Category: MCHP Faculty

2010 Woman of the Year–Dr. Stacie E. Geller

The UIC Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women has selected Stacie E. Geller, PhD, MPA as the 2010 Woman of the Year.  Dr. Geller is the G. William Arends Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the College of Medicine; Director of the UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender; and Director of the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.  Dr. Geller was nominated by Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, Vice Dean in the College of Medicine with supporting nominations from Dr. Alice Dan, Dr. Eric Gislason, Dr. Pauline Maki, and Dr. Donna Baptiste.

The Woman of the Year award was established in 1992, this annual award honors a UIC woman who has consistently worked on women’s issues beyond the call of duty and who is an exemplary role model. The award criteria include providing service to women at UIC while on the job, responding to issues affecting women, and offering service to women through voluntarism and public support of women’s programs. The CCSW will organize a reception to honor Dr. Geller as the Woman of the Year during the spring semester 2011.

Written by Naomi M. Morris, M.D., MPH, FAAP, FACPM

I always wanted to be a doctor.  My father was a doctor. My mother was a concert pianist. She was always practicing.  That seemed too difficult. Furthermore, she told me not to become a musician. “You won’t be able to support yourself.”

When I was 12,  my father took me to visit a female physician, leaving so that we could talk.  She told mer not to become a doctor because it’s a hard life.

When I turned 16 my parents introduced me to a friend’s son who was18, a student at Stanford, planning to study medicine. Four years later, after my junior year in college, we married and entered medical school together in the same class. He became interested in Neurology, and I in Pediatrics.

We wanted children. After graduation we accepted one year rotating internships at LA County General Hospital. We scientifically figured when to get pregnant, and one month after the internship was over our #1 son was born.

We moved to Boston.  I took 6 months off  to learn more about motherhood, and then started training in Pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

We had practically no income, so I found a job at the Massachusetts State Health Department in the Division of MCH, the head of which wasDr. Sallie Saunders. She became my mentor, and saw to it that I had many challenging experiences all over the State.  I not only learned about public health in that position, but I also learned about politics and public health. The MD daughter of a state legislator wanted my job.  Dr. Saunders said: “I don’t need this position.  I am going to close it. Why don’t you go to the Harvard School of Public Health and get  a public health degree?”

So I did. While waiting to be accepted we decided it was the right time to plan for the next pregnancy.  I entered the SPH pregnant.  That was no problem for the Chair of MCH:  Dr. Martha May Eliot.  While the rest of my cohort was doing field training during the Spring break, I was delivering son #2 at the Boston Lying-In Hospital.  My assignment was to critique the experience in that setting.  How could I not love MCH when everything fit together so well for me?!

I have subsequently worked for a county health department in Virginia while my husband was in the Navy; saw pediatric patients,did research and taught at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health; and worked for the Guam Health Department as Advisor to the Chief Health Officer (no one else had an MPH on the island) during a sabbatical year.

Clinically I have always done outpatient pediatrics, but my Boards are in Preventive Medicine. Prevention of problems always plays a large role in the practice of MCH so it made sense to me to learn all I could about keeping people healthy.

Since my last 30 years have been here, I can only add that I am always inspired by our new generations of students. And I can tell you about my two sons.  No.1 has an MPH and practices psychiatry; #2 is a neurologist, like his father was.
Environment  and heredity—what choice did they have? Is that what happened to me?

I feel very fortunate,  and wish all the readers good luck!

Naomi Morris, MD

UIC Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of Title V of the Social Security Act

October marks the 75th Anniversary of Title V of the Social Security Act.  This Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant provides the strong foundation for ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our nation’s women and children.  For additional information about Title V, please visit

In conjunction with this milestone anniversary, the UIC Maternal and Child Health Program is engaging in a variety of MCH-related activities.  These activities include the following:

MCH Story Campaign
We encourage you to share a 1-3 page story about why and how you became involved in your MCH work.  What do you do in the field of MCH?  What inspires you?  How did you get involved in this field?  If you have a story to share, write it up and send it to Amanda Giese (, Chair of the MCH student planning committee, and she will post it on our blog!  Please remember, it’s your stories that will inspire the next generation of MCH professionals.  Please don’t be shy about sharing your story!!  We will be accepting stories between September 13, 2010 and December 20, 2010!

