I love the field of public health because it opens the door to the world of exciting partnerships. The past month has brought many opportunities to connect our School of Public Health with collaborators and partners from across the University of Maryland system, around Prince George’s County and throughout the state. I am a strong believer in the definition of public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals” (Winslow, 1920). Public health does not exist in a vacuum, and neither does our school.
For example, here at UMD, I was pleased to learn that Dr. Sonia Hirt, the new dean of the School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning, and I are on the same page about the interconnections between community planning and design and the health of that community. We have also just welcomed Dr. Adele Robinson as the new Karabelle Pizzigati Endowed Professor in Advocacy for Children, Youth and Families, who holds a joint appointment between the School of Public Health and School of Public Policy. For more than twenty-five years, she has advocated at the federal and state levels to reduce family poverty and promote educational opportunity for low-income children.
I also had the pleasure of visiting the Prince George’s County Council/Board of Health in February, with Drs. Cynthia Baur and Stephen Thomas, to discuss community needs and opportunities to partner on health improvement efforts in our home county. At my first meeting with the members of our SPH Community Advisory Council, who are public health leaders representing important constituencies throughout the state, also weighed in on new opportunities for students to gain more public health practice experience at our recent meeting.
Our pursuit of strategic partnerships will enhance our impact on health in all policies, increase opportunities for hands-on student experiences and lead to innovative solutions to many of today’s complex societal challenges in which public health plays a critical part.
An important piece of realizing this vision for our students and our community is ensuring the financial support of our students and programs. I hope you will join me on March 8 and support School of Public Health student scholarships and educational programs on UMD Giving Day. A generous SPH donor will be matching contributions and the university will also provide additional funds if we win hourly challenges. Your support can make the difference in students finishing their degrees on time, being able to pursue internships that prepare them for careers in public health and, for some, simply keeping them in school.
I also invite the campus community to join us this afternoon for a special Maryland Diversity Dialogues talk by Mr. Aranthan Jones II, Chief of Staff at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, who will speak about Working for health equity in the new normal.We will also share a recording of this talk on our website for future viewing.
Last, but not least, I am excited to invite our faculty, students and staff to join me in the Friedgen Family Student Lounge this Friday, March 3 at 9 a.m. for our first Discussion with the Dean on public health in the news. Our first topic will be on gun violence and focus on this AJPH article: Academic Public Health and the Firearm Crisis: An Agenda for Action. This will be the first in a series to provide a forum to discuss current topics in the news cycle from a public health perspective and give our students the opportunity to lead and articulate ideas in a supportive environment.
Boris D. Lushniak
Dean and Professor