Throughout the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s first 10 years, faculty and students have 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 UMD campus – has been limited. A new Global Health Initiative, announced this July by UMD SPH Dean Boris Lushniak, aims to change this.
“As we enter our second decade as a School of Public Health, we’re looking at areas of growth and there is an opportunity in the global health realm,” said Dean Lushniak. “We’ve been doing incredible work in this area throughout our first ten years, and now we need the structure to formalize and organize things and the leadership to take it to the next level. That is why we created the Global Health Initiative. I am pleased to have research professor Dr. Dina Borzekowski, serve as its interim director.”
Dr. Borzekowski has a well-stamped passport, having conducted health communication research in more than two dozen countries. In the last year alone, Dr. Borzekowski has been to India twice, Uganda, the Czech Republic, and Sierra Leone. She’s worked with Sesame Workshop, MTV, and UNICEF to develop broadcasts that embed health messages into entertaining media. Dr. Borzekowski has also led student trips to some of the world’s most challenging hot spots, plagued by civil unrest and extreme poverty.
[Photo: Dr. Dina Borzekowski hand washing, onsite]
“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 majorMs. Kelsie Challenger who travelled to Sierra Leone with Dr. Borzekowski in June. “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 Ms. Nicole Haggerty, a Master of Public Health student who also went on the Sierra Leone trip.
The Global Health Initiative will coordinate and better inform about current and future service, research, and educational opportunities across campus, all which will be interdisciplinary and practical. Since 2013, global public health service projects have been launched through the student-led group Public Health without Borders (PHWB), which has journeyed to and partnered with communities in Ethiopia, Peru, India, and Sierra Leone. Associate clinical professor Dr. Elisabeth Maring, who is also the director of the Global Public Health Scholars program, coordinates engagement efforts for PHWB. Dr. Maring and Dr. Borzekowski have both served on the school’s global health advisory committee, along with a dozen others from the SPH and affiliated schools.
“Student engagement and interest in global health is strong because of the amazing prospects to work with faculty, travel through Public Health Without Borders and study abroad, and take related courses offered by the SPH and across campus,” said Dr. Maring.
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 will create and encourage new courses and learning environments. Besides hosting lectures and institutes focused on ongoing and emerging public health issues, there is a plan to create new degree programs and concentrations to meet the increasing interest in global health.