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Fall 2011, Issue 13

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News and Updates

UHI to Announce Winner of Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award at October 1 Event

Meet the UHI’s Community-University Collaborating Committee: Deidra Bishop

Community Health Initiative to ‘Map’ Neighborhood Resources

2011 Small Grants Recipients

Highlight on 2009 Small Grants Recipients: Healthy Trendsetters Movement

UHI Oversight Group Works to Build Stronger Relationships between Community and Johns Hopkins

Staff News

UHI Appoints Associate Director for Community Engagement

UHI Welcomes New Postdoctoral Fellow

Morgan Lewis-Harris Joins UHI Team through Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program


UHI to Announce Winner of Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award at October 1 Event

Nominations are in for the first-ever Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award. Nearly two dozen community-university collaborations from across the city were nominated for the inaugural award of $15,000.

Nominations will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of leadership from community and city organizations and Johns Hopkins. The winner will be announced on October 1, 2011 at the Annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture at Johns Hopkins University. The $15,000 award will be given to the community entity that is the central partner in that relationship.

The UHI established the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award to recognize and support Baltimore community organizations that are collaborating with Johns Hopkins University to improve the health and well-being of the residents of Baltimore. The Award, named in honor of Henrietta Lacks, highlights the importance of collaboration between the Baltimore community and Johns Hopkins University, as well as recognizes the accomplishments of these partnerships.

Henrietta Lacks was an East Baltimore resident and cervical cancer patient in the early 1950s at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where cells taken from her tumor became the first “immortal” human cells grown in culture and led to breakthroughs in cell research related to cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and more. Mrs. Lacks’ family was unaware that her cells, now known worldwide as ‘HeLa’ cells, had been used for research until more than twenty years after her death. The Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award honors Mrs. Lacks and her family and is intended to be an enduring reminder of her contribution to medical science and to her community.

Visit the UHI website after October 1, 2011 to learn more about the winning collaboration.


Meet the UHI’s Community-University Collaborating Committee: Deidra Bishop

Deidra BishopDuring her career, Deidra Bishop has twice served on Capitol Hill as Congressman Elijah Cummings’ top aide, worked on the front lines for the city’s transportation initiatives, and held leadership positions with the Baltimore City Office of Employment Development, UNICEF, and United Way of Central Maryland. Bishop says she feels fortunate to have held positions that have directly influenced the quality of life in Maryland, and especially in Baltimore. Her current position is no exception.

Bishop is the Director of East Baltimore Community Affairs for Johns Hopkins Institutions, a post she was recruited for more than six years ago because of her years of experience in non-profits, and city, state, and federal government. Her charge is to work on behalf of Johns Hopkins to develop and strengthen effective partnerships with East Baltimore community institutions, and identify ways for Johns Hopkins to respond to the needs of East Baltimore neighborhoods. Bishop leads a team of community services staffers who represent Johns Hopkins in the community, and collaborate with other organizations to share information about education and health issues, employment opportunities, housing, commercial construction, and other issues impacting the quality of life in East Baltimore.

Bishop says her life experiences—both professional and personal—have prepared her to take on the most important challenges for East Baltimore, which involve the health of neighborhoods and enhancing quality of life for residents, including the physical, economic, social, and spiritual well being of those who live and work in East Baltimore. She says the most rewarding part of her job is working with colleagues across Johns Hopkins and the city who are committed to making a positive difference in people’s lives.

“I continue to be amazed at the breadth and depth of all that makes Johns Hopkins great,” says Bishop. “Every day, on any Johns Hopkins campus, there are opportunities to grow by learning something new that causes one to say ‘Wow!’ There are always people to meet and new ideas to exchange. For me, experiencing and embracing this is what it means to be alive.”

In addition to her role as director, Bishop serves on the Dunbar Hopkins Health Partnership Executive Committee, the Eddie and Sylvia Brown Community Health Scholars Selection Committee, EBDI’s Human Capital Committee, the East Baltimore Historic Library, and the Board of the Elijah E. Cummings Youth Program in Israel. When she’s away from the demands of her career, Bishop travels the globe and has visited much of the United States and Europe, and distant destinations like South America, Australia, China, and Hong Kong.


