Carlessia A. Hussein received the Dean’s Medal from the University of Maryland, College Park, School of Public Health for Exceptional Contributions to Achieving a Better State of Health, at the school’s commencement services on May 22, 2014. She gave a talk that chronicled her journey from a poor neighborhood in Washington DC to leadership roles in California, Washington DC and Maryland. It was titled, “How Did I Get Here?”
She received her doctor of public health from UC Berkeley School of Public Health in 1977—perhaps one of the first African Americans to receive a Berkeley DrPH.
Dr. Hussein retired as the director of the Maryland State Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHHD), on June 30, 2014. She has served 18 years in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) during which time she accumulated numerous achievements. In 2011, Dr. Hussein and her office assisted in staffing the Maryland Disparities Workgroup under the chairmanship of Dean Reece of the Maryland School of Medicine. This work led to passage of the Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Reduction (MHIDR) Act of 2012. Dr. Hussein, the Maryland Statewide Health Disparities Collaborative and her MHHD Team played a lead role in drafting guidelines for implementing this new legislation beginning July 1, 2012. A unique initiative in this Act is the Maryland Health Enterprise Zones that was funded by the legislature and led to establishing five community-based projects in areas with extreme poverty and unyielding health disparities.
She led the MHHD office in publishing a number of critical documents to support the reduction of health disparities, they include “Maryland Health Disparities Plans,” the “State Health Disparities Data Chartbook,” health profiles for racial groups, and Minority Infant Mortality strategies. The Plan is guiding implementation of strategies that address the major disparities in alignment with the HHS OMH National Partnership for Action (NPA) and the goals of the National Stakeholder Strategy. The Chartbook presents minority health and health disparities trends and progress in disease-specific Black vs. White Disparity reduction.
In 2013, her primary focus was on guiding the MHHD Office to support implementation of various aspects of Maryland’s Health Reform, namely cultural competency training, Health Enterprise Zones initiative, collection of health data by race and ethnicity, and the State’s Health Insurance Marketplace (Exchange). Her office funds health disparities’ demonstration programs in 24 jurisdictions throughout the state. Dr. Hussein’s earlier Maryland experience includes administration of the Tobacco Settlement Funds from 2000 through 2010. During this period she established and funded a statewide network of minority and minority-serving organizations that were funded for outreach and engagement of minorities in the state’s local health care programs. The cancer all-cause minority mortality disparity was reduced during this period to the increased awareness and greater attention by both public and private sector health providers. MHHD information can be found here at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website.
Dr. Hussein served as associate dean at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and chairperson of the Community Health Nursing Program from 1971 to1973. During this period she received funds from the UC Berkeley Chancellor to recruit minorities into public health, resulting in the increase in the numbers of Native American and African American admissions.
Dr. Hussein resides in Elkridge, Maryland, and is contemplating her next adventure as a public servant dedicated to improving the health and welfare of as many of her fellow citizens of the world as possible.