Announcing the 2021 Dean's Awards for Staff Excellence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Inspired by the heroic lengths undertaken by hundreds of SPH staff members to ensure the School's research, education, and service mission in the midst of a global pandemic, for the first time, the School of Public Health is honoring exceptional staff members with Dean's Awards for their service to the School and to the field of public health. Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Dean's Awards for Excellence!

Excellence in Innovation: Joann Barao, Diane Schlacter, Elizabeth Jackvony, and Beth Guerrera

The School’s MPH Program staff were nominated as a team and credited with innovating procedures and processes to move the program online during the pandemic while also preparing for the CEPH re-accreditation site visit, accommodating the School’s large incoming MPH cohort, and maintaining the program’s applied public health experience models. They developed solutions to keep up with the increased number of MPH applications, as well as making sure that current students remained connected with the School and community while having to learn remotely. For example, they created a system to track each MPH student and ensure they touched based with at least one faculty or staff person. They also created research assistant models so that students could work directly with the Rhode Island Department of Health, which bolstered the state’s pandemic response, strengthened the School’s relationship with RIDOH, and enabled students to fulfill their own program requirements.

One nominating faculty member wrote, “Not only have each of these individuals worked well above and beyond their jobs, shown great compassion and creativity, and improved the MPH program and SPH, they have done this as a TEAM. The commitment of the MPH staff team to MPH students and the SPH reputation in the community has always been truly exceptional. This year that commitment was tested by the pandemic, a large entering cohort, and an unprecedented number of applications. The MPH team worked creatively and with innovation to meet the challenges. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I nominate them for the new Excellence in Innovation award.”

Excellence in Leadership: Jesse Yedinak, MPA

Jesse Yedinak is Research Director of the People, Place & Health Collective and led the team’s restructuring, rebranding, and launch process. This included strategic planning and developing a new mission and vision centered on inclusivity, health equity, and community engagement. Jesse directly supervised 14 full-time staff and established a workshop series to support their professional and personal development in areas including time management, research independence, and overcoming imposter syndrome. She is also credited with negotiating contracts and data use agreements with the Rhode Island Department of Health, enabling the School to support and improve the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and highlight racial disparities in the state’s opioid crisis. Jesse’s year was capped off with her appointment as Assistant Professor of the Practice of Epidemiology.

One colleague wrote, “She is widely seen as a trusted advisor and expert in health communication, population health metric development, and the use of data to guide interventions that improve health equity… In sum, Jesse is an extraordinarily leader, supporter, and champion of our research team, and is highly committed to improving the health of all Rhode Islanders, including those who are most marginalized. I can think of no better recipient of this award.”

Another wrote, “Her unwavering leadership and strengths-based approach have allowed our team to not only persevere through the pandemic but emerge as a unified and highly efficient group… Our retention rate is so high largely because of the great supervision she brings to our team. It is a testament to her patience, encouragement, determination, and devotion to her position.”