College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Public Health > About > Message from the Director

Message from the Director

​​​H​appy Autumn Greetings!

It has been a busy and fulfilling start to the year.

MPH Program Director, Suzanne Carlberg-Racich
Director and Associate Professor, Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, PhD, MSPH
As we welcomed back our returning students and secured practicum placements with our amazing community partners, we also welcomed a robust new cohort of students focusing on either Community Health Practice or Social Epidemiology. Each year, my own enthusiasm for public health is renewed by the energy and passion I see in the classroom, and I remain excited about the future of our field.

We also welcomed a new Assistant Professor, Dr. Jessica Polos, in our Social Epidemiology concentration. Dr. Polos brings a wealth of experience in social determinants of health, with a particular focus on structural racism. Along with Dr. Polos, we welcomed Dr. John Mazzeo as a permanent faculty member in our program, in the Community Health Practice concentration. While many of you know Dr. Mazzeo as our long-term Director, you may not know about his expertise in global health initiatives, and his passion for health equity. We are incredibly lucky to have both Dr. Polos and Dr. Mazzeo on our team!

At DePaul, we are immersed in the Vincentian mission that centers us in social justice for all persons, and a calling to address the vast inequities we witness. The DePaul mantra “here we do" is particularly appropriate in public health, where we prepare students to address inequities with thoughtful, community-driven public health practice, and by using data to prompt action. Our strength is in our collective commitment to service, collaboration, advocacy, and transformation. However, we can only create significant change as a collective network that builds on the strengths of all the parts.

In the past few years, our collective approach has been affected by disconnection. While we all understood the public health necessity of separation, vaccination and treatment advances have allowed many of us to navigate toward in-person engagement again – and our need for belonging has never been greater. To heed that call, we planned and convened our annual Health Equity and Social Justice Conference in person this year. We were thrilled to welcome almost 200 public health practitioners, researchers, care providers, DePaul MPH Alumni, and students to Malcolm X College for a one day conference, centered in our theme of belonging. You can read more from our planning committee about our theme here:

Reflecting on the conference, it was evident that those of you who attended were inspired and amazed at the range of expertise, but more significantly – invigorated by the opportunity to convene, share ideas, and plan collective action. I am including some highlights below:

First, we were so pleased to welcome back Dr. Derek Griffith (DePaul Alum!) to open our conference and provide a foundation for us to discuss health equity and structural racism. You can see a recording of Dr. Griffith's talk here: HESJ 2022 Conference Dr. Griffith's Keynote Presentation.​

Dr. Griffith with representatives from the HESJ Planning Committee – from left, Raj Shah, Maureen Benjamins, Derek Griffith, Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, Maria Ferrera
Dr. Griffith with representatives from the HESJ Planning Committee – from left: Raj Shah, Maureen Benjamins, Derek Griffith, Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, Maria Ferrera
Dr. Derek Griffith speaking at the podium
Dr. Griffith at the podium presenting on Sankofa, Structural Racism, Social Justice, and Health Equity
In addition to the opening keynote, we incorporated a rapid oral presentation format this year, opening the door to additional speakers in our oral sessions. Feedback from our evaluation included positive comments about this new format and the capacity to hear more presentations in a single session, while also allowing time for question & answers.

Daniel Schober, PhD, MPH, presenting at the podium
Dr. Dan Schober, employing a PechaKucha format to his presentation on Youth Voice to Address Gun Violence: A Community Case Study
Oninyechi Jessica Ogwumkie, MPH, speaks at the podium
Oninyechi Jessica Ogwumkie, MPH (Depaul Alum) presents Communicating the Stories of LGBTQ+ Youth in the Illinois Child Welfare System at the podium

In addition to oral sessions, we held our inaugural networking lunch in conjunction with our poster presentation session. For many attendees, this opportunity to identify partners who were passionate about the same topic was the highlight of the conference.

In keeping with our conference roots, we also held concurrent skill-building sessions to facilitate workforce development opportunities.

In addition to skill-building, our panel option was quite popular this year, offering attendees multi-sector or multidisciplinary perspectives on current health issues.

Conference attendees face a powerpoint slide
Panelists (Nikhil Prachand, Yaa Simpson, Blair Aikens, Genese (Genny) Turner, & John Jones) on The State of Health for Blacks in Chicago: Data Brief
Six panelist sit on a panel, answering questions
Panelists (Lauren Pett & Brittani Kindle) on Addressing Mental Health in Chicago Public Schools


With the goal of community-driven change, we closed the conferen​ce with a panel discussing the successful community advocacy to Stop General Iron. This panel, organized by Dr. Jim Bloyd, featured two community activists, Oscar Sanchez and Beria Hampton, who shared key lessons for the audience. The recording of the panel can be found here:

Jim Bloyd, Beria Hampton, Oscar Sanchez sit on panel
Panelists speak on Permit Denied!: The #StopGeneralIron Victory panel - from left: Jim Bloyd, Beria Hampton, Oscar Sanchez
Dr. Jim Bloyd speaking at the podium
Dr. Jim Bloyd at the podium


We appreciated everyone who helped to disseminate information about the conference, submit​ted abstracts, presented, and attended – for helping to make this year's HESJ one to remember!

We owe a debt of gratitude to our student volunteers, some of whom can be seen below. They showed up early, stayed late, and ensured a smooth experience throughout the day. And, a special shout out to our own Graduate Admissions Guru Extraordinaire, Mary Palin, for helping with registration all day! ​

Two student volunteers embrace for a picture
Student Volunteers -​ from left: Michelle Gorrell, Mary Brooks
Four student volunteers pose for the camera
Student Volunteers - from left: Michelle Gorrell, Lily Acuna, Taylor Harris, Paulina Pinzon

I​n our office, the small but mighty team that managed conference logistics included our Program Assistant, Anne Sedlacek. While Anne has moved on to new challenges, her contributions to this event and the start of our academic year were crucial and much appreciated.

The largest debt of gratitude is undoubtedly owed to our own Manager of Community Partnerships, Emily Tamblyn, who spent day and night executing this conference. This work continued at the event, where Emily was entirely too busy at the conference to pose for a photo. Thank you, Emily!

Emily Tamblyn greets attendees at the check-in table
Emily Tamblyn, MPH, CPPS, managing operations from the registration table

We look forward to an exciting aca​demic year ahead of us, and welcome your partnership in all things DePaul MPH!

Warmest Regards,

Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, PhD, MSPH
Director and Associate Professor, MPH Program