Public Health

Celebrating achievements, anticipating potential

April 29, 2008

I wish all our students the best of outcomes in their finals and end of the year activities. I look forward to seeing some of you on graduation day.

A week in the life of a dean

This has been an extremely busy but interesting week in which I have raced from meeting to meeting, been to Kannapolis for events, been chairing the search committee for Kenan-Flagler Business School’s dean, read a citation for the 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award and attended dinner for Chancellor (to name just a few examples). I’ll tell you about some of them.

Thursday and Friday in Kannapolis

As many readers know, David Murdock, who formerly owned Cannon Mills and now Dole Foods, is building the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, NC. We, along with researchers from Duke, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, A&T, NC State, and some other schools will have space, as will some related businesses. The goal is to revitalize Kannapolis with a state-of-the-science research campus (

As you drive into Kannapolis, historically dominated by Cannon Mills, you see soaring, new, stately buildings, rising from the ashes of razed mill buildings, breathing life, hope and excitement into this community.

Dr. Steven Zeisel, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, is leading the effort to create the UNC School of Public Health’s Nutrition Research Institute. The laboratories there will be headed by faculty members appointed at UNC Chapel Hill. They will study metabolomics and related areas to uncover how individuals differ in their nutritional profiles and how that might influence prevention and treatment of a variety of conditions and diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.


Dr. Ed Baker and his NC Institute for Public Health team are working closely with the Cabarrus County Health Department to create a 21st century health department that would link public health and public health science, hopefully on the campus there.

It’s very exciting, and I am glad our school is part of the Kannapolis project. I hope many students will have the opportunity to do research and internships there. If students, staff and faculty want to visit Kannapolis, we could consider arranging a bus tour in the fall.

Reception at the new David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building

100_5352.jpgWe hosted a reception for our Public Health Foundation Board, area alumni and people interested in what we were doing. It was an exciting evening as we got a chance to see the first almost completed building, truly a majestic, awesome structure. The 311,000-square-foot building will feature a core laboratory containing a strategic array of state-of-the-art scientific equipment. It will be available for use by any research institute or company located on the research campus.

I was pleased to meet so many alumni who are excited about the School’s directions, who say we are better than ever and they want to connect or reconnect with the School. I always enjoy meeting alumni and hearing their recollections of the School. Many thanks to Dixie Brink and Cutler Andrews on our external affairs staff and Beverly Jordan on the Kannapolis staff for their hard work putting together this event – the first in the Core Lab Building.

2008 Thomas Jefferson Award

I was thrilled to have organized a group of four deans, a faculty scientist and a Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center leader to nominate Dr. Shelley Earp for the Thomas Jefferson Award, and even happier that he was selected. By the way, when I do something like this, usually, someone in my office is to be thanked for helping to stay on top of people for letters and working with me to organize the package. In this case, it was Jenny Lewis. Friday, at the Faculty Council, I read the citation, and Chancellor Moeser presented the award to Dr. Earp. As Lineberger Professor and Director of the cancer center, Shelley has been an amazing leader, a visionary who is responsible for UNC receiving the University Cancer Research Fund from our legislature, and a real friend of the School.

Celebration of Chancellor Moeser

Friday night, I attended a magnificent event to thank Chancellor and Susan Moeser for their leadership of this University. It was a magical evening. I was so impressed how many of the evening’s speeches remarked about the Chancellor’s strength, character, willingness to take tough stands to support academic freedom, but also his kindness, decency and unequivocal commitment to academic excellence. I could not agree more. There’s nothing combative or antagonistic about the Chancellor; yet, he exudes tremendous strength and moral toughness. He’s made this University a better place. During my time as dean, I have been gratified by his support of this School.

In the news

This week, health disparities were front and center in the news, with publication of an article in PLoS Medicine. As Kevin Sack wrote in The New York Times Sunday 4/27, “ …the rising tide of American health is not lifting all boats, and there are widening gaps in life expectancy, based on the interwoven variables of income, race, sex, education and geography.” Life expectancy declined in many counties from 1983-1999. A fundamental job of public health is to erase these disparities. Our job is getting both more urgent and more difficult.


Don’t forget to vote. It’s about the future.

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.