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>Message from the Dean

Message From Dean Jane E. Clark
University of Maryland College Park School of Public Health

Jane E. ClarkIt is a great pleasure to welcome you to the website of the University of Maryland School of Public Health. I became dean of the School of Public Health in July 2012 and am leading the development of a collaborative School of Public Health in partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) campus. We will establish the joint school in conjunction with the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UMB's School of Medicine. Our first task will be linking the Master in Public Health degree programs on both campuses and providing expanded opportunities for students to get the best training and education available in College Park and Baltimore.

I would like to thank our founding Dean Bob Gold for his tireless efforts to lay the groundwork for the collaborative school, in partnership with many leaders on both campuses, and for his energy and vision in leading our school for the past ten years. I have the daunting task of following the steps of Dean Gold. It is an extraordinary privilege to serve to as the second dean of the School of Public Health.

PARTNERING TO IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH

The School of Public Health is building important bridges to several regional, state, and national public health partners. Here are a few highlights of significant recent partnerships:

Priester Extension Health Conference
The School of Public Health, in collaboration with the University of Maryland Extension, hosted this year's USDA Priester National Extension Health Conference in Washington, DC, April 10-12. Dr. Bonnie Braun, professor of family science and faculty scholar in the Center for Health Literacy, chaired the conference, which was attended by more than 100 Cooperative Extension Service health education and public health professionals working throughout the United States to influence positive health outcomes in local communities.

Children's National Medical Center Advocacy Day
School of Public Health faculty members were invited to present their expertise to the Children's National Medical Center board, leadership, faculty, nurses and staff for the Center's fourth annual Advocacy Day Grand Rounds session on April 25, 2012. Drs. Linda Aldoory, director, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy; Brad Boekeloo, director, University of Maryland Prevention Research Center; Dushanka Kleinman, associate dean for research; and Stephen B. Thomas, director, Maryland Center for Health Equity, described how community based participatory research methods can be used to address community health issues. They shared thoughts on opportunities for partnerships and collaborations to address health literacy, health equity, and prevention across the Maryland/DC border.

Third Annual Seat Pleasant Health Summit

The School of Public Health hosted more than 100 senior citizens and high school students from Seat Pleasant, Md. on May 11, 2012, for a half-day summit to develop strategies to combat diabetes and other chronic diseases in this community. The Seat Pleasant Health Summits are the result of an ongoing partnership between the city and our CDC-funded Prevention Research Center to reduce health disparities in this predominantly African-American community. Watch the Prince George's County CTV News story about the Health Summit.

US Public Health Service Scientific and Training Symposium

The School of Public Health co-sponsored the 2012 USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium of the Commissioned Officers Association, held at the University of Maryland from June 19-21, 2012. This was the first time that their annual conference was co-sponsored by an academic partner. Our school will be developing future educational trainings for the USPHS as part of our participation in the Mid-Atlantic Public Health Training Center.

Hyattsville Health Promotion Expo
The Maryland Center for Health Equity partnered with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Foundation/Association (USPHS), the USPHS Commissioned Corps and the Community Ministry of Prince George's County to address racial and ethnic health disparities in Prince George's County through a Health Promotion Expo held on June 18, 2012 in Hyattsville.

IMPROVING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE, HIGH-QUALITY HEALTH CARE

The School of Public Health continues to play a leading role in Maryland's health care reform activities through initiatives emphasizing the need for changes that promote health equity and improve health literacy. The Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act in June 2012 reinforces Maryland's strong commitment to provide affordable health care for all of its citizens and to eliminate risk factors that contribute to health disparities. Here are a few of the recent initiatives that impact health care quality, cost, and accessibility in Maryland and beyond, in which our faculty played a leading role:

The Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Act of 2012 was signed into law on April 10, 2012. Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, director of our Maryland Center for Health Equity, served as a member of the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council Health Disparities Workgroup which proposed many of the recommendations included in that bill, including the creation of Health Enterprise Zones (HEZs). The HEZs will offer tax breaks and other incentives to primary care practitioners, community-based organizations or local health departments for their efforts to expand and improve access to care, improve health, and reduce disparities in underserved areas.

Health Insurance Literacy Partnership
The School of Public Health, the Consumers Union, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) launched a partnership to help consumers make health plan choices more easily. Dr. Bonnie Braun is co-leading this national initiative that has engaged several experts in health literacy, financial literacy, literacy measurement, and health insurance. They are collecting consumer input and developing tools to educate consumers and inform public health policy.

Public Health Impact Study of Prince George's County
An interdisciplinary team of senior School of Public Health researchers produced the Public Health Impact Study of Prince George's County at the request of Prince George's County, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the University of Maryland Medical System, and Dimensions Healthcare System. This report, released on July 25, 2012 helps lay the groundwork for the design of a new healthcare delivery system in Prince George's County.

TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION, CREATING NEW KNOWLEDGE

We can also be proud of our faculty members for their excellent teaching and mentorship and for their leadership in research. Congratulations to the following faculty members for being recognized for their outstanding contributions:

Robin Sawyer, associate professor, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, was selected to receive the university's Kirwan Undergraduate Award for 2012. Through a generous gift to the university, former President and current Chancellor William E. Kirwan established this award to recognize faculty and staff who have made exceptional contributions to the quality of undergraduate education at the university.

James Hagberg, professor, Department of Kinesiology, was named 2012 Graduate Faculty Mentor of the Year by the university's Graduate School. The award recognizes outstanding mentoring provided by individual faculty and serves to remind the university community of the critical importance of mentoring to graduate studies.

