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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Pitt Center Aims to Reduce Health Disparities, Excess Mortality Among Disadvantaged Populations

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 15, 2011 – The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) has established a new center that aims to understand and reduce health disparities in underserved populations, particularly those in western Pennsylvania. Through community engagement, research and education and training, the Center for Health Equity will focus on reducing the major causes of excess mortality among disadvantaged individuals in the region.

The Center for Health Equity will build upon the efforts of the former Center for Minority Health, which was established in 1994, and will be led by Michael J. Zigmond, Ph.D., and Angela Ford, Ph.D.

“While community engagement will remain a priority within the new center, Dr. Zigmond will emphasize the research and education components of the endeavor,” said Donald S. Burke, M.D., dean of GSPH and UPMC’s Jonas Salk Chair in Global Health. “The center represents an evolution in the way public health workers and GSPH tackle health disparities among our region’s diverse population. This initiative could not have taken shape without the foundation established by the Center for Minority Health and its staff, led by Dr. Ford.”

The center’s priorities include increasing the cadre of individuals working to eliminate health disparities. It will tackle this goal by offering a range of educational programs to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and individuals working within the community, as well as by promoting diversity among GSPH’s students, staff and faculty. The center also will help both Pitt faculty and community organizations obtain research funding and assist research design, evaluation and publication of research outcomes.

Dr. Zigmond is a professor of neurology, psychiatry and behavioral and community health sciences at Pitt, where he has served as a member of the faculty since 1970. In recent years, Dr. Zigmond’s National Institute of Health-funded research has focused on the influence of lifestyle factors on brain health, with a particular emphasis on the influence of stress and physical exercise. He has more than 140 peer-reviewed publications and serves on a number of editorial and scientific advisory boards. In 2009, he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Zigmond has worked to build research capacity in the United States and in developing nations in Africa and Asia and has promoted the responsible conduct of research. He has been actively involved in the recruitment of minority graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University, where he continues to work closely with Paula Davis, M.D., assistant vice chancellor for health sciences diversity for the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.

Dr. Ford, who has served at the Center for Minority Health since 1996, has led health promotion and disease prevention initiatives relevant to minority health and health disparities research through program development, community outreach, community engagement and information dissemination. Her professional interests focus on the mental health and aging of African-American women and the intersection of their childhood trauma and adult health outcomes. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees and has received awards such as the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club Woman of the Year.

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