RADM Lushniak during his October speech at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.
This fall, students at several of Chicago's health professional programs gained a better understanding of their role in protecting the Nation's public health, directly from one of the leaders of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). RADM Boris Lushniak, the U.S. Deputy Surgeon General (DSG), spent October 18th and 19th speaking to students and residents at some of nation's most notable health programs about the need for more clinical practitioners in the field of public health.
RADM Lushniak, who was born and raised in Chicago himself, spoke to students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine, the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.
The presentations at each of the three schools were open to those studying to be physicians, physician assistants, and health policy leaders at Northwestern and University of Chicago, and extending to dental students, pharmacy students, and students in the School of Public Health at UIC. RADM Lushniak spoke about the mission that he believes these programs share with the USPHS Commissioned Corps - protecting, promoting, and advancing the public health and safety of the Nation.
"Public health by definition is what?" RADM Lushniak asked the audience.
"It is no longer that emphasis on one individual as a patient. Public health is, in fact, taking a hundred of you, or a thousand of you, or a million of you, and saying, ‘Those are my patients, that is the group that I am involved with, and how can I generalize to affect health, not through one individual anymore, but through a thousand,'" he said.
After describing a few of the successes in the advancement of public health, ranging from the recognition of tobacco as a health hazard to the institutionalization of seat belts, he then spoke about the field's need for qualified clinicians and researchers. Using the example of the Commissioned Corps and the type of work its officers do with the Indian Health Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Defense, and the Immigration Health Services Corps, RADM Lushniak described to students what a career in public health could look like, and encouraged them to explore these roles – particularly in low income and rural areas, which are most often underserved.
Further challenges of public health addressed by RADM Lushniak included health disparities, response to natural disasters, and disease prevention.
At UIC, more than 130 students, faculty, and staff attended the presentation which was hosted by the UIC Urban Health Program, an allied health studies program comprised of students from each of the health professional schools. The program focuses on training students to effectively engage underserved communities. UIC College of Medicine, which educates one in six Illinois physicians, is the largest medical school in the nation.
The Pritzker School of Medicine, Harris School of Public Policy, and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences (CheSS) at the University of Chicago teamed up to sponsor RADM Lushniak's second presentation, which was well received by the more than 50 attendees, almost all students at Pritzker, a school ranked amongst the Nation's top 10 medical schools for research by U.S. News & World Report.
The last stop of the DSG's tour was at his alma mater, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, another top national program, where approximately 130 students and residents attended the presentation. Admitted to the six-year Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern (HPME), RADM Lushniak completed both his Bachelor Medical Science (B.S.) and his medical degree (M.D.) in 1981 and 1983 respectively.
After completing a Masters in Public Health (M.P.H.) at Harvard University, RADM Lushniak began his USPHS career with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) in 1988. He has served in various roles during his time with the USPHS, both as clinician and administrative leader. Directly prior to assuming the role of U.S. Deputy Surgeon General, he served as Assistant Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Counterterrorism Policy and Director of the Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats within the Office of the Commissioner.
All USPHS officers are encouraged to contact CAPT Dean Coppola (Dean.Coppola@hhs.gov) if they are interested in supporting or learning more about the Corps' partnerships with Chicago schools.
A collage featuring several photos taken during RADM Lushniak's stop at the University of Illinois – Chicago.