Community Health Initiative to ‘Map’ Neighborhood Resources

One year into the planning phase of the Community Health Initiative the project is set to move into its next major phase: community asset mapping. Community asset mapping is a technique used to understand a community’s existing resources. The process involves finding and documenting positive aspects in a community—skills and capacities of residents, “citizen groups” like churches and neighborhood associations, and local institutions like city government, hospitals, schools, and human service agencies. The resources can then be charted and shared to promote connections and relationships between individuals, between organizations, and between individuals and organizations, and to identify where outside resources are needed.

For the Community Health Initiative, asset mapping in East Baltimore is the first in a set of methods that will be used to achieve the Initiative vision, which is to improve the health and well-being of residents of all ages who live in East Baltimore through sustainable health collaborations and specific health interventions.

Planning for the asset mapping effort moved into full swing over a two-day meeting on August 15 and 16. More than 60 partners, representing each of the five zip codes of the Initiative, took part in this process to decide how best to conduct the asset mapping. While specifics are still in the works, all partners have agreed that community residents will take a major role in leading the effort.

Learn more about the Community Health Initiative. Also, look for Initiative representatives at these community events in East Baltimore.


2011 Small Grants Recipients

The UHI is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2011 Small Grants for Research and Program Development. Twenty-two grants were awarded to collaborations between community organizations and Johns Hopkins students or faculty in three categories: 1) undergraduate-community research or program development, 2) graduate-community research or program development, and 3) faculty-community research.



Highlight on 2009 Small Grants Recipients: Healthy Trendsetters Movement

It’s no secret that diabetes exists in our communities at epidemic proportions. Most know someone with diabetes and many have yet to be diagnosed. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone necessary to convert sugar, starches, and other food into the energy needed for daily life. Type 2 diabetes (T2D), which is known commonly as “adult onset diabetes” and accounts for the vast majority of cases, is now diagnosed at high rates among children. The CDC projects that 1 in 3 children born after the year 2000 will develop T2D in their lifetime. For African-Americans, 1 in 2 will develop the disease. This alarming trend is attributed to a surge in obesity rates due to poor eating habits and lack of physical activity.

Shawn McIntosh of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is working to reverse this trend in Baltimore. To start, McIntosh talked with African American middle school and high school students and parents to learn more about their knowledge and perceptions toward health, exercise, nutrition, and diabetes. They found that although there is awareness about diabetes, there was little connection being made between lifestyle habits and developing the disease.

“Surprisingly, [we found] that none of the groups made a strong connection between being overweight and having health problems, including diabetes,” says McIntosh. “A common thread for the youth was that they ate what was cheap and accessible, even if there were healthy alternatives.”

It was clear to McIntosh and the ADA that messages about “eating healthy and exercising more” weren’t “sinking in” among the populations most at risk.

“The messages we create need to go beyond the obvious, and reach Baltimore youth and families in a way that will truly motivate them to lead healthier lives,” says McIntosh.

What followed was the beginning of a grassroots campaign aptly named “REVERSE THE TREND.” As part of the campaign, McIntosh launched a series of events she called the “Healthy Trendsetters Movement” where Baltimore families would come together and pledge to make small lifestyle changes to improve their health. For some, that meant pledging to exercise a few times a week, others promised to cut down on fast food and soda.

Chandra Jackson, a Brown Scholar and PhD candidate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, worked closely with McIntosh to facilitate the Trendsetter events as-well as to maintain a database of participant survey responses and health pledges. Jackson says the events were each planned in collaboration with community groups that focus on improving the health of youth and families like Head Start and the YMCA.

“Each [Trendsetters event] was different because they were designed by the communities they were held in,” says Jackson. “All participants received culturally-sensitive information about the health implications of obesity and T2D in addition to contextually relevant resources designed to help them maintain or engage in improved health habits.We aimed to have this information serve as the basis for making their personalized, attainable health pledges during each event.”

Diabetes screenings were also available at all Trendsetters events, as well as community resource guides developed by the ADA. With support from the UHI Small Grants Program, the ADA was able to host over 30 events across Baltimore, with more planned for the 2011-12 school year.

For more information, contact Shawn McIntosh at 410-265-0075 ext. 4676.



