Ruth C. Bailey award winner Darryl B. Hood
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Ruth C. Bailey award winner inspired by community engagement

Darryl B. Hood applauds university leadership for support of outreach and engagement

Winning the 2022 Ruth C. Bailey Award for Multicultural Engagement left Darryl B. Hood, professor of environmental sciences in the College of Public Health at The Ohio State University, stunned.

“What was my reaction after I passed out, you mean?” was Hood’s response to a question about his reaction to the award.

“I was humbled, very much humbled. And then after the humbleness, it called for a bit of introspection and reflection on my career,” he said. “And at that point, I was almost in tears.”

The Ruth C. Bailey award was established in 2012 by alumnus Vincenzo Ferranti to honor Bailey, his adviser and mentor and a member of the university’s international student services staff from 1937-1974. Recipients are selected based on their contributions to campus multicultural interaction and understanding.

“Dr. Hood has woven his passion for diversity enhancement and inclusive excellence through all facets of his career, bringing light to many important topics and issues through research, teaching and service,” said Amy Fairchild, dean, College of Public Health. “To work with Dr. Hood is to know an active recruiter for minority students and an advocate not only for faculty and students of color in the college, but across the university. Within the college, he regularly offers advice and support for junior faculty. This form of engaged mentorship is instrumental in the lives of those who are developing their careers and – importantly – it lifts us all.”

Hood’s academic research focus is in the area of environmental public health. All of his currently funded  projects use the Public Health Exposome framework and Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) analytics that  seeks to understand disparate health outcomes within the context of historical structural inequities observed through an environmental lens.

An example of this, Hood said, is the federal interstate highway system.

“Transportation is a good thing but there are unintended consequences. The highway system bisected many neighborhoods – most of them were minority neighborhoods,” he said. “So the Public Health Exposome framework allows us to look at the impact of traffic related and environmental pollution on the residents of those communities.”

Hood said he comes by this passion for understanding inequities honestly. His parents were actively involved with the civil rights movement. Hood himself was a plaintiff in Swan v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education which was argued before the Supreme Court on October 12, 1970 as one of the resulting test cases from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The emphasis his family placed on justice and equality led him to his work today.

In addition to the community-facing nature of his work, Hood was honored for his collegiality inside the university. That spirit of collaboration is what brought him to Ohio State, he said.

“The generation of scientists that I was mentored by represented the highest level of commitment to the academy. You have to be collegial in the academy,” he said. “Discovery in and of itself comes about as the result of collegiality. That is one of the reasons I came to Ohio State – every resource that one might conceive of is at this institution and in Columbus.”

Hood attributes this focus on collaboration to the university’s leadership. He recalls an instance in which former President Michael V. Drake reminded researchers that Ohio State is an urban land-grant institution and that it is the university’s responsibility to serve its community.

More recently, Hood said he finds President Kristina M. Johnson and Provost Melissa L. Gilliam’s continuation of that push for outreach and engagement to be inspiring.

“There is a groundswell of enthusiasm for collaborative interactions and discovery,” he said. “Under President Johnson and Provost Gilliam, I think that we are going to be regarded as the model going forward for our community-facing participatory research programs.”

Hood remains excited by the possibilities unfolding in his work within the university and beyond.

“These are good days for Ohio State.”

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