Sandra L. Thurman, MA
Ms. Thurman joined the Interfaith Health Program (IHP) as Director in 2008. In addition she serves on the faculty of the Department of Global Health, Director of the new Joseph W. Blount Center for Health and Human Rights and President of the International AIDS Trust at the Rollins School of Public Health. She has worked on the frontlines of public health policy and practice for more than two decades, serving as Executive Director of AID Atlanta, the South’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization; Director of Advocacy Programs, Task Force for Child Survival, The Carter Center; Director of the White House Office on National AIDS Policy and Presidential Envoy for AIDS Cooperation under President Clinton. She has served on the boards of numerous nonprofits including the National Kidney Foundation, March of Dimes, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Family Health International. In addition, Thurman has worked extensively with US and international religious and health organizations, including World Vision, the YWCA, National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, Atlanta Interfaith AIDS Network, WHO, CDC and Health Resources and Services Administration ( HRSA). Ms. Thurman has played a key role in IHP’s new initiative in community mapping and mobilization in Mukuru, Kenya, pairing IHP’s strong history of community asset mapping with a model for mobilizing such assets toward a concrete programs to address health disparities at the community level. In 2000, Ms. Thurman convened the first International White House Conference of Religious Leaders on HIV/AIDS and is a much sought after speaker and expert on HIV/AIDS, development, women’s and children’s issues, and other urgent public health concerns. In addition to her faculty duties at Rollins, she completed postgraduate studies and research in religion and health at St. Paul’s United University in Limuru, Kenya and the University of Wales, Lampeter.
Mimi Kiser, DMin, MPH, RN
Senior Program Director and Senior Associate Faculty
Mimi Kiser has been with the Interfaith Health Program since 1993, after a first career as a community health nurse. She cut her teeth in faith and health working with Dr. Tom Droege at The Carter Center in the early years of Atlanta Interfaith Health taking on the responsibility of coordinating program planning and evaluation using a participatory approach. For five years she worked with Dr. David Hilton, facilitating Training for Transformation workshops in health ministry and public health settings. Mimi has taught “Health as Social Justice” and “Faith and Health: Transforming Communities” for Emory public health, nursing, and theology graduate students for a number of years.
From 1995 through 2006, her work at the IHP was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most recently directing the Institute for Public Health and Faith Collaborations (IPHFC). The Institute has ignited the work of 78 collaboratives in 24 states aimed at the elimination of health disparities. Mimi has contributed nationally to building the capacity of health groups to form collaborative relationships with the faith community, specifically through networks such as the American Public Health Association’s Caucus on Public Health and the Faith Community, the Coalition for Healthier Cities and Communities’ Faith Action Team, and the Health Ministries Association. Her on the ground work took on new dimensions when she took on part time work from 1996 to 2001 as Coordinator of Parish Health Ministry for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. She is currently chair of Emory’s Religion and Health Collaborative Academic Programs Working Group. Through her leadership, IHP and Emory’s new collaborative are contributing innovative education and training models to the faith and health movement. Mimi is working on her doctorate in ministry in Faith and the Health of Communities at Wesley Seminary in D.C.
John Blevins, ThD, MDiv
Associate Research Professor
John brings an interdisciplinary background in practical theology and public health program development to the work of the Interfaith Health Program, where he has worked on a variety of global health initiatives. John has directed IHP’s efforts in community health assets mapping and mobilization in Mukuru, an informal settlement on the eastern edge of Nairobi, Kenya. In addition, he has worked to expand IHP’s teaching and research into religion’s role in public health and development models in international contexts; much of this work is has been possible through extensive collaborations between IHP and St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya. His research endeavors to critically reflect on religious or public health practices using contemporary theology, cultural theory, and public health scholarship. Prior to joining Emory’s faculty, John coordinated clinical education programs on HIV, mental illness, and substance abuse for the Southeast AIDS Training and Education in the Emory University School of Medicine. In the classroom, John has received awards as Faculty Person of the Year and Excellence in Teaching at Emory’s Candler School of Theology. John has worked in HIV clinical settings as a chaplain in Chicago and as a health educator and counselor at the Grady Health System Infectious Disease Program in Atlanta. He serves on the board of Partners in Development, a Non Governmental Organization that works to address glaring health, economic, and educational disparities in Zambia, and is the immediate Past Chair of the Board of the Atlanta Harm Reduction Center. John has developed workshops for the Council of Churches of Zambia and is coordinating IHP’s partnership with colleagues in South Africa to understand more clearly the effects of religion on sexual health, reproductive health, and healthy families.
Aneesah Akbar-Uqdah, MPH
A graduate of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health with an MPH in Health Policy, and Management, Aneesah currently works as the Research Coordinator for the Interfaith Health Program in the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.
Aneesah’s interest and research in public health is long-standing. While studying at Bryn Mawr College, she was offered the opportunity to join Temple University’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate to be mentored by Dr. Sydney White in Temple’s Department of Anthropology. Following her research training at Temple University, she studied at the American University of Cairo (AUC) where she co-authored a research paper on drinking water in Egypt and its health effects on its citizens. Sponsored by the International Studies Department at Bryn Mawr College, Aneesah returned to Cairo to present this research at the annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Aneesah conducted her senior research project on the media’s influence on African American youth identity and sexual identity. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, she interned at Smith College’s Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program where she co-facilitated a course on girls health with Dr. Leslie Jaffe.
After coming to Emory, Aneesah served as a research assistant for Dr. Lou Ann Brown in the Department of Neonatology and Pediatrics at Emory’s School of Medicine. She also worked in many student leadership roles for the Community Health Planning and Policy Development (CHPPD) section of the American Public Health Association. In November 2009, she received the CHPPD section service award in student leadership. She is currently actively involved in Emory’s Muslim Student Association and is engaged in research about the health of African American lesbians in Atlanta.