Mfume, Ahluwalia, Ramirez-Valles Retire From NIMHD Council
The National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NACMHD) recently honored the retirement of three influential council members during its 36th meeting this past June. Dr. Yvonne T. Maddox, acting director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), recognized the great success of Kweisi Mfume, former member of Congress (D-Md.), Dr. Jasjit S. Ahluwalia, professor and associate dean for clinical research at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and Dr. Jesus Ramirez-Valles, professor and director of community health sciences at the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Public Health, during her first council meeting at the helm of NIMHD.
“This is not farewell,” said Maddox. “NIMHD is excited to continue working with Kweisi Mfume, Jasjit Ahluwalia, and Jesus Ramirez-Valles in our mission to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities.”
With their demonstrated expertise regarding minority health disparities, Mfume, Ahluwalia, and Ramirez-Valles brought to NACMHD their candid advice regarding NIMHD’s research and research training activities with respect to minority health issues. They consulted with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, the NIH director, and the NIMHD director on matters related to NIMHD’s mission. Under their council membership, they assisted in making recommendations on budgetary allocations and reviewing reports. Additionally, Mfume, Ahluwalia, and Ramirez-Valles participated in the second level of review of grant applications and cooperative agreements for research, infrastructure and training.
As a council member, Mfume brought more than 30 years of leadership in policy-making and community outreach related to addressing disparities in racial and ethnic minorities. He has served as the principal investigator of the Health Policy Research Consortium (HPRC), which promotes health policy outcomes to improve health care quality in the Mid-Atlantic region and to close the gaps in access to quality and affordable health care across social, ethnic, and racial groups. Mfume is the former executive director of the National Medical Association, former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and served as a five-term member of Congress from Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. Mfume also served on the Baltimore City Council for seven years, where he chaired the Committee on Health.
Ahluwalia has devoted the past 15 years of his career to improving the health of high-risk populations, such as the underserved and ethnic minorities. Among his many contributions as an NACMHD council member, he was on the steering and program committees for NIMHD’s 2012 Science of Eliminating Health Disparities Summit in Washington, D.C. The HHS-wide summit involved a broad spectrum of the federal government that seeks to advance activities to eliminate health disparities and focused on building a healthier global society by integrating science, practice, and policy. Building a healthier society has long been a goal of Ahluwalia’s as he has mentored a large number of trainees who have taken faculty positions and are actively funded by NIH and foundations. Ahluwalia joined the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center in 2005 as executive director for the Office of Clinical Research. As professor and associate dean, he continues his research, which focuses on nicotine addiction, diet, and obesity, and their impact in ethnic/minority populations.
Ramirez-Valles’ work with NACMHD included joining the council’s Working Group on Coordinating Minority Health and Health Disparities Research. The working group examined the issue of strengthening NIMHD’s coordination of minority health and health disparities research at NIH, including creating a framework for development of the health disparities strategic plan. Teaching and research in health education and promotion, along with the sociology of health have always been of interest to Ramirez-Valles. Specifically, his research includes community mobilization for health, youth health, gender and race in health promotion, and HIV/AIDS and substance use prevention. He conducts qualitative and quantitative research in both the United States and Latin America. Ramirez-Valles serves on the editorial board of the Society for Public Health Education’s Health Promotion Practice journal.
During the council meeting, members were introduced to Dr. Hannah A. Valantine, newly appointed chief officer for NIH Scientific Workforce Diversity. NIMHD is working closely with Dr. Valantine, who is one of three co-chairs of the NIH Common Fund Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce Program, along with Dr. Maddox and Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. A review of the program and recent activities was presented by Dr. Joyce Hunter, deputy director and Dr. Pamela Thornton, health science administrator, both from NIMHD. Dr. Richard Nakamura, director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review, provided an update on new methods to remove bias in peer review. The public session concluded with Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, medical director for United Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who presented on health disparities in HIV/AIDS in minority and underserved populations. The next Advisory Council meeting will be on September 9, 2014 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.