Move In 2018: Colorado School of Public Health reflects on first decade, looks ahead

Richard Hamman speaking

Richard Hamman, founding dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, helped celebrate the school’s
10th anniversary in April.

As the Colorado School of Public Health at Colorado State University celebrates its 10-year anniversary by looking back on accomplishments of the past decade, it is also looking to the future with plans to bolster its research activity and profile.

The ColoradoSPH — a partnership among CSU, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus — enrolled only four students from CSU when it began in 2008. The school now has a total of 1,700 graduates, including more than 200 master of public health graduates from CSU. Of those graduates, 97 percent were employed or seeking further education within 12 months of graduating.

Student growth is one of the first highlights that CSU’s ColoradoSPH Director Lorann Stallones lists when asked about the school’s accomplishments.

“It actually exceeded our expectations,” she said. “We had originally planned to have about 40 students in the program at CSU at any given time, and now we are over 100.”

Stallones also points to growth in the number of ColoradoSPH faculty affiliates at CSU, which has swelled from about 15 at the school’s founding to more than 70.

Bolstering research

“We’re the state’s school of public health and the region’s school of public health,” ColoradoSPH Dean Jonathan Samet said at an April 6 anniversary celebration in the Durrell Center. “I’d like to see us up our impact in the state and in the region through partnering, through reaching out. We do research, and I’d like to see us find the best ways to make sure our research has impact.”

In fact, boosting the impact of research on public health issues is the objective of a task force formed this spring by CSU Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph. The task force, headed by Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Ellen Fisher, has been charged with taking stock of the university’s current public health research and recommending ways to improve and expand it. Rudolph expects the task force’s recommendations on areas where CSU can fill gaps or build on successes this fall, and the findings will be shared with the school’s two partner campuses.

Members of the task force say that the effort will be key in identifying areas of research that should be prioritized for future funding.

“The task force is an excellent opportunity to compile the many strengths in public health research across the campus, to identify opportunities to build on existing strengths and to strategically enhance research in public health,” said Jennifer Peel, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences who serves on the task force. “It’s exciting to see the variety and scope of what we do as a public health community.”

“The task force will be instrumental in enhancing the ColoradoSPH on the CSU campus,” added member Tracy Nelson, associate director of the ColoradoSPH at CSU. “There are numerous faculty who are involved in public health research, but not with the school, and this effort will allow us to cast a wider net to hopefully enhance opportunities for these faculty as well as the school.”

Johns Hopkins’ Burke speaks on campus Oct. 2

Former Environmental Protection Agency official Thomas Burke, the Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health Risk and Society at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, will be speaking at CSU from 11 a.m. to noon on Oct. 2 in the Lory Student Center Greyrock Room.

The event is part of the ColoradoSPH’s 10th Anniversary Dean’s Speaker Series.

Burke, who holds joint appointments in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the School of Medicine Department of Oncology, is also director of the Johns Hopkins Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute. Burke was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. From January 2015 until January 2017, Burke was the EPA science advisor and deputy assistant administrator for research and development. His research interests include environmental epidemiology and surveillance, evaluation of population exposures to environmental pollutants, assessment and communication of environmental risks, and application of epidemiology and health risk assessment to public policy. Before joining Johns Hopkins, Burke was deputy commissioner of health for the state of New Jersey and director of science and research for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Burke received his B.S. from St. Peter’s College, his MPH from the University of Texas and his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Reaching out to faculty

Fisher noted that while during its first decade, the ColoradoSPH at CSU has focused primarily on graduate education, there are many CSU faculty doing public health research on campus and in the community. Fisher said the task force surveyed faculty in July, asking questions like what hinders their ability to do public health research, whether they are ColoradoSPH affiliates and, if not, whether they’d be interested in learning more about the school. Some respondents said they’d like to collaborate with others outside their department but needed assistance identifying potential research partners. That’s one of the roles of the ColoradoSPH: bringing faculty from different departments and colleges together for interdisciplinary work.

“That will be one of the things that we’ll be focusing on, connecting people,” Fisher said. “I’m excited about the possibilities for collaboration. I see a lot of positives that could come out of this, especially in light of our recent investments in various aspects of public health research.”

And she emphasized that there are many graduate and undergraduate students at CSU doing public health research as well.

“It’s students that really drive this research engine,” Fisher said. “There is a lot of amazing research we do at CSU in this realm, and our researchers often don’t get the recognition they deserve for it.”

“I think the timing is ideal for moving the public health program on campus to embrace the whole gamut of research in this area,” Stallones added. “I think it’s exciting that the administration recognizes that there’s so much of this research going on and is trying to capitalize on it and expand it.”

The ColoradoSPH will begin offering a new certificate in public health sciences in early 2019.

The 15-credit-hour Certificate in Public Health Sciences offers the opportunity to enroll in graduate public health courses as a standalone program or as an entry point for the Master of Public Health program. Required course topics are uniform across the three ColoradoSPH partner campuses, but each course prefix and title will vary.

The application deadline for the spring semester is Oct. 15. To apply for admission to the Colorado School of Public Health certificate programs, applicants are required to complete the Schools of Public Health Association Application Services (SOPHAS) Express application​.