Kelsie Challenger (right) interacts with students at a Sierra Leone school.

Kelsie Challenger, a behavioral and community health major, interacts with students at the Abigail D. Butscher School in Calaba Town, Sierra Leone.

June 11, 2019

A School of Public Health professor has made a $1.15 million gift to support the Global Health Initiative, hoping that it will “supercharge” student engagement in the school's the burgeoning international service, research and education opportunities.

The Pamela I. Clark Global Health Student Experience Endowment and Current Use Fund will support students in Public Health Without Borders, as well as others who pursue international internships, study abroad and other educational travel opportunities.

Dr. Clark, a research professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health since 2008, has brought in over $43 million dollars in research grants and contracts over the course of her career. She has focused on providing the scientific evidence to inform tobacco control policies and protect public health, and she has served as the lead of the Food and Drug Administration- and National Institues of Health-funded Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science at UMD since 2013.

“But that is not the reward,” she said, reflecting on her research success. “The reward is the home and family I have at the University of Maryland. And at UMD, we have a vision that is global, that recognizes the interconnectedness of the planet, and I totally buy into that.”

Research Professor Pamela ClarkAt UMD, we have a vision that is global, that recognizes the interconnectedness of the planet, and I totally buy into that.
- Professor Pamela Clark

Dr. Clark has been inspired by the work of the UMD Public Health Without Borders organization, and recalls learning about it first from a student who took her epidemiology class and shared her story of traveling with the group to Sierra Leone. “She was so energized by the experience,” Dr. Clark said. “The students were all changed for life because of it, their eyes were opened up and they had a much broader sense of the world.”

Established in 2014, the student-led PHWB group collaborates with communities on projects to reduce health disparities and increase awareness about good health practices. It has partnered with communities in Peru, Sierra Leone, India and Ethiopia on trips led by Associate Clinical Professor Elisabeth Maring and Research Professor Dina Borzekowski. 

As Acting Director of the Global Health Initiative, Dr. Borzekowski will administer the funds from Clark's gift and leverage emerging opportunities that will further increase the School of Public Health’s visibility in this arena.

“Going to Sierra Leone has changed my perspective about a service trip. Before I thought we had more to give to them, but I learned so much from them,” said Kelsie Challenger, a behavioral and community health major.  “We also have so many things we take for granted [as Americans]. Being able to turn on the tap and have clean water come out is a big deal. It has made me be more aware and mindful of these things.”

In addition to expanding students’ worldviews, Dr. Clark sees her gift as a way to make students both more employable and more resilient.

“If they go out looking for a job, if they have international experience, they will get in much easier than someone who doesn’t have that,” Clark said. “I think it makes them more adaptable. They have an experience where they didn’t know what to expect and they handled it and became stronger as a result.”

Public health science major Veeraj Shah, PHWB president and leader of its India team, recognizes that the international trips are often not an option for many students because of financial barriers.

“Gaining support from such a generous endowment like this will truly support the core of our organization --the students-- and allow them not only to gain incredible personal growth but to make a difference in global communities through education, research and service,” Shah said.

 

Related People
Pamela Clark