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Brown Scholars

Desmond Banks

No matter what your occupation or your personal interests are, you can do them more effectively--and enjoy them more--if you are in good health.

Desmond Banks
PhD'15, MPH

Desmond Flagg

Never forgetting the past that shaped him, Desmond Banks applied for a C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Community Health Scholarship to change public health policy in the realm of nutrition. A sixth-year Brown Scholar, Banks earned his BA from Columbia University and his MPH from Hunter College in New York City.

As a child, Banks became obese on a steady diet of fried chicken, deep-fried pork rinds, cookies, and thick, fatty bacon. At age 10, he and his family moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The new environment provided access to healthier foods. He also became involved in athletics and went on to play varsity football at Columbia University.

Like his hometown in Georgia, he discovered that East Baltimore suffers from a blight of fast-food chains and convenience stores that push “hood exclusives,” like super-sized honey buns, to the detriment of the community’s health. He views the lack of healthy foods in urban neighborhoods as a social justice issue, and wants to take on the food industry to help give people access to healthy dietary choices, no matter where they live.

As a Brown Scholar, Banks felt a responsibility to improve the health of Baltimore. “The Browns and the University chose me. Needless to say, I take my roles as a PhD student, a health care professional and a policy advocate very seriously,” he said. “I have been called upon to help improve the situation, and I accept the call.”

His career interests include child obesity, food policy, the causes and consequences of unmarried childbearing, and Medicaid and related programs.

Following his interests and call, Banks’ mission is now to help advance policies which improve the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged populations. He works as a policy consultant to states in the area of Medicaid and related programs.