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UMSOP Faculty Appointed by Governor to Statewide Advisory Councils

Maryland Governor Wes Moore has appointed Leah Sera, Chad Johnson, and Zafar Zafari to multiyear terms.

Headshots of Leah Sera, Chad Johnson, and Zafar Zafari.

By Andrew Tie
February 14, 2024

Governor Wes Moore has chosen three faculty members at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy for their expertise to serve on statewide advisory councils.

“These appointments demonstrate our School’s expertise in a variety of public health matters, and it is gratifying to see that recognition at the statewide level,” said Sarah L.J. Michel, PhD, dean and professor of the School. “Drs. Sera, Johnson, and Zafari will serve our state admirably in understanding the effects and implications of legalized cannabis and aviation noise.”

Legalized Cannabis Councils

Sera and Johnson, who have served as co-directors of the Graduate Studies in Medical Cannabis program for the last three years, are leading scholars in the medical cannabis field.

In 2019, Sera founded the MS in Medical Cannabis and Therapeutics program at the School of Pharmacy – the first graduate program of its kind in the nation. Now, Sera will help study the public health impact of adult-use cannabis legalization, which went into effect in the state on July 1, 2023.

The Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council that Sera will serve on will make recommendations to the governor and the Maryland General Assembly on the public health impacts of cannabis legalization and strategies to mitigate youth access, misuse, and addiction.

“I’m honored by this appointment and look forward to working with members of the council to evaluate and educate Marylanders about public health issues related to cannabis use,” Sera said.

Two alumni of the MS program, Madhumi Mitra, PhD, MS ’21, professor of biology and environmental sciences at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Leigh Vinocur, MD, MS ’21, chief medical officer and founder of Ananda Medical Practice, will also serve on the council with Sera.

The Advisory Board on Medical and Adult-use Cannabis that Johnson serves on is charged with providing recommendations regarding guidelines, rules, and regulations to be considered by the Maryland Cannabis Administration.

“As we learn more about the effects of legalized cannabis, it’s important to have a diverse, experienced, and qualified advisory council at the state level, and I am excited for this opportunity,” Johnson said.

Health Effects of Airplane Noise

Zafari has conducted research on the projected health and economic burdens of aircraft noise on communities around the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. His studies show that there will be a significant societal economic burden from aircraft noise over the next three decades due to increased levels of noise-related health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and low birthweight.

“The unseen health effects of living near an airport can have a tremendous impact on people and create strain on the regional health care system,” Zafari said. “I look forward to bringing my expertise to the Maryland Aviation Commission, so we can consider how to mitigate that impact.”

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