Infant Mortality and Racism Town Hall Meeting
In honor of national efforts to recognize 75 years of MCH programming and future visioning, the  UIC MCHP and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IL Title V program) will sponsor a Town Hall Meeting entitled Infant Mortality and Racism:  What is Holding Us Back and How Do We Move Forward?  This event will take place at the UIC School of Public Health, 1603 W. Taylor Street, Friday, October 29 from 8:30am-1:30pm.  Join us for a presentation of the current state of affairs in Illinois and discussion about infant mortality and racism in Illinois, an exercise about cultural sensitivity, and a candid discussion about what is holding us back and possible next steps.

75th Anniversary of Title V: UIC MCH Seminar Series
Date:  September 15, 2010
Time: 12pm-1pm
Location:  UIC School of Public Health, 1603 W. Taylor St., Chicago, Room 932
Title:  Children’s Savings Accounts – Creating Financial Stability for Illinois’ Children
Speaker:  Chris Giangreco, Senior Policy Associate, Heartland Alliance Needs & Human Rights

Date:  November 10, 2010
Time: 4:30pm-5:30pm
Location:  UIC School of Public Health, 1603 W. Taylor St., Chicago, Room 932
Title: Dancing Around the Body: Sex, Gender, and Intersexuality
Speaker:  Georgiann Davis, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago

For more information visit our website at

Dr. Morris

Dr. Naomi Morris, MD, MPH founded our UIC MCH Program here at UIC some 27 years ago.  Check out this story about her (written by Kathleen Spiess, UIC, SPH, Director of Advancement)!

And, to see a picture of Dr. Morris and her family, check out this photo on our SPH homepage ( NOTE: these photos change periodically so this photo will not always be on our homepage.

Building on a Family Tradition of Humanitarianism

UIC School of Public Health Professor Emeritus Naomi Morris gives back to recognize alumni who make a difference.

“Give time, help, knowledge, effort and inspiration to others,” said Naomi Morris, a physician, public health practitioner and teacher who lives by these words.

Dr. Morris has dedicated her career to helping people, and now, she is building on her legacy as a philanthropist.

With a generous contribution to the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, where she once was director of the Community Health Sciences Division and taught for over 30 years, Morris will establish the Naomi Morris Distinguished Alumni Awards.

“It’s important to recognize and honor our alumni and their impact on the health and wellness of our communities,” she said. “I’ve worked with so many dedicated and talented students over the years, and this is the least I can do to distinguish their strengths as public health professionals.”

The awards will be given annually, beginning in fall 2010, to two alumni from the division, one of which will be a graduate of the Maternal and Child Health Program, which Morris established at UIC SPH in 1983. Morris’ story of compassion and giving begins with her parents, who helped shape her life and work.

“My father was a doctor. My mother was a concert pianist,” she said. “Her whole life she gave people pleasure with her playing, but she always said, ‘Don’t be a musician, you won’t be able to support yourself.’ My father always said, ‘Medicine is a good field; no matter what happens in the world, you will always be appreciated and protected.’”

Morris has her parents to thank not only for their insight in her career path, but also their influence in her marriage.

“My father-in-law-to-be had been my dentist and an old friend of my father’s. When I was 16 and Charles [my future husband] was 18, our parents introduced us,” she said. “We discovered we had mutual interests, including nuclear physics. I think that did it. We married four years later.”

Together they attended the University of Colorado School of Medicine, graduated at the top of their class, and eventually moved to Boston. He began his residency in neurology and she trained in pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital. After having her first child, Morris moved to the Massachusetts State Department of Public Health, where she gained a deeper understanding of maternal and child health and its impact on public health.

Pregnant with her second child, she enrolled in the Master of Public Health program at the Harvard School of Public Health, where her professor and mentor asked her to evaluate her personal maternity experience at the Boston Lying-in Hospital, one of America’s first maternity hospitals.

After receiving an MPH from Harvard, Morris devoted 17 years of her career to maternal and child health education at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. When she left UNC, she was chair of the MCH department there.

After moving to Chicago, she quickly made an impact at UIC SPH by establishing the Maternal and Child Health Program, which has been funded by a federal grant ever since.

