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The Global Health Initiative: About Us

Dina Borzekoski and muppet friends
Dr. Dina Borzekowski, director of the Global Health Initiative and an internationally recognized expert in the area of children, media, and health, has worked with Sesame Workshop, MTV, and UNICEF to develop broadcasts that embed health messages into entertaining media. Photo by John T. Consoli.

Throughout the School of Public Health’s first 10 years (2007-2017), faculty and students actively engaged in research, service and education activities aimed at improving health across the globe and partnering with communities to accomplish these goals. While the impact of their work has been felt around the world, in countries as diverse as Cuba, Bangladesh, Peru and Tanzania, awareness of these global health activities – and coordination across the University of Maryland campus – had been limited.  In 2018, SPH Dean Boris Lushniak announced the Global Health Initiative, to centralize and expand the reach of global health at UMD. 

The Global Health Initiative is led by Dr. Dina Borzekowski, a professor of behavioral and community health, who has an impressively well-stamped passport, having conducted health communication research in more than two dozen countries. Dr. Borzekowski has worked with Sesame Workshop, MTV, and UNICEF to develop broadcasts that embed health messages into entertaining media.  She has also led student trips to some of the world’s most challenging hot spots, plagued by civil unrest and extreme poverty.

“Dr. B oozes with wisdom and compassion. Her compassion for the overall health of people is inspiring, as is the wisdom she has acquired from all her experiences abroad,” said Community Health major Kelsie Challenger who travelled to Sierra Leone with Dr. Borzekowski in 2018. “Under Dr. B.’s leadership, Maryland is going to be everywhere.”

Increasing opportunities for SPH students to apply their knowledge in real world settings is one of the Global Health Initiative’s goals. “Dr. B is truly dedicated to global health and involving her students in any way possible,” said Nicole Haggerty, a Master of Public Health student who also went on the Sierra Leone trip.

The Global Health Initiative is coordinating and informing the UMD community about current and future service, research, and educational opportunities, all which will be interdisciplinary and practical.  

Since 2013, global public health service projects have been launched through the student-led group Public Health Beyond Borders (formerly Public Health Without Borders), which has journeyed to and partnered with communities in Ethiopia, Peru, India, and Sierra Leone. Associate Clinical Professor Elisabeth Maring, who is also the director of the Global Public Health Scholars program and associate director of the GHI, coordinates engagement efforts PHBB. 

Bringing together efforts and increasing awareness of related UMD activities are primary goals of the Initiative. “It seems too late to find out about your colleague’s global health research project after her results are published in a journal,” said Dr. Borzekowski.  “We want people to know about similar projects happening across the globe and in communities a few kilometers away from each other,” Borzekowski said. 

Additionally, the Initiative is focused on creating and encouraging new courses and learning environments. Besides hosting lectures and institutes focused on ongoing and emerging public health issues, work is underway to launch the Global Health major and other programs to meet the increasing interest in global health.