KCU College of Osteopathic Medicine graduate honored with 2024 Excellence in Public Health Award

Andrew Kochvar had just started his first year of medical school at Kansas City University (KCU) when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. Though he was several years away from becoming an osteopathic physician, he knew he had to do something to help. Determined to be part of the solution and help ease the strain on overworked health care providers, he volunteered countless hours to assist with vaccine rollout efforts. Working alongside fellow medical students in partnership with the Kansas City Department of Public Health, he administered hundreds of doses of the vaccine to citizens of Kansas City. It was the first of many contributions he made toward the advancement of public health over the course of his time at KCU and the “aha” moment that set the course for his career. It also became the inspiration behind his decision to pursue a dual degree–Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Master of Public Health (MPH).

“Helping with vaccination clinics was my first exposure to a major public health effort. Knowing I had the opportunity to make a significant change in the trajectory of the pandemic and the lives of hundreds of people was a powerful experience,” he said.

Fast forward four years. Kochvar received the 2024 Excellence in Public Health Award as he prepared to graduate from KCU. Presented by The United States Public Health Service, the award recognizes his tireless efforts to champion the health and well-being of our communities.

“Finishing medical school while matching in a competitive residency is difficult enough, but Andrew accomplished both of these milestones while completing his MPH with honors and distinction. He is an ideal recipient for this award,” said Rex Archer, MD, MPH, KCU professor and director of population and public health.

Beyond assisting with vaccine distribution, Kochvar worked on National Institutes of Health research grants that seek to explain the relationship between discrimination and racial inequalities to substance use patterns and explore the health effects of e-cigarettes on brain function and cognitive development among U.S. adolescents. He partnered with faculty from University of Nebraska to publish a first-author manuscript detailing how genetic and environmental influences may shape future nicotine addiction and continued use among adolescents and teens.

While serving as an intern for the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence, Kochvar worked to assemble a comprehensive resource library for the state’s syphilis response and compiled multidisciplinary summaries to centralize the most up-to-date recommendations, challenges and resources at the local, state, federal and international levels. The materials developed during his internship experience will help equip leaders in public health with the knowledge and literature for syphilis control and elimination in the state.

“Andrew has proven himself a passionate advocate for the promotion and advancement of public health and safety, through his academic training and his extensive contributions and achievements while enrolled in medical school,” added Archer. “His passion for research and aptitude for lifelong learning will inform public health policies and interventions for years to come.”

Kochvar plans to integrate public health into his future practice as an osteopathic physician. His dedication to excellence in public health will be a lifelong quest and drive his priorities in patient care. For now, he is committed to continuing his research efforts throughout his residency in diagnostic radiology at University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“Receiving the award was never something I actively pursued,” said Kochvar. “All that I’ve done in the area of public health, I’ve done because it’s important to me. I’m very happy to be recognized, but the award does not represent the end. It’s just the beginning of the ways I hope to influence public health.”