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December 3, 2012
by Rachel Griess
Chris Counts, a Biomedical Sciences and Anthropology undergraduate student at Colorado State University with his own successful non-profit organization, has been selected as a 2013 recipient of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship -- a fully funded opportunity to pursue an advanced degree in the United Kingdom.
Counts is one of only 34 U.S. students to receive the scholarship this year and the first CSU student to receive the scholarship since 1989. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health at the University College London next year before pursuing medical school.
The Marshall Scholarship Programme, which is named after Secretary of State George C. Marshall, began in 1953 as a gesture of gratitude to the United States for the assistance provided to the UK under the Marshall Plan. The scholarships provide talented young Americans the chance to study for up to three years at a UK university of their choice.
“Chris has seized every opportunity available to him during his time at Colorado State, making him a well-rounded and highly competitive candidate as he applies to medical school,” CSU President Tony Frank wrote in his recommendation letter to the Marshall Scholarship Committee. “Chris has been careful to seek out experiences that will prepare him to handle the more personal side of medicine.”
As a high school student in 2007, Chris started Hygiene for Humanity (H4H) in Arvada to promote health and hygiene among underserved populations – a program he has continued to grow while at the university. In addition to his extracurricular activities, Counts was selected for his academic achievement in maintaining a flawless grade point average in a course load including both undergraduate and graduate courses.
“He is a student that every mentor would dream for. He has been working on a project that is pioneering and challenging at the same time,” said Chaoping Chen, Counts’ research mentor and associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “Chris will be the first undergraduate from my lab who publishes an original research paper as the first author, which is well deserved.”
Counts also works with Professor Lynn Kwiatkowski in Anthropology.
“Chris’ internship work in Tanzania during the summer of 2011 was stellar, as he worked with a non-governmental organization called Fighting AIDS,” Kwiatkowski said. “Chris has developed a keen awareness of the importance of approaching his health education work with individuals from diverse backgrounds with sensitivity to their needs and their cultural understandings of illness and health. Chris integrates well his knowledge and understanding of anthropological approaches to health with his work in health care and education.”
As an undergraduate, Counts’ research in HIV-1 protease, a virus-specific enzyme essential for viral infectivity, has received several awards in poster presentations at Colorado State University as well as the University of Colorado. His research findings have been compiled into a developing manuscript, soon to be submitted to a scholarly journal.
Counts also participates in the Honors Undergraduate Research Scholars program. He has taken on leadership roles in training both undergraduate and graduate students in the laboratory.
“Chris’s 4.0 is evidence that he excels in the classroom both in courses in the major of anthropology and our major of Biomedical Sciences,” said C.W. Miller, professor and undergraduate director of Biomedical Sciences at CSU. “He has the ability to synthesize the coursework into an interesting story.”
Counts’ program H4H began as a small program collecting hygiene products from community members and distributing the donations to the Arvada Community Food Bank. The program gradually began to broaden its impact by shipping soap and oral hygiene supplies to Medical Teams International.
In 2009, he founded the H4H club at CSU to participate in a variety of fundraising and volunteering activities. In 2011, H4H expanded globally to Tanzania when Counts was invited to participate in a public health internship by a non-governmental organization called Fighting AIDS in Tanzania.
“I was able to facilitate a partnership between Hygiene for Humanity and Fighting AIDS in Tanzania that resulted in the creation and implementation of a community-based health education program,” Counts said. “Ultimately, this collaborative program strives to empower the local community in implementing a mindful, effective, and sustainable health education program.”
“Chris has always represented Colorado State University with the utmost integrity,” Frank said. “I have no doubt Chris will integrate the knowledge he gains from his time in the UK to his continued work with his non-profit, Hygiene 4 Humanity, as well as his future career as a physician.”
The Marshall Scholarship is open to United States citizens who hold a first degree from an accredited four-year college or university in the United States with a minimum GPA of 3.7. The award covers university fees, cost of living expenses, books, thesis funding, research and daily travel grants, as well as fares to and from the United States.
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