May 01, 2013

Solutions on the horizon at the Gillings School

As part of a public university, the Gillings School of Global Public Health is committed to making real and measurable differences in the lives of North Carolinians, who are our neighbors and generous benefactors. As our name reflects– and as the world requires–we also are deeply involved in global health challenges. A number of measures help us gauge our impact.

In 2012, our researchers reported their studies in about 850 peer-reviewed publications and were awarded more than $154 million to advance public health. Our students continue their education in public health or get jobs in their fields after graduating. We know they develop into dedicated and influential public health leaders. One such leader is this year’s Harriett Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumni Award winner, Wilbur Milhous, PhD. Milhous, professor and associate dean for research at the University of South Florida, is renowned internationally for global health infectious disease research, especially efforts to prevent and treat malaria. Outstanding faculty members, such as Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of nutrition and this year’s Bernard G. Greenberg Alumni Endowment Award winner, are another indicator of impact. Under Zeisel’s leadership of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (, in Kannapolis, N.C., Carolina researchers are building on his discoveries about the nutrient choline and exploring the many ways diet and exercise can preserve and protect human health.

In this issue of Carolina Public Health, we explore yet another way of determining the School’s “impact factor.” The following articles about research in progress illustrate passionate commitment and determination to find solutions to major public health problems. Even as the papers are published and the prizes awarded, academic discoveries have begun to be translated into workable solutions.

  • Suzanne Maman, PhD, associate professor of health behavior, realized that neither quality nor quantity of education programs alone was changing the violent and/or risky behaviors of young men in Tanzania. Drawn to the successes of health policy and management research professor Sheila Leatherman, MSW, who has integrated microcredit with health interventions to improve women’s lives around the world, Maman adapted the microfinance and health model to help young men reduce partner violence and HIV risk.
  • Jason Surratt, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering, read an article about trees in the rainforest contributing to air pollution and wondered if the same phenomenon was contributing to the brown haze seen in cities and even hovering over the Smoky Mountains. Now, he’s seeking ways to lessen the impact of chemical reactions, sparked by the sun, between human-made pollutants and nature.
  • Nabarun Dasgupta, doctoral candidate in epidemiology, makes medicines – especially prescription pain killers – safer by compiling surveillance data from poison control centers and developing a clearer picture of product misuse. That information can help guide new controls and warnings, and inevitably, save lives.

Now is a great time in public health research and education. Our faculty members and students are employing the tools of the information age to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. We’re learning from business and other sectors about incentive behavior change and communications. Our horizon is unbounded by traditional borders, whether of countries or disciplines.

It’s exhilarating to look out on a landscape of possibility and know that we have the potential to make the world safer and healthier.

Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit

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