Amy Sapkota, assistant professor, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, was selected by the Yale School of Public Health to receive the 2012 Eric Mood New Professional Award. This award recognizes the career of a Yale alumnus/a who is a promising new professional in the field of public health, and who demonstrates outstanding leadership potential and creativity in the practice of public health.

DEVELOPING SOLUTIONS TO PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGES

Among our newly funded research projects, I would like to recognize a few that demonstrate some important priorities for the school.

Maryland Veterans Resilience Initiative
Family Science Professor Sally Koblinsky leads this new initiative, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, designed to meet the behavioral and mental health needs of Maryland veterans and their families. The project will identify gaps in veterans' services and train mental health professionals, primary care doctors and clergy to better understand and address the unique needs of veterans. The initiative will also develop peer support networks for veterans reintegrating to civilian life. 

Legacy Corps Military Family Caregivers
Professor Laura Wilson, chair of the Department of Health Services Administration, will lead this Legacy Corps project to provide to provide caregiver support services to veteran and military families at 17 sites in 11 states. This applied research project is focused on decreasing caregiver burden and stress and enabling veterans to remain in communities and postpone or avoid institutional care. The Corporation for National and Community Service (a federal agency) has funded this project for $1.9 million dollars per year for three years to be matched with $1,358,248 per year for a total investment of $3,229,714 per year.

Study of the Impact of Running in Amputees using Prosthetic Legs

Kinesiology Assistant Professor Jae Kun Shim has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin) to study the neuromechanics of running in people with lower extremity amputation. The study will examine whether the impact forces and mechanical adaptations of running with prosthetic legs could put this group at risk for physical injuries and degenerative joint diseases.

Study of Human Rhythmic Motor Coordination

Kinesiology Professor John Jeka and Research Assistant Professor Tim Kiemel received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the common rules through which sensory information (vision, inner ear, etc.) is used to stabilize rhythmic behaviors such as walking and juggling. Dr. Norm Werely (Dept. of Aerospace Engineering) and Dr. Noah Cowan (Johns Hopkins Univ. - Mechanical Engineering) are also PIs. It is a 3-year grant totaling $625,000. Dr. Jeka's research into human balance control has also led to the invention of TreadSense, a treadmill device that could soon be used widely to help patients with balance disorders, stroke survivors, individuals with Parkinson's disease and the elderly to recover mobility and balance. Watch the ABC 7 news story "Treadsense Helping People Recover Mobility."

ADVANCE Seed Grants Support Interdisciplinary Research
Six SPH faculty members received 2012 Interdisciplinary and Engaged Research Seed Grants from the UMD ADVANCE Program for Inclusive Excellence. These one-year awards support interdisciplinary projects that involve external partners and benefit the public good.

SUMMER 2012 ACTIVITIES

While the campus may be a bit quieter during the summer months, SPH faculty, staff and studentswere still engaged in many interesting activities both on and off campus.

Among them:

The Global Health and Development summer study abroad trip to Northern India led by Dr. Lis Maring in the Department of Family Science, gave students the opportunity to glimpse the complex health and development issues facing developing communities, to compare and contrast their own life experiences, and to explore global health firsthand.

Global Public Health Scholars program orientation--Now in its third year, the Global Public Health program welcomed a new cohort of 80 students (for a total of ~160 students in the program). We thank outgoing director Donna Howard for her leadership and welcome Lis Maring as the new director.

Our Summer Training and Research (STAR) program, which provides traditionally under-represented undergraduate students with 10 weeks of research training and career development for two summers, is now in its fifth year. This experience is designed to enhance the students' potential to apply for and complete graduate degrees in biomedical and behavioral science relevant to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. The School of Public Health will welcome its first graduate student this year who went through the STAR program.

Technologies for Public Health Training Program for Korean Exchange Students
This summer, Dr. Jae Kun Shim, associate professor of kinesiology, is coordinating a special exchange program for 60 students from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea who are interested in learning about engineering technologies used for public health. SPH faculty members including Jae Kun Shim, Amy Sapkota, Amir Sapkota, Jeanie Phillips, and Marcio Oliveira are providing classroom instruction and hands-on experiences of research techniques and technologies for the students.

Students Compete in Olympic Trials
Two undergraduate students in kinesiology competed for a spot in the summer Olympics. Kiani Profit competed in the Olympic Trials for the heptathalon at the University of Oregon and set career-bests in the throwing events and finished 16th. Ashley Nee competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Canoe/Kayak Team at the Olympic trials in Charlotte, NC where she earned first place, and in Cardiff, Wales where she finished 37th and was narrowly edged out by a teammate for the single spot. Congratulations to both for all they have accomplished.

New Student Orientations
We welcomed 68 new freshman and 70 new undergraduate transfer students to the School of Public Health this fall. The Public Health Science program at Shady Grove welcomed 35 new students.

Summer camps
Our school is home to two popular summer camps for kids:
The Gymkana Summer Camp offers three different tumbling and gymnastics programs for boys and girls of all different skill levels from age five to 16.

The Summer Sport and Computer Camp engages children in a variety of physical activities including soccer, softball, racquetball, basketball, swimming, and more, as well as some computer activities and light games. Building self esteem through movement the goal of this popular program that has now been in existence for more than 20 years.

Best wishes for the 2012-3 school year. I look forward to interacting with our students, faculty, staff and partner institutions as we work together to advance a better state of health in Maryland and beyond.

Dean Jane E. Clark

 

 

 

 

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