A community health assessment program at the school was named after her, the Naomi Morris Collaborative, and in 1999, one year after her husband passed away, the American Public Health Association honored her with the Martha May Eliot Award, named for her Harvard mentor.

Morris has touched many lives throughout her career. Even her two sons have chosen the path of medicine and public health. David is a neurologist, and Jonathan, a psychiatrist with an MPH degree, was named by the Governor of Guam an honorary Chamorro (the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands) for the service and medical training he has provided the people of Guam for 17 years.

It was in 1970 in Guam, where Morris’ husband was recruited to head up a laboratory to study Lou Gehrig’s disease, and when she recalls some of her best learning experiences.

“This was a high point in our lives,” she said. “We visited Hawaii, Taipan, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Denmark, Sweden and various European countries. My Harvard classmate from India, now the family planning director for the Punjab, entertained us in her mountain home close to Pakistan. It was all very interesting, educational and so much more.”

Emerging from her parents’ wisdom and teachers’ influence, Morris has undoubtedly created a life of professional and personal accomplishments, traveling around the world educating and learning. The UIC SPH alumni awards in her name are a testament to the many lives she has helped shape along the way.

“We do feel almost at home wherever we go,” Morris said of her travels and humanitarian family traditions. “We are small pieces of a large world, and we have enjoyed contributing to it.”

Infant Mortality and Racism

On Friday, April 30, 2010, the UIC Maternal and Child Health Program and the UIC Mid-America Public Health Training Center collaborated to host a workshop entitled:  Infant Mortality and Racism Action Learning Collaborative:  Community Recommendations For Reducing Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality.

Our incredibly gifted speaker and expert was Laura Kasehagen, MA, PhD, CDC Senior MCH Epidemiologist, CDC/ONDIEH/NCCDPHP/DRH/ASB/MCH Epidemiology Program, Assignee to CityMatCH, University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Kasehagen discussed an integrated mixed methods approach called Concept Mapping and how the methodology was applied to better understand how participant communities may engage in activities to decrease racial disparities in infant mortality.  With participation from members of a diverse Collaborative, a series of statements was generated from the following prompt:  “One specific action a community could take to decrease racial disparities in infant mortality is….”

Dr. Kasehagen shared with us some initial findings from the research generated by Collaborative efforts as well recommendations to address the impact of racism on birth outcomes.  The Collaborative continues to analyze and interpret data from this work.

Over 50 local MCH academic and practice professionals participated in this workshop either in-person or via webcast.  An audio of the presentation and slides are available at:

NOTE: when you access the presentation/slides, it will download Saba Centra which allows you to access the audio/slides.


Participants were very excited about this workshop and are currently exploring ways to keep the high energy and passion around these topics alive in Chicago.   Exciting next steps to follow!  If you are interested in learning more about next steps (or helping to develop next steps), please let us know by contacting Jaime Klaus at

UIC MCHP Faculty Recognized as Champions of Public Health

In a reception on April 19, 2010, the UIC School of Public Health recognized several of our MCH faculty members as Champions of Public Health.  The following MCH faculty members received honors or assumed leadership positions nationally or internationally between January 1, 2009 to the present.

Associate Professor Nadine Peacock – Loretta P. Lacey Award, Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child Health.

Adjunct Associate Professor Myrtis Sullivan – Director’s Award, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health and Human Services.

Associate Professor Michelle Kelley – Section Councilor, Social Work Section, APHA and Elected Member, Board of Directors (Midwest Region), Association for Community Organization and Social Administration.

Associate Professor Noel Chavez – Governing Councilor, Food and Nutrition Section, APHA.

To read the full story, check out the following website:

Events/News: MCHP Faculty Member Rachel Caskey Talks about the HPV Vaccine

MCHP faculty member Rachel Caskey is interviewed about her research related to adolescents’ and young women’s knowledge about the HPV vaccine.

Rachel Caskey Interview about HPV Vaccine .

Link to the story:

Events/News: MCH Program Co-Director, Arden Handler, Speaks about Infant Mortality

Arden Handler is a Co-Director of the Maternal and Child Health Program as well as a professor of Community Health Sciences here at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health. She says to get at the reasons for the racial gap in infant mortality, people need to look at how society treats women and children in general.  Listen to her talk about this issue on Chicago Public Radio (Eight Forty-Eight).

848_20071024d.mp3 (October 2007)