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April 29, 2016

Endowment supports three public health researchers

They are tops in their fields, each bringing years of experience and an abundance of research into different areas of public health.

The investitures of Jennifer Johnson, Harold “Woody" Neighbors and Debra Furr-Holden as the first three Charles Stewart Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health was a “momentous occasion” for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, interim Dean Aron Sousa said.

“[The] investiture underscores the importance of endowed funds and endowed faculty members to our medical school and to Michigan State University,” Sousa said at the April 25 investiture ceremony in Flint. “Endowed positions are a hallmark of every great institution. Given their permanence, the Charles Stewart Mott faculty endowments assure excellence by making certain that life-changing public health research and outreach can be conducted in perpetuity.”

Such endowments “enable us to recruit world-class faculty, as you will see today,” he added.

That includes Jennifer Johnson, Ph.D., the first of several Charles Stewart Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health, who conducts federally funded studies to determine the most effective mental health interventions for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and prisoners.

Harold “Woody” Neighbors, Ph.D., has dedicated his career, including 30 years on the University of Michigan faculty, to studying how ethnic differences affect the mental and physical health of African-Americans, particularly in major depression, diabetes and oral health.

Debra Furr-Holden, Ph.D., is an expert in how the social and urban environments – including exposure to violence, alcohol, tobacco and drugs – influence health and health behavior.

All three are committed to using their expertise to improve the health of the Flint community. That is in keeping with the collaborative spirit that underpins the partnerships among the college, the three Flint hospitals and the community, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said.

She noted that MSU and the College of Human Medicine have been a part of Flint for many years. Four years ago, the college based its Division of Public Health on the Flint campus.

“I am pleased that MSU is now poised to establish leading-edge approaches to address public health issues at a time in Flint’s history when that has never been more important,” Simon said. “I believe our plans will make a difference, both locally in the health of the Flint community and will serve as a model for the state and the nation.”

None of that would be possible, she said, without the support of the community and the generosity of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which gave $9 million to establish an endowment, allowing the college to recruit the three world-class researchers.


Photo courtesy Harley J. Seeley

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