Leading schools of public health

Last week, deans of schools of public health came together for our annual summer retreat. I really value these meetings. A number of deans have become not just colleagues but friends, and I miss deans who leave their leadership roles. While we compete in some ways, such as rankings, we are remarkably willing to share information and help one another. I always come away from these meetings proud of our School. Our School’s innovation efforts were early and prescient. For example, Gillings Innovation Laboratories and Gillings Visiting Professors and executives-in-residence put us on a path to enhanced innovation and the benefits that come with that. Several schools now have beefed up their innovation activities in impressive ways.

I usually emerge from these annual retreats with a resolve that we need to evolve, do more or even potentially change course in some ways. Several public health schools are participating in consortia to deliver MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) through efforts such as EdX and Coursera. Learners around the world access these free online courses, taught by world-class professors, and study a range of topics, such as organic chemistry and game theory. So far, UNC-Chapel Hill hasn’t signed on to any of these groups; we should consider it. While it is difficult to predict the impact of MOOCs, they are an important part of the evolving higher education landscape.

All the schools have gone through challenging times over the last several years, and most have had to make deep budget cuts or at least budget adjustments. Still, as a group, we are optimistic about the future and resilient.

I’m appreciative of the Association of Schools of Public Health leaders with whom we work most closely, including Harrison Spencer, MD, PhD, CPH, along with Allison Foster, MBA, CAE; Rita Kelleher, MSPH; Jessica Petrush, MPH; Mike Stephens, MPH and Liz Weist, MA, MPH, CPH.

Although I couldn’t take extra time in California, it was wonderful to be in cool, low humidity weather for a few days. Always good to get back to Chapel Hill.

Happy Monday.


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