Research graphic

Illustration by Jason Keisling

December 5, 2018

This story was written by Annie Dankelson and origionally appreared in the November 2018 issue of Curiosity, a newsletter for University of Maryland supporters. 

For all of her success in the medical field, Dr. Barbara Alving believes one thing could have given her a boost: an undergraduate degree in public health science.

“If I were going to college now, this is the major that I would have chosen as an undergraduate before going to medical school,” she says of the University of Maryland’s program, which provides interdisciplinary training in natural sciences and public health. “I would then have had a much broader understanding of research, communities and global health.”

Now, the former director of the degree program is rewarding students for their work in those areas with the Barbara and Carl Alving Research Award in Public Health Science, the first named award in this program. She and her husband, Dr. Carl Alving, created a $50,000 endowment to recognize a junior each spring who demonstrates research excellence and the potential to translate that research into clinical or community applications. The first award will be $2,000.

“We recognize the long-term value of students’ research,” Barbara Alving says. “Laboratory, clinical, environmental, public health-based—but research. It’s broad, because those are the domains of public health science.”

After earning a B.S. in biology from Purdue University and an M.D. from the Georgetown University School of Medicine,Barbara Alving completed a residency and research fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital. She held research roles at the Food and Drug Administration and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. She then served at the National Institutes of Health, where she was the acting director at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and then the director of a center that established a clinical and translational program in more than 60 academic health centers nationally.

She brought that experience to the UMD School of Public Health as a research professor in 2012. In 2014, she served as the first director of the public health science program on the College Park campus. The program had been initiated at the Universities at Shady Grove two years earlier.

The program’s curriculum includes courses such as biostatistics, health policy and global health, and it encourages research and internship opportunities to prepare students to address growing health challenges. It has expanded rapidly to over 750 students.

“The program crosses departmental boundaries,” Barbara Alving says. “It reflects the interests of the students of today.”

Many of those students are engaged in research and go unrecognized, says Stephen Roth, who took over as director in 2016. In fact, Barbara Alving—who he says is “passionate, energetic, student-focused, a natural mentor”—was motivated to give when she didn’t see any student awards within the public health science program at the Honors Convocation, an annual event in the school.

Rewarding juniors, she says, will provide an early push in their career paths, hopefully strengthening their applications for graduate programs, internships and more.

“Their research will not stay only in lab notebooks or papers,” Barbara Alving says, “but will be used to provide new ways of improving health.”

Related People
Barbara Alving
Related Degree: 
Bachelor of Science, Public Health Science (College Park)Bachelor of Science, Public Health Science (Shady Grove)