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Last week, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health announced its eighth cohort of Bloomberg Fellows. The 60-person cohort includes two Native American leaders in public health.

Each fellow represents an organization working on one of the five critical health challenges facing the nation that the Bloomberg American Health Initiative focuses on addressing: Addiction and overdose, adolescent health, environmental challenges, the food system, and violence. 

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Fifty individuals were awarded full Master of Public Health scholarships and 10 received full scholarships to pursue Doctor of Public Health degrees. 

Charene Alexander, a citizen of the Lummi Nation, was selected as a Doctor of Public Health Fellow. She currently serves as project director for two National Institute of Health NARCHs (Native American Research Center for Health) that support and build capacity for the Northwest Indian College’s Center for Health Research in Bellingham, Washington. For the past decade Charene has led and participated in a multi-Tribal research initiative to identify multi-level prevention and recovery strategies that address the opioid and fentanyl public health crisis and promote Coast Salish wellness and strength. Her primary focus has been on leadership and expansion of the Native Transformations Project (NTP). NTP identified key sources of strengths and protective factors that contribute to wellness over a lifetime and predict secure recovery from substance use disorders. 

Brooklynn Barney (Anishinaabe) was selected as a Masters of Public Health Fellow. She has a background in human services and over five years of experience in tribal health. She has a rich personal background with substance use, which fuels her desire to end the stigma associated with those who struggle with substance use, to identify harm reduction strategies to help combat adverse outcomes, and to create safe spaces for their voices to be heard. Brooklynn is the Great Lakes (GL) Administrative Program Coordinator for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Indigenous Health (JHU CIH). Her duties include supporting the GL Team, budget management, admin team oversight, and day-to-day office operations. Additionally, Brooklynn serves as a project coordinator for a harm reduction project, which is part of a larger Community-driven Indigenous Research, Cultural strengths, and Leadership to advance Equity in substance use outcomes (CIRCLE) project. Her duties include supporting and facilitating the community-based research councils.  

The Bloomberg American Health Initiative was established in 2016 with a $300 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies in honor of the centennial of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Through education, research, and practice, the Initiative works to improve health and life expectancy in the United States in ways that advance equity, use evidence, and change policy. 

“We are thrilled to welcome this new cohort of fellows who will enrich the Initiative and our School community with their experience and insight,” Bloomberg School Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, ScM said in a statement. “They come to us from frontline organizations across America, and they are ready to be empowered with the tools of public health to make an even greater impact on their communities.”

To date, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative has supported 389 Bloomberg Fellows representing 305 collaborating organizations from 43 states, Washington, D.C., and two territories that include law enforcement agencies, libraries, community-based organizations, and local health departments. The Initiative has also supported more than 300 grants to Bloomberg School faculty, students, and outside organizations.

“The U.S. has still not recovered from the tragic decline in life expectancy that began even before the pandemic, making the need for strong health leadership greater than ever,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries. “We are glad to support these fellows as they work across disciplines to make their communities healthier and stronger.”

The Bloomberg Fellowship program provides full scholarships for full- or part-time study through the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. The fellows’ current organization, or where they’re currently employed, supports them in this work, collaborates with the Initiative, and plays a key role in the program.

“The Bloomberg Fellowship represents people from every corner of the country, territories, and tribal nations that are committed to advancing health and equity in their communities,” said Michelle Spencer, MS, deputy director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative and Practice Professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “I am thrilled that this new class will continue to bring public health tools and solutions across all of our nation’s challenges.”

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