joining remotely. (Photo by Nicole Moreno)

Rice360 Co-Director Rebecca Richards-Kortum presented Merson with the 2024 Rice360 Global Champion Award in recognition of his contributions to global health before he addressed the graduates. In his keynote speech, he offered this advice, “Home is not where you are from but where you are needed,” and encouraged the graduates, no matter their paths, to embrace the principles of global health equity learned during their pursuit of Rice360’s global health technologies minor.

Rice360 recognized Merson’s leadership in global health, notably his academic roles as interim chair and clinical professor of the Department of Global and Environmental Health at New York University, as founding director of the Global Health Institute at Duke University and as the first dean of the School of Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine, where he led the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. Merson directed the World Health Organization programs for diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections and its global program on AIDS. Merson is an accomplished author of numerous academic articles and a leading global health textbook, “Global Health: Disease, Programs, Systems and Policies,” and is co-author of “The AIDS Pandemic: Searching for a Global Response.” He has served in advisory capacities for UNAIDS; WHO; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the World Bank; the World Economic Forum; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Rice360 lecturers Meaghan Bond and Jackie Foss presented awards recognizing student achievements. The Rice360 Impact Award was presented to Philip DuBose, Shivani Kulkarni, Celeste Wang and Yiyi Yang for their contributions that will leave a lasting impact on global health. The Service and Advocacy Award for students who have demonstrated advocacy and service for equity in global health was awarded to Arinze Appio-Riley. Alex David, Michelle Gachelin, Shannon McGill and Shreya Jindal received the Rice360 Innovation Award for students who exemplify creativity and ingenuity, leading to innovations in global health technologies. And the Student Leadership Award for students who demonstrate a passionate commitment to leadership in global health was presented to DuBose and Wang.

Michelle Nodskov, Rice360 education programs coordinator, offered closing remarks and congratulations to the new global health technologies graduates and concluded the event.