Alumni honors for 2009

alumni honors

Recipients train physicians, congregations in community health

A community health educator in Atlanta and a community health advocate in Mozambique are this year’s RSPH alumni award winners.

Daniel Blumenthal, MD, 86MPH, chair of community health and preventive medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine and an adjunct faculty member in epidemiology at the RSPH, received the Distinguished Achievement Award for preparing students to serve on the front lines of public health.

Under his guidance, Morehouse established one of the nation’s first federally funded Area Health Education Centers, a pipeline program for health professionals working in underserved communities. He also created an education program that includes a rural clerkship and a community health course that is taught in the community. His department offers an "Honors in Community Service" track, the only one of its kind at a U.S. medical school.

Prior to Morehouse, Blumenthal served with the CDC, WHO, Fulton County, and Grady Memorial Hospital. When he joined the school in 1984, his department had no more than five faculty members and no research program. Today, it has nearly 40 faculty members and a cumulative total of $50 million in research funding.

"He is a quiet giant who stands tall in the corridor," said John Maupin, Morehouse School of Medicine president, of Blumenthal. "He is a champion for public health."

Rebecca Vander Meulen, 03MPH, had two options after graduating from the RSPH: serving as a presidential management intern in Washington, D.C., or as an HIV/AIDS volunteer in Mozambique. She chose the latter, and her work for the past six years was recognized with the Matthew Lee Girvin Award. The award recognizes young professionals who have improved the lives and health of others in memory of Girvin, a 1994 graduate who died during a U.N. surveying mission in 2001.

When Vander Meulen first arrived in the remote province of Lichinga in Mozambique, communities and congregations there viewed HIV/AIDS as a curse rather than a disease. Attitudes definitely have changed. 

As founding coordinator of Equipa de Vida (Life Team), Vander Meulen mobilized more than 300 congregations in the Diocese of Niassa to develop HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives. Last fall, some 5,000 people attended Diocesan Family Day in Messuma, where the Vida team hosted HIV teaching sessions and tested 130 people for HIV. The bishop of the diocese and his wife were among those tested.

Through other initiatives, Vida staff make home visits to ensure that HIV/AIDS patients begin and adhere to treatment, sponsor recreation and school programs for children orphaned by AIDS, and provide seeds and farming tools to plant gardens that nourish HIV/AIDS patients and orphans.

Because Vander Meulen was in Mozambique during the alumni award presentation at Emory, her parents, Doris and David Vander Meulen, accepted the honor on her behalf. David described his daughter’s commitment to helping communities control their destinies. "I was dying," he said, quoting a community member from an email sent by his daughter. "Now I am living."

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