UHI Oversight Group Works to Build Stronger Relationships between Community and Johns Hopkins

Since 2006, the UHI’s Community-University Collaborating Committee (CUCC) has been working to ensure the priorities of the UHI are in line with those of the community and the university. Originally composed of a dozen or so members with equal representation from the community and Johns Hopkins, the CUCC has nearly doubled in size and will take an even greater role in shaping the work of the UHI.

CUCC members, some of whom served on the committee in the past, will come together as a group for the first time at a two-day conference in early September. Rebkha Atnafou, the UHI’s Associate Director for Community Engagement says the conference is a first step in fostering a stronger working relationship between East Baltimore and Johns Hopkins to improve the health and education of East Baltimore.

“Our goal is to create a cohesive group that will focus on chipping away at the division between the university and the community, and create a true sense of ‘us’ working together towards a common purpose,” says Atnafou.

CUCC members represent Baltimore from diverse perspectives including law enforcement, social services, media, youth development, education, and more.



UHI Appoints Associate Director for Community Engagement

Rebkha AtnafouThe UHI is pleased to announce that Rebkha Atnafou of The After-School Institute will be joining the our team as our first-ever Associate Director for Community Engagement. Atnafou is an accomplished program manager and education advocate who has devoted much of her professional life to enriching the lives of young people.

As the UHI’s associate director for community engagement, Atnafou will work to cultivate new and existing relationships within the community. She is also charged with guiding the UHI’s Community-University Collaborating Committee (CUCC), a group of community leaders and Johns Hopkins representatives who provide direction and assistance to the UHI by ensuring that the priorities of the UHI are in line with those of the community and the university.

Atnafou will continue in her role as executive director of The After-School Institute (TASI), a Baltimore-based nonprofit focused on building the capacity of after-school programs. She is credited with expanding the reach of TASI through training for after-school programs across Maryland, directing the only annual Mid-Atlantic/Regional conference on after-school, and coordinating an annual statewide youth summit on HIV prevention. Atnafou has over 20 years of experience in youth development, healthy teen sexuality, youth violence prevention, and comprehensive school health. She serves on the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health Community Advisory Board, Port Discovery Children’s Museum Health Advisory Council, Baltimore City Youth Council, Baltimore’s Out-of-School Time Steering Committee, and the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development Afterschool Program Board. She is a member of Collaborative for Building Afterschool Systems (CBASS). Rebkha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from SUNY Binghamton, and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Columbia University. She has been a member of the Baltimore community for twelve years.



UHI Welcomes New Postdoctoral Fellow

Samantha IllangasekareDr. Samantha Illangasekare joins the UHI this fall as a postdoctoral fellow in urban health. In this capacity, she will be involved in numerous UHI projects and activities including the Community Health Initiative and the Faith Community and Adolescent Reproductive Health project, with a focus on violence prevention and intervention.

Dr. Illangasekare completed her doctoral training in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where her dissertation research examined mental health outcomes associated with the intersection of HIV/AIDS, intimate partner violence (IPV), and substance abuse among women in Baltimore. She also received her Master of Public Health from the Yale School of Public Health, where she conducted research on racial/ethnic differences in IPV, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use.



Morgan Lewis-Harris Joins UHI Team through Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program

This summer, the UHI was incredibly fortunate to have Morgan Lewis-Harris, a junior at the Institute of Notre Dame in East Baltimore, join our team as part of the 2011 Johns Hopkins Summer Jobs Program. During the six weeks Morgan spent at the UHI, she was an invaluable part of the planning process for the Community Health Initiative. She also assisted in coordinating the application review process for the UHI Small Grants Program.

Morgan says she applied to the Summer Jobs Program because she knew it would be a great experience and a good way to save money for college. In addition to her school work, Morgan is a member of a club called “Hilde’s Helpers” that serves residents of the Latrobe Apartment complex near her school. She says the club bakes cookies and prepares sandwiches for residents—they even deliver turkeys for Thanksgiving.

The Summer Jobs Program is a mentorship that exposes students like Morgan to possible careers paths, workplace culture, and educational opportunities. The program is open to Baltimore high school students over 15 years old, with preference given to students who live or attend school in Baltimore City. The application process begins in January and the six-week paid internship extends from mid-June to late July.

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