Leaving a Legacy

TTUHSC Students Celebrate Commencement

our legacy now

Monish Makena grew up in India in a group home of about 60 people including family. 


The relatively shy student would become fascinated in research. That journey would lead him to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and leave a legacy for other students.


In 2009, Makena completed his Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology at Andhra University in India. At the age of 21, he moved to Lubbock and completed Masters degree in Biotechnology at Texas Tech University. While working on his Masters degree, he looked at profiles of researchers and came across the work of Patrick Reynolds, M.D., Ph.D. The work of the School of Medicine Cancer Center fascinated Makena. He worked for Reynolds during his Masters degree work and then decided to attend the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to begin his Ph.D.


“It took me eight years since I arrived in Lubbock,” Makena said. “I feel like the person who came here was a different person. I was really quiet and shy. I worried about the accent barrier when I arrived. While I was working on my Ph.D., I was a lab rat and never saw the sunlight some days. I decided I wanted to get out and get involved.”


Makena would go on to become involved in many TTUHSC organizations including Student Government Association (SGA) vice president of communications, Graduate School Association senator, TTUHSC President’s Select and a member of the Student Research Week committee. Makena also won the SGA President’s Excellence Award, the Our Legacy Now Service Award and at commencement the Outstanding Student Award for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.


“One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is helping establish Our Legacy Now,” Makena said. “When I was in SGA, I was handling scholarships, and we saw there was a great need for student- need based scholarships. Give them a little money to help a lot.”


The Institutional Advancement office worked with the committee and founded Our Legacy Now. Makena proudly wears a t-shirt that states, “Sometimes It Takes a Student to Help a Student.” Makena was passionate about the campaign and saw a huge potential to help students. So far, 14 scholarships have been presented for all TTUHSC schools. TTUHSC President Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., matched $20,000 of the money raised. Scholarships that Makena said not only impact the students, but their families as well.


“In my leadership roles, I have had the opportunity to speak on behalf of other students,” Makena said. “We are fortunate to have an administration that listens to their students.”


Makena, who also received 13 various scholarships during his time at TTUHSC, graduated along with his classmates in May after completing his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. His research focused on developing novel treatment options for relapse or resistant cancers. One paper he published led to phase one of a clinical trial and another one he published has the potential to help treat patients with T-cell leukemia/lymphomas. He credits Reynolds and Min Kang, Pharm.D., with his success in research. Makena began to work at Johns Hopkins Medical School and hopes to be a translational scientist in the future.


“When I came to the United States, I never imagined this day would come,” Makena said. “This was a huge sacrifice on my family as well. When I crossed the stage, it was for them too. I tell other students there are so many opportunities at TTUHSC. There are
great ways to give back to the lives of those around you. As health care professionals, we are trained to change peoples’ lives.”


graduation      graduation
graduation   graduation

Top Awards for the TTUHSC Schools Included:

School of Health Professions
Dean’s Award for Excellence
Undergraduate Recipient

Victoria Merrick Swindling, B.S. Clinical Laboratory Science

Dean’s Award for Excellence
Graduate Recipient
Caetyn Palmer Jones, M.S., Speech Language Pathology

Dean’s Award for Excellence
Research Recipient 

Lee Tolbert Atkins, Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences

The school had its first post-baccalaureate of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences graduates this year.

School of Nursing

School of Nursing Excellence in Nursing Award
DNP Program: Kristin Benton, MSN, R.N.
MSN Program: Matika Monday, R.N., BSN
Traditional BSN: Lexie Bailey

School of Nursing Dean’s Leadership Award
Kristin Krenek, Traditional BSN Lubbock

Future Researcher Recognition
Shannon Sulak
Rebecca Metzler

Healing Touch Award, Covenant Health System
Angelica Ybarra

Leadership Award, University Medical Center Health System
Kylie Bonneau

Distinguished Alumni – Community Advocacy Award
Melanie Richburg, DNP, FNP, 2013 Alumna

School of Pharmacy
Bowl of Hygieia Award
Brandi Dahl, Pharm.D.

Trisha Lalapet, Pharm. D.

Most Influential Professor
Harold Miller, Ph.D.

The School of Pharmacy had 150 graduates with seven earning a dual degree of Pharm.D./MBA.

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Dean’s Recognition Award
Brandon Bradley, M.S. in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Graduate Medical Sciences

Outstanding Public Health Student
Sarah Mende, Masters of Public Health

2017 Outstanding Graduate Student Award (tie)
Monish Makena, Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology
Alok Ranjan, Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a concentration in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

School of Medicine

Gold Headed Cane Award
Ryan Balko (Lubbock campus)

Dean's Highest Academic Achievement Award
Ryan Balko and Robert Dillard (two recipients this year)

Dean's Recognition Award
Debdeep Banerjee (Amarillo campus)
Andrew Molloy (Permian Basin campus)

Buesseler Award for Outstanding Senior Student
Katherine Dowd

Buesseler Award for Basic Science Faculty
Vadivel Ganapathy, Ph.D.

Buesseler Award for Basic Science Faculty
Brian Pomeroy, M.D.


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