On Public Health Thank You Day, the University of Maryland School of Public Health wants to recognize a few of the many members of our extended community whose work is making a difference in the lives of the diverse communities of Maryland. For their efforts to support the health of rural farm communities, college students, victims of gun violence, and children in the foster care system, we recognize and thank these unsung heroes for their leadership, vision and dedication. We also recognize the unnamed public health professionals of all sorts and across the globe — in communities, clinics, research laboratories, health departments and many other settings — who dedicate their lives to helping all the world’s people achieve the highest attainable standard of health.
We are proud of and grateful for the role that these “public health heroes” play in research, education and service to promote and protect health, and are honored to work alongside them in creating healthier communities.
Dr. Bonnie Braun
professor emerita, department of family science and extension
founding director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy
A long time advocate for low income and rural families, Dr. Braun championed the need to educate consumers about how to find and choose health insurance that best meets their family’s health needs and budget. She launched the Smart Choice Health Insurance program in tandem with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and the creation of multiple, but often confusing, plan options. The program aims to help consumers get smart about buying and using health insurance and reduce health disparities and the cost of chronic conditions.
Recently, Dr. Braun launched an effort that is a partnership between the University of Maryland Extension and School of Public Health, to support the health and well-being of Maryland’s farmers and rural communities. Dr. Braun spoke at the Health and Farm Vitality Forum about the economic pressures and stressors that take a toll on farmers, families, farms and communities. The forum was the beginning of an ongoing effort to provide support for farmers experiencing mental and emotional distress and to prevent substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide among farmers and their families.
Ms. Rohini “Ro” Nambiar
senior public health science major, general business minor
vice president of student affairs
UMD Student Government Association
Ms. Nambiar (Ro) channels her passion for public health, justice and equity into her many leadership activities. Ro has been involved in UMD SGA for three years now starting as the School of Public Health Representative in the Legislature, the Director of Health and Wellness her junior year and is currently the VP of Student Affairs. In SGA, Ro found her passion for advocacy, specifically for additional mental health resources on campus. Since then she has helped interview and hire numerous new staff psychologists for the University Counseling Center, increased campus mental health resources by working with the Counseling Center and Division of Student Affairs on initiatives such as WellTrack, the newly launched healthy living app, and most recently working with members of SGA in creating the Mental Health Student Advisory Board.
This fall, she and other SGA leaders organized the Justice for Jordan rally held on November 1 to honor Mr. Jordan McNair, the 19 year old UMD football player and kinesiology major who died from preventable heat stroke during practice earlier this year. Ms. Nambiar and other students rallied the campus community to march on the Main Administration building in the wake of the decision by the Board of Regents to reinstate Coach DJ Durkin and to influence President Loh to retire.
Speaking at the rally, she urged people to strongly support their fellow Terps.
“Show up to the game on Saturday,” she said. “Show up for the McNairs, show up for Jordan, and show up for our student-athletes.”
Dr. Joseph B. Richardson Jr.
associate professor, department of african-american studies and anthropology
University of Maryland College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
associate professor, UMD Prevention Research Center
With a passion for turning research into action to help prevent gun violence and to heal trauma in communities of color, Dr. Joseph B. Richardson’s work helps to advance the research infrastructure needed to tackle the public health issue of gun violence.
Dr. Richardson leads the Capital Region Violence Intervention Program (CAP-VIP) at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center (UM-PGHC). As the CAP-VIP founder and program and research director, Dr. Richardson works with staff to provide survivors of violent injury (i.e., gunshot wound, stabbing or assault) with psychosocial services such as mental health counseling, job placement, peer support and mentoring to reduce the likelihood of repeat violent injury from potential future retaliation.
Dr. Richardson utilizes the trauma center at UM-PGHC at his research lab to study violence, violent injury and trauma. He is principal investigator on four research studies focused on young black men who are victims of violent injury. The studies assess risk factors for repeat violent injury, the role and function of the Affordable Care Act Navigator, patient outcomes among survivors of violent injury and the relationship between firearm-related injury and previous history of incarceration.
Mr. Rob Scheer
president, Comfort Cases
Mr. Rob Scheer’s work with Comfort Cases builds on his own personal experience as a kid in the foster care system. He launched Comfort Cases in 2013 to support children in foster care and give them a sense of dignity and control through the provision of basic toiletry and other personal care supplies packed in small suitcases. Children in foster care have to move from home to home, sometimes on short notice, and many are forced to carry their belongings in a plastic trash bag.
Through a partnership with Comfort Cases, Dr. James Butler offers his undergraduate students in the “Personal and Community Health” (HLTH 140) course hands-on “service learning” experience packing cases for children in foster care with a basic set of items that includes a blanket and school supplies. They also write personal letters to the children receiving the suitcases. Each semester Dr. Butler holds a Comfort Cases “packing party” where Mr. Scheer speaks to the class. He thanks the students, describes having to travel from home to home with a trash bag himself and tells students about why their work is so important to the youth in foster care.