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The Department of Epidemiology & Public Health Mourns the Death of Renée Royak-Schaler, PhD

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

 Renée Royak-Schaler

Renée Royak-Schaler, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and director of the Masters in Public Health program, died unexpectedly on Sunday May 22, 2011. A funeral service was held on May 25 in New Jersey. A campus memorial service will be held in her honor on October 10, 2011 from noon until 2pm in Westminster Hall.

 Dr. Royak-Schaler was a behavioral scientist whose multi-disciplinary program of research focused on disparities across the continuum of cancer care, including the psychosocial and behavioral factors that are associated with the early detection, prevention, and survivorship care practices of minority populations. This included investigating the relationships between communication in the healthcare setting and patient decisions to carry out recommended screening, treatment plans and preventive health practices.

Her recent research studies included: "A Culturally Specific Dietary Plan to Manage Weight Gain Among African American Breast Cancer Survivors" (American Institute for Cancer Research, 7/2006-6/2008); "Strategies for Health After Breast Cancer: A Survivorship Guide For African American Women" (Komen for the Cure, 7/2007 – 6/2009; and "Radiation Therapy Following Breast-Conserving Surgery in Low-Income Women: Communicating the Benefits and Risks" (American Cancer Society, 7/2008 – 6/2012).

The implementation of “Strategies for Health” involved an academic-community research partnership with the Sisters Network Inc., a national African American breast cancer survivors network. Dr. Royak-Schaler was also PI of the "PARTNERS in Breast Cancer" Education Program, funded by the National Cancer Institute (1996-2000), an academic research partnership with African American churches in rural, eastern North Carolina. Lay health advisors participated in the design, implementation and evaluation of the PARTNERS Program, whose goal was to educate the church community about breast cancer risk factors, prompt symptom care, and effective communication with primary care providers.

"Renée was a model faculty member who conducted important research and was committed to very high educational standards," says Jay Magaziner, PhD, MSHyg. "Her academic life was dedicated to improving the health and well-being of others. Her research on breast cancer was groundbreaking and reached many through published papers, lectures and films that she produced to help others cope with disease and disability. And her educational efforts were dedicated to preparing the next generation of professionals to carry out this noble mission.

"Among Renée’s many accomplishments, and perhaps the most notable one of the past few years, was her tremendous success in developing our new Master of Public Health Program," Dr. Magaziner continues. "I know that she was very proud of this achievement, as was the rest of her university community. It was through Renée’s tireless efforts, hard work and dedication to establishing the program that we were able to obtain a 5-year accreditation only two years ago. As a result of her efforts, we now have a Master of Public Health Degree that stands on its own, and we have six dual degree programs that combine the Master of Public Health with degrees in Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy Practice, Law and Social Work. Through these dual degrees, Renée paved a path by which professionals in many other health disciplines would also be knowledgeable in the practice of public health, and which in turn would expand the impact on the wider community about which she was so concerned." (For more on Dr. Royak-Schaler's work with the MPH program, see page 10 of this PDF from the Summer 2010 School of Medicine Bulletin.)

"Our fond memories of Renée will be with us for years and years to come," says Dr. Magaziner. "The results of her leadership to build a sustainable Master of Public Health program at the University of Maryland Baltimore will last for even longer; and her many students will go on to make important changes to the world around us in a way that will improve that world and the lives of many."

Memorial gifts in Dr. Royak-Schaler's honor can be made online at https://cf.umaryland.edu/checkout/som/appeal/?a=MMA12, or with a check payable to UMBF, Inc., by designating online or in the subject line of the check "Renée Royak-Schaler, DEPH” (Department of Epidemiology and Public Health). Checks should be sent to Patricia Bates, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Development Office, 100 North Greene Street, Suite 600, Baltimore, MD 21201.

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