Public Health Passions & Plans

 We asked SPHIS faculty, staff, students, and alumni to share their passions & plans.

Their statements will be shared throughout the year to highlight our school's amazing public health educators, researchers, and leaders.

How will you advance public health in 2018?


Craig Blakely, PhD, MPH


School of Public Health & Information Sciences


"I want to set the vision for the School of Public Health and Information Sciences and ensure the school receives the proper recognition for the exceptional work of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners.

As a school, we will continue our outstanding partnerships with Louisville Metro government and the thriving healthcare industry.

We will launch new instructional programs that directly build on our research and service engines, expand our partnerships, meet critical needs in our community—be they individual or organizational—and directly impact relevant metrics tied to health policy, systems operations, and data analytics.

We will lead by example demonstrating how to form collaborations and conduct research that leads to meaningful changes in health systems and policy, and contribute to a better climate for change.

We will remain committed to our ultimate goal, which is common across all those who work in public health.

Ultimately, we set our targets on improving life expectancy and the conditions under which people can be healthy. And, we will continue to lead the university in our efforts to recognize and foster a climate that is inclusive to all segments of our community."

Aishia Brown, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky

“In 2018, I would like to conduct research that helps eradicate inequities & disparities among marginalized youth populations as well as mentor & support underrepresented students to help them achieve their higher education goals.”

Ryan Combs, PhD, MA

Assistant Professor

Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences


"In 2018, I am most excited about working to increase health equity among communities of color, LGBTQ people, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and other minoritized and marginalized groups. I am grateful to have some of the best colleagues in the profession with which to do this work, including a cadre of talented students and post-docs. Together, we will continue to engage community stakeholders to better understand each population’s health concerns. Through these collaborations, we will develop campaigns to raise awareness about, and interventions to address, the issues most important to them. This year our team’s research will include work on topics such as HIV, childhood asthma, and mental health."

Liza Creel, PhD, MPHAssistant Professor

Health Management & System Sciences
"Much of my work centers on systems of care for children with special health care needs, including those with at least one chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions. In our research, we explore how these children access needed services, if those services met a family’s needs, and whether those services were of high quality. My hope is that our work strengthens the systems we have designed to serve all children, but especially those with complex and chronic needs. This requires partnerships with clinical and social service providers, state public health officials and agency staff, and, perhaps most importantly, families. Because at the end of the day, we want the system to work for them and we will never understand the impact or trade-offs of new programs or policies if we do not engage stakeholders." 
Jelani Kerr, PhD, MSPHAssistant Professor

Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences

"I’m looking forward to teaching the Social Determinants of Health Course in spring. I think it is a great opportunity to interact with students and dialogue about how community, policy, and environmental factors impact population health.

I’m also excited about the HIV-focused research that we are doing at the University of Louisville. SPHIS is collaborating with researchers, community-based organizations, and a variety of institutions on projects ranging from HIV-related stigma to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP; a biomedical regimen to prevent HIV infection). These include studies that not only help us understand the nature of the HIV epidemic, but also figure out ways to address it."

Doug Lorenz. PhDAssociate Professor

Biostatistics & Bioinformatics

"My teaching goal is continue providing foundational instruction in statistics and data analysis that equips students with the tools necessary to comb through complex public health data. My research goal is to continue to advance evidence-based decision making methods in the field of child abuse, with particular focus on developing tools for use in acute care settings to identify children who have been abused and prevent future harm."

Monica Wendel, DrPH, MAAssociate Dean & Professor

Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

“I want to advance equity by pushing conversations among leaders in our community about social and racial justice.

I will create a safe space that supports individuals from marginalized communities in pursuing their educational, professional, and personal goals.

I will help train the next generation of public health professionals to question their assumptions, approach their work with intellectual and cultural humility, and always ask why things are the way they are.

I will continue to learn and surround myself with people who make me better. I will strive to be one of those people for my colleagues and friends.”

SPHIS Student Services DepartmentStudent Services

“Student services is excited to be working with our current and incoming students. We strive to create a culture of inclusion and learning at SPHIS to best prepare our students to be trailblazers in the field of public health.”

Rachel Neal, PhDAssociate Professor

Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

“Developing a student-centered advocacy campaign for community nutrition support programs included in the Farm Bill as well as developing a student-led discussion group at UofL and in Louisville about environmental health policies and practices.”

Muriel Harris, PhDAssociate Professor

Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

“In 2018, I look forward to taking 8-10 Public Health students to Ghana for a 3 week cultural and public health trip. During the trip we will visit the community of Obuasi, and based on our findings from the Photovoice project (2017) we will offer health education topics in water and sanitation; HIV; women’s health and Environmental protections. In addition, we will offer a donation towards the building of another well in the community to provide access to clean and safe drinking water. A water engineer/scientist who will accompany us on the trip will test their water to determine its quality and levels of contamination with biological or chemical agents. We will work in collaboration with Kwame Nkrumah College of Science and Technology. I will continue to support the Cervical Cancer prevention project, which identifies precancerous cells in women in Fondrede in collaboration with CapraCare, a local non-profit organization.

Next year through the Afro-European Medical and Research Network (AEMRN) I will be mentoring organizations with projects in Africa to develop Evaluation Plans. The theme of their work is Universal Health Coverage- leaving no one behind. Topics include increasing access to health care; diabetes, water and sanitation and elementary education.”

