June 2017 Message from Dean Boris Lushniak

Dear friends and colleagues,

Nearly three weeks ago, as we prepared to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students at commencement, we received the tragic news that Lieutenant Richard Collins III, a Bowie State University student, was fatally stabbed on our campus in a possible hate crime on May 20, 2017.

Our school and the campus at large have worked in a variety of ways to honor the life of Lt. Collins and show support for his family and the Bowie State community. We have provided spaces for students, faculty and staff to collectively mourn, support each other (and receive support from campus counseling professionals), and to voice concerns about the school’s and university’s responsibility around this act of violence and to address hate-bias on our campus more vigorously.

We are discussing what we can do as an institution, as a School of Public Health and as individuals, to go beyond talking about diversity and inclusion and do the work to truly make our university a safe and supportive place for everyone—especially those from groups that have been harassed and excluded. 

I want our current and incoming students to understand that entering into the field of public health means entering into a commitment to promote social justice and health equity. Our school is dedicated to raising awareness about racism's impact on the health and well-being of the nation. We are working to implement a public health “code of ethics” pledge to remind students of our guiding principles and the commitment to work for the empowerment of disenfranchised community members, aiming to ensure that the resources and conditions necessary for health are accessible to all. This reinforces the “Pledge of Respect and Unity” that President Loh announced will be taken together by all new and returning students. Read the university’s latest updates and communications at UMD Reflects. We will share more details about our school’s actions in the months to come. Meanwhile, you can read about our school’s ongoing efforts to advance diversity and inclusion.

One of the ways that we are committed to strengthening diversity in the STEM pipeline is through our STAR and ADAPT programs, which take place each summer at the School of Public Health under the leadership of Dr. Jim Hagberg. These two NIH-funded programs provide traditionally under-represented and disadvantaged undergraduate students from all over the United States with research experience and personalized mentoring from SPH faculty. I am proud of the success of these programs and that we are attracting some of the best and brightest students to contribute to our research activities. 

Though our halls are not humming with the busyness typical of the academic year, there are plenty of exciting activities going on both within the school and out in communities this summer. We welcome hundreds of children to our building for six weeks of the Gymkana summer camp program. This program encourages healthy, active lifestyles and builds confidence in young people who are able to learn new gymnastic skills at their own pace with the gentle guidance of UMD students who are Gymkana troupe members. 

We are also proud to host the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Data Detectives Camp for the second year in a row. This STEM summer camp focuses on introducing statistical concepts through fun, hands-on activities to rising 6th and 7th grade students.

UMD Public Health without Borders student shows school children in Sierra Leone proper handwashing techniqueOur SPH students are also learning from international research and service projects this summer. Family Science led a study abroad trip to Cuba focused on law, public health and families and our Public Health without Borders students travelled to Sierra Leone for health education activities with school children in Calaba Town (see photo), and Kinesiology students are in England and Ireland to explore sport, commerce and culture. One of our MPH students in the new health equity track is sharing her insights working in Tanzania this summer on a research project to address cervical cancer disparities: https://www.perfectingequity.com/

I will travel to Haiti this summer to volunteer with a medical mission and to explore potential opportunities for our students to partner with communities on public health and development projects there.  

Looking ahead, our students can explore the similarities and differences in how India and the U.S. address public health concerns while visiting schools, villages, Ayurvedic and Allopathic clinics/hospitals, and communities through the winter 2018 study abroad program to India, which is accepting applications until June 15, 2017. 

It is through activities like this that our students will become global citizens who understand the significance and responsibility we have in working together for the health of the planet. We can be proud that despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, many state and local entities, including the University of Maryland, have reaffirmed support for the accord and remain committed to taking action to address climate change and its many impacts. Our school remains strongly committed to research, education and advocacy related to mitigating climate change and its impacts on vulnerable communities. Read SPH faculty responses to the news of the Paris agreement withdrawal. 

I hope you will read about the many recent SPH accomplishments in this June newsletter. In addition to the usual research highlights, we have also included a list of recommended summer reading, listening and viewing suggested by several faculty members.

Whatever your chosen summertime pursuits, I wish you a healthy, active and fun summer season!

Boris 

Boris D. Lushniak
Dean and Professor