DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew visits campus as Policy Center DMPF

On Thursday, February 20, 2020 Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew Ph.D. was the guest of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. Commissioner Lambrew was chosen as one of this year’s Distinguished Maine Policy Fellows.

Distinguished Maine Policy Fellows are individuals with past or current careers as policy makers in Maine – people of distinguished status and extensive experience. Each fellow comes to campus as our guest for a day, teaches an undergraduate class, speaks with faculty about research and public policy, and meets with UMaine administration and graduate students.

Commissioner Lambrew began her visit to the University of Maine by meeting with the President of the University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy over breakfast. They discussed the valuable research, education, and service that the University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias offer the state of Maine. Afterwards, she met with the provost, Dr. Faye Gilbert, to continue the conversation.

Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Dr. Jeanne Lambrew
Dr. Ferrini-Mundy and Commissioner Lambrew in the President’s Conference Room

After meeting with the administrative leadership at the University, Dr. Lambrew sat down with Marcella Sorg, Jonathan Rubin, Jamie Wren, and Daniel S. Soucier of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center to explore possible partnerships between the state of Maine and the University of Maine in health policy research, specifically in regards to injury prevention and accidental death in the state.  She then met with Ben King, Kristie Townsend, Robert Wheeler, and Nishad Jayasundara to discuss how to address renal disease, metabolic disorders, and infectious diseases among isolated populations in rural Maine and Yvonne Junk regarding the expansion of Telehealth training and use to support developmental and emotional needs of children in rural Maine schools.  These meetings highlighted the essential role of University of Maine System research teams in helping policymakers determine the best legislative courses of action for Maine and its people.

Image of Sorg, Rubin, Wren, and Lambrew
Left to right: Jonathan Rubin, Marcella Sorg, Jamie Wren, and Commissioner Lambrew

After a morning of meeting with researchers, the Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) laboratory hosted Dr. Lambrew for lunch. Here, she sat down with undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff from the VEMI lab and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. She asked each individual what they personally felt she should take back to Augusta with her in the realm of health care policy initiatives.

Image of Lambrew and Students
Commissioner Lambrew having lunch with undergraduate and graduate students at the VEMI lab.

After a robust conversation over lunch, director of the VEMI lab Richard Cory, gave Dr. Lambrew a tour of the facility and highlighted several projects and experiments conducted by staff, faculty, and students. The tour began in the Aging Indoor Navigation room which showcases a suite of technologies developed to support Maine’s aging population as they continue to live and thrive independently in their own homes. The non-invasive alert system that VEMI has developed allows for monitoring of movement around the house through the use of RFID tags and a low-power reader rather than more invasive camera-based systems. Designed to be user-configurable, this system responds to prolonged periods of inactivity by texting the user and, if the user doesn’t respond, will reach out to user-approved care givers or family members. The demonstration system is installed in a mock-up apartment to give context to its use and portability.

Lambew tours VEMI
Left to right: Richard Cody, Jonathan Rubin, and Commissioner Lambrew

At the end of her tour, Commissioner Lambrew was treated to a virtual reality experience placing her in a digital environment where she could be afflicted with vision impairments such as glaucoma in the Simulated Edge Detection experience. This digital module tests the feasibility and efficacy of using augmented-reality edge detection and highlighting as a helpful augmentation for use by visually impaired individuals.

Commissioner Lambrew in a Virtual Reality Headset
Commissioner Lambrew immersed in the Simulated Edge Detection experience.

Before leaving campus, Commissioner Lambrew, a former professor herself, presented to students in Rob Glover’s POS 362 — Maine Government course. She discussed with students the richness and personal fulfillment that a career in government can have. She also taught them about the interactions that occur between state and federal governmental agencies and legislators and highlighted for them the process in which policy is negotiated among departmental officials, the legislature, and other stakeholders.

Commissioner Lambrew presenting to Rob Glover's Maine Government course.
Commissioner Lambrew presenting to Rob Glover’s Maine Government course.

Commissioner Lambrew’s bio is available online at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center’s website. For more information regarding the Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow program contact contact Amy Blackstone (amy.blackstone@maine.edu) or explore the DMPF website.