William P. McKinney, MDAssociate Dean & Professor
Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

"My Focus for 2018 is on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID): Impacts and Control course that will be taught for the first time in the Global Public Health curriculum of the MPH program. Getting to design and teach this course represents for me the culmination of numerous assignments and professional experience over the past 40 years.

My interest in EID started with the outbreak in the late 1970s of a mysterious illness that was killing young women in the US: Toxic Shock Syndrome. It led to my entry into the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC in 1981, when another emerging infection, ultimately known as the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, was first recognized.

While working in my first academic position, my professional interests and activities expanded to include hospital epidemiology and travel medicine. By the late 1990s, I learned a great deal about the threat of biological weapons and, in the wake of September 2001, drafted the proposal for the university’s Center for the Deterrence of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism. While initial support for this center came through CDC, later grants from HRSA, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the Department of Homeland Security via the National Institute for Homeland Security allowed expansion of training services into multiple healthcare and public health disciplines. During this time, the activity developed an all-hazards focus and was renamed the Center for Health Hazards Preparedness. Since 2014, new funding from HRSA for our Public Health Training Center and most recently from NIEHS to support the Worker Training Program have allowed continued involvement in preparation of public health professionals to deal with newer threats, such as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever and Zika virus.

The excitement for me is that, in a real sense, getting to design and teach the new EID course is the natural convergence of all these experiences. While infectious disease threats change over time, the basic principles of dealing with them remain substantially the same. I hope to convey my passion for this subject to our newest cohort of MPH students, who will need to be prepared to deal with a host of new challenges as they enter the public health workforce of the future."

Tiffany RobinsonProgram Manager

"I will advance public health by building industry-university partnerships that advance our research and positively impact the healthcare industry. I will build relationships that help set the School of Public Health & Information Sciences apart from other schools, promote growth, and positively impact our local, national, and global reputation."

Sara FrazierGSFM Market Manager

"In 2018, I plan to advance public health through the continued growth of the Gray Street Farmers Market and its special programs.

As we enter our 10th season, I would like to bring even more awareness to the benefits of farmers markets by engaging with community partners who support our vision to improve access. I plan to highlight methods that assist customers in maintaining healthier lifestyles by supplying nutritious recipes and guidelines, while providing advice on how to get the most out of the products we offer. This will present more opportunities to engage with community partners and sponsors to share information about community resources.

I would also like to increase the number of people we are able to assist with the Dollar for Dollar program in the surrounding community. As we continue to market our program, we plan to extend our services to even more SNAP recipients who purchase products at the market. By matching each dollar spent at the market for SNAP recipients, we hope to show that having limited access and/or resources does not exclude those with lower incomes from maintaining active, healthy lifestyles or producing positive habits in their everyday lives."

Stephanie Boone, PhD, MPHAssistant Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Population Health

“For 2018, I am particularly excited to collaborate with researchers at UL, Brown Cancer Center, and across the state to study the reasons for cancer disparities in KY.  Of interest is why some groups tend to have a poorer quality of life and survival after diagnosis compared to others? This type of research may have implications for possible survivorship interventions or programs to reduce cancer disparities.  My goal for this year is to pull together a multidisciplinary team to collaborate on submission of a paper for publication and a proposal for funding to better understand and address difficulties cancer survivors in KY may face. Through teaching and mentoring, my aspiration is to have an ongoing dialogue related to expanding critical thinking skills and productivity. I want students to feel confident moving forward in their careers!

On a personal note, I will continue to cherish every moment with my family (pictured: Matt and future epidemiologist, AJ)!”

Anne Wallis, PhD, MHSAssistant Professor

Department of Epidemiology and Population Health

"My goal is to continue working with our students and colleagues to make a serious and substantive contribution to what we think and how we think about global maternal and infant health, including maternal death, neonatal death, and the social position and health of women worldwide. I am deeply curious about societal-level influences on health and how we can use policy and science to remedy the gaps that persist between and among groups the world over. I want to improve epidemiologic methods to lend insight into the upstream predicates of maternal and infant health and fully understand what interventions work and why in order to implement evidence-based policy and practice.

This year, with the leadership of Dr. Robert Jacobs, we have initiated our first cohort of Global Maternal and Child Health MPH students. I am teaching the Foundations of Global Maternal and Child Health, Perinatal and Reproductive Epidemiology, and Child Health and Development in the coming year. The Global MCH MPH students are an excellent and diverse group of students who are fascinated with the challenges of global health. They are our future in public health – with them and along with our other graduate students, we CAN and WILL change the world!"

Susan Buchino, PhD, OTR/LAssistant Professor

Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

“My focus as a public health researcher is on health promotion and population well-being, ensuring that people have the resources they need to be as healthy as possible. My work aims to lift the voices of marginalized populations through qualitative research. In 2018, I am partnering with adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities to teach medical students about the health care needs and preferences of this population. I have also been working with homeless men to identify characteristics of their journeys into homelessness and the supports they might need to acquire and sustain housing. In addition, I evaluate innovative approaches by community partners to tackle systemic service gaps in both health care and social services.

In my teaching role, this spring I am excited to facilitate MPH student learning about collaborating with communities to enhance their capacity and identify strengths, resources, and needs during the assessment process.”

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