March 06, 2024

Celebrating Mary Heersink for Women’s History Month

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Women’s History Month celebrates the accomplishments and success of women throughout history and in modern culture. The Office for Diversity and Inclusion is honoring women this month who have made a difference and continue to make a difference currently through a series of events.

Today, we look forward to the Women in Medicine and Science Annual Grand Rounds celebration featuring keynote speaker Mary Heersink, who is making a difference in the Deep South and globally through her benevolence, food safety expertise, and contributions to public health.

Married to Marnix E. Heersink, M.D., for over four decades, the couple is responsible for the transformational $100 million gift to advance strategic growth and biomedical innovation that named UAB’s medical school the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine in 2021.

Mary Heersink: A champion for change

Mrs. Heersink faced many challenges when her son Damion, who, at the age of 11 in 1992, consumed contaminated hamburger meat during a Boy Scout outing. Damion was sent to pediatric intensive care due to E. coli O157 infection. Damion recovered from the pathogen, but Mrs. Heersink found her trust in food safety systems severely shaken—which led to a lifetime commitment to education and prevention advocacy.

Since the incident, she has founded STOP Foodborne Illness, a national grassroots public health organization committed to preventing illness and death caused by foodborne pathogens. She has served on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. And, she has used her voice to testify before the U.S. Congress.

Founded in September 2021, the Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health was established, with an overarching goal to improve overall health and well-being and promote equity in health outcomes among people around the world.

The institute aims to present a coordinated, comprehensive, and sustainable infrastructure for the Heersink School of Medicine, UAB, and international partners, to foster educational opportunities, conduct high-quality biomedical research, and provide multidirectional services, capacity building, and mutual support toward mitigating the most pressing and complex global health challenges.

Welcoming Mary Heersink to Women in Medicine and Science Grand Rounds

Mrs. Heersink is a sought-after speaker at scientific meetings worldwide, contributing her expertise to the global discourse on public health.

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Department of Medicine will host the annual Women in Medicine and Science Grand Rounds on March 13 at noon CT in Margaret Cameron Spain Auditorium. This year's keynote address will be presented by Mary Heersink. Learn more and register here.

Her talk for the lecture is titled, “Toward multiplicity” and will discuss issues around complex systemic problems. In previous talks, Mrs. Heersink has emphasized the imperative for future health workers to operate seamlessly across international and cultural boundaries, spanning various disciplines and sectors within society.

Whether tackling issues like food safety, food security, viral pandemics, anti-microbial resistance, or non-communicable diseases, the demand for global health workers who can navigate a complex landscape and effect change using diverse strategies is paramount, she has said.

Mrs. Heersink serves on the Advisory Board of the Masters of Global Health Program, a collaborative effort involving universities in Canada, the Netherlands, India, Thailand, Colombia, Sudan, and Norway.

Moreover, her influence extends to multiple nonprofit and civic organizations in the Dothan area, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dothan, the Wiregrass Museum of Art, Houston Academy, and Landmark Park.

More Women’s History Month events

Visit the Office for Diversity and Inclusion’s events page for more information on gatherings related to Women’s History Month.