May 23, 2014

The School of Public Health presented its highest honor, the Dean's Medal, to Dr. Carlessia Hussein, Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene during the Spring 2014 commencement ceremony. The Dean's Medal for Exceptional Contributions to Achieving a Better State of Health was established to acknowledge those individuals or organizations outside of the School who have made a significant contribution to advancing a better state of health in Maryland. It is the highest honor that the school bestows and has only been awarded once before.

Dr. Hussein started her career as a nurse who two decades later had earned her doctorate in public health from UC-Berkeley and was well on her way to making a significant impact on the population's heath at the local and state levels. Interlaced throughout her more than 40-year career has been a commitment to the health of minority, underrepresented and underserved populations.

Not surprisingly, she was appointed the inaugural Director of Maryland's Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, a position she has held for the last 10 years.

In her early career as an academic administrator in public health education, Dr. Hussein advised faculty on minority student issues, promoted cross-cultural sensitivity and exchange among students and faculty, and developed preparatory and recruitment programs to increase the successful enrollment of minority students into public health training programs.

After almost two decades in California, Dr. Hussein was recruited to work for the District of Columbia, marshaling her passion and skills to build improved health infrastructure, planning and service delivery for citizens of the nation's capital.

In 1996, Dr. Hussein joined the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to lead the Community and Public Health Administration. Here she shepherded the implementation of more than 15 traditional public health programs through the state's 24 counties, including primary care and maternal services, chronic disease, epidemiology and disease control, and prevention and consumer health. She also established a statewide health planning process that created a partnership between counties and the state to serve the varying community needs across Maryland.

Dr. Hussein's leadership in addressing minority health and health disparities earned her prominent recognition by state officials and in June 2000 she was asked to direct the Cigarette Restitution Fund Program, implementing Maryland Senate Bill 896 to reduce smoking and control cancer through the administration of the state's funds from the U.S. Tobacco Settlement Program. Under her direction the state saw cancer mortality disparities drop by over 50% between Blacks and Whites and reductions in smoking prevalence among both youth and adults.

In 2004, Dr. Hussein was asked to direct the newly established Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, where she has built an infrastructure in the state for addressing issues of minority health and health disparities.

Dr. Hussein has been a friend and partner to the University of Maryland, School of Public Health since its establishment. She has worked with many of our faculty to support our shared mission of advancing a better state of health, and her efforts will leave a lasting impact on the state of Maryland.

For these reasons and more, we recognize Dr. Hussein's outstanding record of contributions and achievements that have impacted the health status of populations through direct intervention, policy initiatives, public health leadership and service.