Message from the Dean

May 2020Craig Blakely

Let me first start by offering my personal congratulations to our May 2020 graduates. Whether you are an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral student, you’ve invested a lot of energy in preparing for your future career. This accomplishment is typically celebrated with a graduation ceremony surrounded by faculty, friends, and family. However, COVID-19 restrictions postponed our usual commencement ceremonies until December and UofL provided a virtual graduation celebration at That said, we are still are celebrating our students and their accomplishments! View the list of SPHIS graduates, commencement award winners, and watch a fantastic video that our faculty and staff made for our 2020 graduates.

In the past few months, I’ve witnessed what we can accomplish when we are working together toward common goals for the common good. I’m proud to be part of the SPHIS community and appreciate the responsiveness and flexibility of our faculty, instructors, students, staff, and administration. Be sure to read about the ways the SPHIS community is involved in COVID-19 efforts— by conducting new research, volunteering to do contact tracing, and responding to media inquiries. We have alumni who are on the frontline working in health departments. We have also been successful in raising money to provide emergency aid to our students.

As a school, we established a small group to process and share evolving guidelines related to COVID-19. We are communicating regularly with employees and students and ensuring they have the resources and support needed. The university virtually convenes our leadership team regularly and, as a group, we have made several key decisions:

-- We moved to remote and online instruction, which continues through the summer semester.
-- We implemented a pass/fail policy for the spring semester.
-- Our faculty and staff are working remotely
-- We have postponed or canceled university-sponsored events.
-- International and domestic university-sponsored travel is suspended.
-- Students living in residence halls moved out if they were able and most of those remaining on campus housing were relocated to singles with private bathrooms. 

The university aims to return to some form of on-campus life by fall semester. Be advised that this step may include a number of new strategies, making life very different from what we knew just six months ago. That said, we are also preparing for the real possibility that such a move would not be prudent.

Due to the lack of public health infrastructure (that has been actively dismantled the past 15 years), we were woefully unprepared for this infectious disease crisis. We hope that the work that is aggressively occurring globally will lead to an effective vaccine sometime next year; and that there will be little pushback to rapid population vaccination campaigns seeking herd immunity as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we have two choices: (1) continue the stay-at-home social distancing that is in place and has saved tens of thousands of lives or (2) move toward a more targeted restrictive policy that can identify those infected and keep them at home and away from the rest of us who can carefully restart our economy. This latter strategy requires human capital and physical capacity to implement adequate case tracking, contact tracing, and lab testing to ensure containment of the virus until that time when vaccine herd immunity can “trump” this disease.

I hope that every member of the SPHIS community is actively taking the necessary steps to protect your physical and mental health and that of those around you. Stay connected and reach out if you need help.

Be safe and stay healthy!

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Dr. Craig Blakely

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