COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland welcomed its first new college in 26 years Wednesday, eight days after opening a pathogen research institute aimed, in part, at fighting biological warfare.
University President C.D. “Dan” Mote added the College of Public Health to the Maryland fold Wednesday during a ceremony at the former College of Health and Human Performance.
The college will include programs from the College of Health and Human Performance, and offer others in epidemiology and biostatistics, health services administration. It also will run the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.
Mote stressed the need for cooperation with other disciplines across campus for the new college to effectively serve the public.
“The purpose of this college is to create healthy public policy and practice,” said Mote to the crowd of about 200.
Dean Robert S. Gold said the college would develop “a new generation of public health leaders” and would have an impact on “the state of Maryland and beyond.”
The closest college of public health at a public university is in North Carolina, Gold said, explaining the region’s need for such a college at Maryland.
Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and others spoke about the double-edged sword the college faces.
“Never has it been more demanding, never has it been more challenging,” Fineberg said. “But the opportunities have never been greater.”
Mote also announced a $2 million gift from Alice Horowitz, wife of the late Herschel S. Horowitz, a renowned public health dentistry researcher.
The gift will endow a chair in honor of Herschel Horowitz and a center for health literacy, the first academic center in the nation devoted solely to that subject, Mote said.
“He was good at picking stocks,” said Alice Horowitz of her husband, noting how proud the new college would have made him.
The opening of the college coincides with the opening of a research facility on campus, the Maryland Pathogen Research Institute – a 35-laboratory, $69 million collaborative project opened on Sept. 18, aimed at the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious disease.
“We were trying to build science into life sciences,” founding director and Maryland professor David Mosser said. “We were focusing on pathogens (disease-causing agents) and so that we could combine our expertise in the life sciences with the expertise in the physical sciences across campus.”
Included in the $69 million facility are two $2.4 million laboratories on the building’s top floor. The institute boasts a $500,000 cell sorter and a $1 million mass spectrometer, used to measure masses of atoms and molecules.
“Great science needs great facilities and we’ve just moved into one,” Mosser said. “This is what we’re trying to develop on campus, things are happening pretty quickly.”
Interaction between the 50 principle investigators, including experts from Johns Hopkins, the National Institutes of Health, and other disciplines is what sets the institute apart from other medical facilities, Mosser said.
“Many medical schools may have the cell sorter, they may even have the mass spectrometer,” he said. “But they don’t have the access to our engineers.”
Other partners include government agencies working with the institute to determine how pathogens travel, Mosser said.
“They can put remote sensors in the environment to detect pathogens,” Mosser said. “We’re working with NASA for indicators as to how pathogens would spread.”
The most attention-grabbing research covers possible biological warfare pathogens, he said, but noted the institute is researching other areas.
“We’re certainly concerned about bio-defense pathogens, anthrax,” Mosser said. “But we’re also focusing on emerging pathogens, the avian influenza virus and we’re also focusing on things like tuberculosis and cholera in the Third World.”