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Chair's Message

EHE Faculty on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are currently facing two intertwined public health crises-COVID-19 and racial injustice. The long history of structural racism in this country has significantly contributed to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities of color. Black people in the US with COVID-19 are diagnosed later in the disease course and have a higher rate of hospitalization, mechanical ventilation and death. Although the exact factors contributing to this disproportionate suffering are not known, it is appreciated that longstanding systemic inequities have resulted in health disparities. Many of our faculty are engaged in examining the impact of environmental factors (e.g. water contaminants, air pollution, factory working conditions) on the health and welfare of our local communities. We hope that we will be able to expand this work in the future as the pandemic has magnified the impact that these exposures (e.g. air pollution) are having on the ability of our communities of color to fight COVID-19.

This is a unique moment in history in which we have an opportunity as a Department to address the issues of racial inequities. Our Department has appointed Dr. Alan Goldberg as the inaugural Associate Chair of Inclusion, Diversity, Anti-Racism and Equity. He is leading the Department’s efforts in addressing these issues both at the Departmental level, and in our local Baltimore communities.

Our EHE faculty and students are incredibly adaptable and have stepped up to the plate in directing their talents to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic head on- in a variety of ways. Herein we highlight some of the impressive COVID-19-related work our EHE faculty are conducting. Our Center for Health Security colleagues have been on the frontlines of the pandemic providing guidance on implementation of public health policies to national, state and local officials. Our exposure assessment scientists are providing guidance on the use of proper masks and personal protective equipment to the University and beyond. They have also been advising various industries on proper ventilation systems to minimize COVID-19 transmission. Our basic science teams are examining the potential pathological effects of COVID-19 on the brain. Dr. Shima Hamidi, Bloomberg Assistant Professor of American Health in Environmental Challenges, published a paper dispelling the conventional wisdom that densely populated cities have higher COVID-19 infection rates. 

We are delighted that following the filing of lawsuits by several Universities including The Johns Hopkins University, the initial restrictions placed on international students have been partially reversed and that F-1 visa holding international students who are currently in the country will be able to begin and/or continue their educational programs in the US.

We congratulate our class of 2020 graduates! As we were not able to celebrate their accomplishments in person-we held a non-conventional virtual ceremony-where students were able to share a few of their memories from their JHU experience in slide form and verbally. They are truly an inspiring group of students who we are certain will go on to have bright futures in the field and to have a great impact on the health of the environment and its inhabitants!! 

We welcome our incoming students to the 2020-2021 academic year! Although it will be a unique year-there has never been a more critical time to study environmental and public health, and we look forward to welcoming our students to our EHE community. Together we can make a meaningful difference in creating a healthier and more resilient world!