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February 15, 2005

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Bloomberg Students Reap Benefits of Kellogg Foundation Programs

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is celebrating its 75th anniversary by featuring stories of how Kellogg Foundation grantees have touched the world. The work being done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health students, as part of two Foundation programs – the Program in Health Policy Research and the Community Health Scholars Program – are also part of the anniversary celebration.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded by Will Keith Kellogg, the cereal giant and inventor of corn flakes. The Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to apply knowledge to solve the problems of people. Since its founding in 1930, the Foundation has focused on building the capacity of individuals, communities and institutions to solve their own problems.

Program in Health Policy Research
The Program in Health Policy Research, which is operated through National Medical Fellowships, Inc., provides funds to support selected postgraduate students as they begin to conduct doctoral research on minority health policy issues. It is the basis for a network that includes eight prestigious institutions and faculty mentors. Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Harvard, the RAND Graduate School, Brandeis, UCLA, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania are partners in the fellowship program.

Program in Health Policy Research

Ilana Suez Mittman, Sonia Ruiz, and Betsy Brigantti

Students from the Bloomberg School have benefited from the fellowship program greatly. In the program’s six years, three of the 30 fellows have studied at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Program in Health Policy Research is designed for people in the early years of their research careers who demonstrate an interest in creating positive change in their communities or organizations, according to the Foundation’s web page.

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, associate dean for Professional Practice and Programs, served as a member of the National Medical Fellowship selection committee for the Kellogg Fellowship in Health Policy. He also acts as the Johns Hopkins representative for the fellowship. Along with his counterparts at the other participating universities, he also serves as a “non-institutional mentor” to students in doctoral programs at several of the other schools and attends the annual networking meeting of the fellows.

Current Program in Health Policy Research Fellows at JHSPH
Ilana Suez Mittman
An Israeli-American who has spent two decades on improving access to genetic care among Hispanics, Asian Pacific Islanders, African Americans and Russian immigrants, Ms. Mittman is a doctoral candidate in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. She is writing her dissertation on the perceptions and attitudes of Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish population on reproductive genetic screening. After graduation, Mittman said she hopes to contribute to policy making as it relates to the impact of new genomics research on underserved communities. She is also committed to providing mentorship and support for persons from under-represented backgrounds who are interested in health policy. Ms. Mittman said, “My graduate studies have been instrumental in equipping me with the ability to conduct meaningful investigation pertaining to social and behavioral determinants of health.”

Betsy Brigantti, MS, MPH
Ms. Brigantti is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management. While at the Bloomberg School, she has worked with community activists, professors and lawyers interested in securing health care insurance for the uninsured. She also worked with other prominent health care researchers seeking to educate the academic and lay community about the daily experiences of minority groups striving to live healthier lives. “The experiences I’ve had here at Johns Hopkins have clearly helped to define my future career path,” said Ms. Brigantti. After completing her doctoral degree, she has three career goals. The first is to pursue a career in academia that will allow her to combine her public health education skills and newly acquired research skills. She’d also like to conduct health services research that will further help to illuminate the critical health care needs of Hispanics. Lastly, Ms. Brigantti wants to continue her work as a mentor to minority students interested in public health and health services research. She said, “Without the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Health Policy Fellowship, none of this would have been possible.”

Sonia Ruiz
A second year doctoral student in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Sonia Ruiz focused her first year of classes on racial and ethnic disparities among immigrant communities. Her second year is devoted to learning how domestic and foreign economic policy decisions impact the health of vulnerable populations. Ms. Ruiz said she is looking forward to the coming years where she will define and finish her dissertation. She said, “One of the most valuable lessons for me from this experience has been the opportunity to explore and dive into areas that affect health, particularly health policy that affects underserved communities and the pathways that lead to those decisions. Working with supportive staff, faculty and a Foundation that shares your vision locally and globally is very empowering and provides you with wings to take flight and make your impact in the world, even if you feel like you are flying against a strong headwind.”

Community Health Scholars Program
A community-based participatory research initiative, the Community Health Scholars Program (CHSP) enables scholars to develop and enhance skills in working with communities and engaging in research. The Program, which is only in its seventh year of existence, has supported 41 students at the Bloomberg School, University of Michigan and University of North Carolina. Thirteen of the fellows have been affiliated with the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Currently, four students are involved in the two-year post doctoral program.

Lee Bone, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and Janice Bowie, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, are the academic directors of the CHSP at the Bloomberg School. Both are also members of the National Advisory Committee that oversees the entire program.

JHSPH Community Health Scholars Program alumni include many academic researchers, including Shannon Frattaroli, who is now an assistant scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management, and Edyth Wolff, JD, an associate with the Center for American Indian Health.

Current Community Health Scholars Program Fellows at JHSPH
Isa Williams, PhD
Dr. Williams is conducting an evaluation of a community-based effort to encourage hypertensive African-American men living in East Baltimore to seek health care at a local community clinic following the completion of a Johns Hopkins hypertension prevention clinical trial. In addition, she is working with The Men’s Center to pilot a health communications campaign to encourage hypertension management among African-American men living in East Baltimore.

Penny Rechkemmer Andresen, PhD
Residents of Sandtown-Winchester, in Baltimore, disproportionately face a variety of socioeconomic and environmental exposures, such as deteriorating housing stock, high traffic volume and high smoking rates, which may result in a higher risk of diseases. Partnered with Community Building in Partnership, Inc., Dr. Rechkemmer Andresen is working with young people, aged 17-25, to address environmental justice issues by training them in environmental and community assessment. These young people then develop and distribute educational materials. It is Dr. Rechkemmer Andresen’s desire that the residents will learn to cope with environmental justice issues through the use of community-based participatory research.

Duane Thomas, PhD
Dr. Thomas is partnered with the Door, Inc., a faith-based, community organization in East Baltimore that provides educational and support services to children, youth and families. He is working with staff at the organization and caregivers in the Fairmount Park community to develop a parent module to Leaders of Tomorrow, a preventive-intervention program that strives to reduce antisocial behavior and school failure among high-risk adolescent males, ages 12-15. Dr. Thomas’ work also includes assisting the organization with obtaining grants from federal, state and private agencies to support its after-school initiatives with children and youth.

Shani Harris Peterson, PhD
Also partnered with Community Building in Partnership, Inc., Dr. Peterson’s work is based in the Sandtown-Winchester community. She hopes to develop, along with teen program participants, an interactive, media-based health promotion tool to increase sexual health knowledge and reduce risk behaviors among African-American girls. Following the completion of her fellowship, Dr. Peterson hopes to secure an academic appointment where she can further develop and test the effectiveness of arts-based programs and media tools in reducing adolescent participation in sexual risk behaviors.

The Kellogg Foundation, through its grant programs, is generating a new kind of leadership – leadership with a broadened vision for the next century; leadership that fosters service, caring, commitment, action and vision; leadership that deals with complex problems that cross lines of specialties and solves problems in society.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.