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Baltimore top doc on the health of our city

Posted at 7:51 PM, Jun 21, 2019

BALTIMORE — “My mom tells a story that when I was 7 or 8 I said I wanted to help people who don't have insurance get access to care," said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.

Maybe not that eloquent at the time, but now years later, with her medical degrees on the wall and running the office as the city's top doc, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa is living her best life and wants to help the people of Baltimore live theirs.

“I really do want to make a difference.”

On her long list of to do's, the Health Commissioner wants to tackle how crime trickles down into her department; to Dzirasa, it's also a public health concern.

“We're a city that's affected by violence like a lot of other urban cities, so certainly looking at those effects of violence and trying to mitigate them especially as it relates," said Dzirasa. “I'm a strong proponent of something called trauma informed care, which really trains those dealing with young people how to better address them and empathize with them.”

While the country battles the war on opioids, our state is celebrating some good news.

From January through March of this year, there were 577 drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths; that's down 15 percent from the same period in 2018. Overall, opioid, cocaine and heroin-related deaths are all down.

This is according to preliminary data from the Maryland Department of Health. Dzirasa says Baltimore City was already making strides in the epidemic.

“We've done a good job of starting to spread the word and provide more education as well as distribution of naloxone," Dzirasa said. "I'd like for us to focus on making sure there's enough access to recovery and treatment centers.”

Measles outbreaks have become a national concern with more than 1,000 cases, including at least five local diagnoses, reflect the highest numbers we've seen in decades.

“It scares me at the national level that this has become such a national crisis or epidemic," Dzirasa said, "but on the local level, our Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response immediately when we got the first call about the case in our region started convening with the Maryland Department of Health as well as Baltimore County Health Department to get a grasp on things.”

If you want to get a smile out this pediatrician, ask her about her passion and how she wants to share it with Baltimore.

“I love health and wellness, right. I love to exercise, so I want to make that a thing that's infectious, and really part of how I move throughout the city," Dzirasa said. "I walk everyday pretty much to work. I try to walk in between the places I go as long as it's in the city within a mile, to a mile-and-a-half.”

Another agenda item for the commissioner is continuing to make strides in the war on HIV.

Dr. Dzirasa says Baltimore is playing an active role in the CDC's “End the Epidemic,” initiative.

Charm City is among 48 jurisdictions across the country targeted for additional funding to see how we can eliminate HIV.