Pittsburgh – For Maureen Lichtfield, MD, MSc in public health, rebuilding a nation’s public health workforce is like rebuilding a home. And when a home is destroyed – whether by a fire or a pandemic – the first priority is to ensure a solid foundation.

Maureen Lichtfield releasedThe foundation’s support is exactly what Lichtfield, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health, plans to address with a new five-year, $3.5 million award from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund up to 50 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention John R. Lewis University public health scholars from minority communities for an intensive eight weeks each summer to learn and practice public health.

“We are making a long-term investment in diversifying the public health workforce,” Lichtfield said. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the health inequalities that have plagued our nation. Reforming that means training the public health workforce from the communities they will serve and making sure that health equity principles work through everything they learn and do.”

Lichtveld and her team open the program to undergraduate students nationally at community colleges with two-year and junior and senior programs at four-year colleges, specifically recruiting from academic institutions that educate primarily black or Latino students.

Diversified undergraduates released homeStudents will be taught the principles of public health by school faculty and begin a research project that will integrate them into the Allegheny County Foundation to address a public health issue.

“We have over 20 institutions identified and are excited to partner with our students,” Lichtfield said. “Their main areas of focus represent the Pittsburgh area’s biggest public health challenges: maternal and child health, environmental justice, and climate and health.”

Projects that students will help address include Allegheny County’s high maternal mortality rates among black mothers; pollution issues related to shale gas and factories, as well as pollution from industry; and chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are exacerbated by high temperatures.

Lichtveld acknowledged an ulterior motive beyond this program: “We hope that, by living on campus and working in Pittsburgh, these students will choose to enroll in Pitt Public Health to complete their undergraduate studies with the new Bachelor of Science in Public Health program or go on to earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. from world-renowned faculty.”

To learn more about the Pitt Undergraduate Public Health Program, visit https://www.sph.pitt.edu/academics/other-undergraduate-opportunities/pitt-public-health-undergraduate-scholars-program.

The first picture:

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Credit: University of Pittsburgh

Caption: Maureen Lichtveld, MD, MPH

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Credit: University of Pittsburgh

Caption: Students walk in front of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health building.

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