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School of Public Health

Rutgers School of Public Health Practice Program Coordinator Receives Global Health Hero Award

Smile Bangladesh team.
Smile Bangladesh

Christina Rozario, MA, a program coordinator within the Rutgers School of Public Health’s Office of Practice, has received the 2023 Global Health Hero Award from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School for her global outreach.

Rozario’s remarkable journey began in 2010 when she embarked on a mission to Bangladesh, managing surgeries for Smile Bangladesh – a New Jersey based

Rozario receiving award.
Christina Rozario, MA

organization dedicated to caring for children and adults afflicted with facial cleft deformities. Rozario is now the organization’s executive director.

"Remaining connected to Bangladesh, my homeland, is paramount to me," she expresses. "Drawing from my two decades of engagement with nonprofits in Bangladesh has been instrumental in organizing these missions. Being the sole interpreter on these trips is significant—I understand the aspirations of many immigrants seeking such opportunities, and I consider myself fortunate to fulfill this role."

In addition to her work helping Master of Public Health students with the practice-based component of their education, Rozario is a mentor for Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences students who are interested in Global Health.

When asked about one of her most poignant mission memories, she describes walking through a recovery room in a large rural hospital where patients were recuperating after cleft lip and palate surgeries.

“I heard a boy, about 12 years old, asking his older sister to call out his name. His sister softly uttered, ‘Ismail, Ismail.’ A few hours later, I again strolled through the recovery room and heard him make the same request. I was curious and hoped he was not in pain. I called his sister over and asked her what was wrong. His sister revealed that he, clutching a small hand mirror given to recovery patients, couldn't recognize himself and repeatedly asked to hear his name. My eyes welled up with gratitude for the privilege to serve,” Rozario recounts.

Ismail represents just one of the 1,800 cases Smile Bangladesh has assisted with in rural Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Beyond the restoration of smiles and dignity, addressing cleft conditions also alleviates the stigma often unfairly placed on mothers for their child's condition.

Expressing her gratitude for the opportunity to contribute her time and expertise to helping those with cleft deformities, Rozario humbly remarks, "receiving the Global Health Heroes Award is an immense honor and further helps highlight global health needs.”