The UW School of Public Health celebrates the Class of 2024

Graduates, families and friends attend the SPH Graduation Celebration at Alaska Airlines Arena. (Photo by Elizar Mercado)

The School of Public Health Class of 2024 celebrated their accomplishments in public health at the Graduation Celebration June 9 at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.  

The School graduated 847 students this year: 46 with doctorates, 313 with master’s degrees and 488 with bachelor’s degrees.

Biraj Karmacharya, a public health leader in Nepal and an alum of SPH, addressed the Class of 2024, welcoming them to the profession.

“The world needs people who are willing to take risks, people who stand their ground and are willing to vouch for what is right, people who can persuade and induce change, just like you all,” Karmacharya said.

Karmacharya received the SPH Alumni of Impact Award at the Graduation Celebration, the highest honor given by the School to its alumni for distinguished service and achievement across public health. Karmacharya has led innovative work alongside his community in Nepal, expanding hospital programs to serve rural populations, creating the country’s first-ever doctoral programs in public health, researching diseases amongst low-income communities and working with governments to inform health policy.

Liz, Biraj and Umair at graduation event
Associate Dean for Education Liz Kirk, SPH Alumni of Impact Awardee Biraj Karmacharya and Washington state Secretary of Health Umair Shah attend the 2024 Graduation Celebration. (Photo by Elizar Mercado)

Washington state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah attended the Graduation Celebration and addressed the Class of 2024, congratulating them on their accomplishments and welcoming them as public health professionals and leaders. Shah was appointed to the position by Governor Jay Inslee in December 2020 and has had a storied career in public health, spanning positions in multiple public health agencies, nonprofit organizations, professional associations and large health systems.  

“Over your time at the University of Washington it has been so impressive to see so many of you listen, learn, grow and now graduate. You are the future of our field of public health and I’m excited to see how high and far you soar as you accelerate into your future, and that future starts today,” Shah said.

As each student walked across the stage, Shah presented them with the School’s token of gratitude for their work: the Soul Catcher pin.

The Soul Catcher pin is a Native symbol for physical and spiritual well-being that represents the School's commitment to educating innovative and diverse public health leaders and scientists, promoting the well-being of communities, and honoring and respecting the knowledge and traditions of the original inhabitants of this land. This version of the Soul Catcher was designed for and gifted to the School by renowned Native artist and former UW faculty member, Marvin Oliver, who drew his inspiration from Coast Salish traditions.

The School honored three of its outstanding students at the celebration: undergraduate Carlos Morales, Global Health master’s graduate Amanda Li, and Epidemiology doctoral graduate Taylor Riley. Li and Riley received the Gilbert S. Omenn Award for Academic Excellence, the highest honor given to graduate students at the School.  

Morales and Li addressed the graduating class at the Graduation Celebration:

“We are at a precipice, a ripe moment in time for new beginnings,” Morales said. “This time, more than ever, people are becoming aware and active around the things that no longer serve them. They are feeling awakened and challenged in the very same breath. Graduating from our programs will give us the opportunity to put our effort into practicing what matters most to each of us.”

“When I think about the many ongoing public health crises occurring worldwide, I often feel despondent or apprehensive,” Li said. “But knowing how passionate and dedicated the public health professionals are that I’ve met throughout the program, my faith is renewed. With the support of such truly amazing individuals, it's hard not to feel ready to take on the world."


View the photos from the Graduation Celebration: Graduation Celebration 2024 - UW SPH (

View the graduation speaker videos: 2024 UWSPH Graduation Celebration - YouTube