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Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy Announces Inaugural Sommer Klag Advocacy Impact Award Winners

Nadia Akseer and Cass Crifasi selected winners at Advocacy Impact Awards Pitch Competition


Two Bloomberg School faculty—Nadia Akseer, PhD, MSc, assistant scientist in the Department of International Health, and Cass Crifasi, PhD ’14, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management—have been named winners of the inaugural Sommer Klag Advocacy Impact Awards. They were selected by a panel of judges following presentations from five finalists at the Advocacy Impact Awards Pitch Competition held at the School on November 2.

The $40,000 awards are made possible through a gift from Helaine Lerner and her late husband Sid Lerner, and are administered by the Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The awards are intended to directly support the future advocacy work of outstanding Bloomberg School advocates and changemakers.

Akseer pitched plans to bolster the work of Mission Afghanistan 2030, a working group at the Bloomberg School that has been advocating for protecting the health and health system of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is experiencing one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with over 29 million Afghan people requiring urgent humanitarian assistance to survive. With the $40,000 award, Mission Afghanistan 2030 will center its advocacy work around convening key donors to align on policy and strategic funding through 2030, and engaging de-facto authorities on their gender policies to expand the rights of Afghan women and girls.

Crifasi pitched plans to disseminate translated research, strengthen stakeholder relationships, and provide testimony in support of firearm purchasing legislation. Gun violence is an ongoing public health crisis in the United States: An average of 134 people died from gun violence every day in 2021. Firearm purchaser licensing—which requires an individual to apply for and obtain a license before purchasing a firearm—is one of the most effective evidence-based policies in reducing gun violence. Crifasi identified opportunities to pass these laws in Washington and Delaware. Currently, eight states, including Maryland, and Washington, D.C., have firearm purchaser licensing laws.

Three other Bloomberg School faculty—Harry Barbee, PhD ’20, assistant professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society; Melissa Hopkins, JD, assistant scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering; and Gigi Kwik Gronvall, PhD ’00, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering—were named finalists in the pitch competition. Their work focuses respectively on increasing transgender people’s access to gender-affirming care; improving AI-related health security; and protecting research advances in virology.

The pitch competition judging panel included Bloomberg School colleagues Lymari Morales, MPP, associate dean for Communications and Marketing; Michelle Spencer, MS, deputy director, Bloomberg American Health Initiative; and Vanya Jones, PhD ’06, MPH, assistant dean for Community-Engaged Research.

The Sommer Klag Advocacy Award program underscores the School’s long tradition of advocating for public health. It honors leaders in the field of public health advocacy, Deans Emeriti Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS ’73, and Michael Klag, MD, MPH ’87, and aims to inspire the next generation of advocates and champions. With the launch of the Advocacy Impact Awards this year and the Advocacy Achievement Award last year, advocacy is further embedded as a strategic priority in the School’s plan to revitalize the power of public health.

For more information on the Sommer Klag Advocacy Award program, visit the Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy website.

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