Message from the Dean


It’s been a privilege to serve the school as interim dean. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge some milestones of the past year and look ahead to important, upcoming events in 2024.

One highlight was being onstage during the December graduation ceremonies and presenting our Summer and Fall 2023 graduates with their degrees/certificates. SPHIS conferred 12 BA/BS degrees, 19 master's degrees, 12 PhD degrees, and 3 certificates in December. Our banner bearer for commencement was Ndeye Mboup. Recipients of the Fall Dean's Awards included Jessalyn Johnson (undergraduate), Erin Baughman (graduate), and Aastha Kakar (doctoral).

I’m also proud to share that the importance of SPHIS degree programs was recently highlighted by university leadership. After reviewing ten-year enrollment data, they noted that the number of students seeking a master’s in biostatistics has increased by over 700% in the last 10 years. Further, the enrollment in SPHIS doctoral programs increased from 38 to 69 over the same period.

Our faculty have increasingly been recognized for their contributions on campus and across the nation. Drs. Bakhee Gunaratnam and David Johnson were both recognized as Top Four Faculty Favorites in 2023. Given that SPHIS is the newest and one of the smallest of the UofL instructional units, it's even more remarkable that we house half of the Top Four group. Dr. Trinidad Jackson completed contributions to the ASPPH Framing the Future 2030 initiative for two expert panels: (1) Inclusive excellence through an anti-racism lens and (2) Transformative approaches to teaching and learning. He was also selected to participate as a Fellow of the 2024 New Leaders Council (NLC) Institute. 

Additionally, two of our faculty are part of major leadership programs. Dr. Tammi Thomas serves on the ASPPH Undergraduate Network Advisory Council and is finishing her yearlong participation in the ASPPH Academic Public Health Leadership Institute 2023-24. Dr. Brian Guinn was selected by UofL administration to join the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Leaders Network (ACC-ALN). Our staff have also been asked to serve ASPPH through service positions. Deepti Jain is a member of the SOPHAS Recruitment and Admissions Advisory Committee and Melissa Schreck is a Data Advisory Committee member.

As evidence of our commitment to community-engaged research, Dr. Ryan Combs has a $250,000 grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund to plan and implement an evidence-based, trauma and resilience education curriculum for healthcare providers and trainees to improve health outcomes for LGBTQ+ adolescents. Dr. Aishia Brown received $200,000 in funding also from the Jewish Heritage Fund to support her Social Justice Youth Development Certificate Program.

The Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky (CIK), under the leadership of Dr. Seyed Karimi, is sponsoring a new public health seminar series for faculty, students, alumni, and partners.  The seminar is held most Wednesdays from 12-1 p.m. in person at the School of Public Health & Information Sciences, room 103, or via Teams. Dr. Demetra Antimisiaris is also piloting new multidisciplinary continuing education (CE) credits for this series so that public health and healthcare professionals can receive discipline-specific CE credits. 

Looking ahead, the great American solar eclipse of 2024 occurs during the afternoon of Monday, April 8, starting off the week of our new dean's arrival. Several events are being planned to introduce SPHIS and the community to Dr. Kathryn Cardarelli this month. We know you will want to join us in extending her a warm welcome from our school, the University of Louisville, and the wider community.

Paul McKinney, MD
Interim Dean and Professor
UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Times of Transition -- Fall 2023

The Fall 2023 semester has gotten off to a great start. Students are back on campus in record numbers, with UofL enrolling its largest freshman class ever with over 3,100 students. Additionally, SPHIS set a new record with 340 students enrolled in our graduate programs, and we exceeded our goal for undergraduate enrollment in public health by 21%.

During the last few months, the university has undergone a rapid change in leadership, with six new interim deans, two new permanent deans, and a new president who was inaugurated on Friday, Sept. 29. At SPHIS, we welcomed new faculty members: Dr. Wei Fu in the Dept. of Health Management and Systems Science and Dr. Jovita Murillo León in the Dept. of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science. I’m also pleased to report that, thanks to a donor’s generosity, the classrooms in our building on E. Gray Street received significant technology upgrades. We installed new touchscreen monitors, microphones, and cameras that will improve our students’ experiences both in-person and remote.

During this time of transition, however, our core values have not changed. The university and SPHIS have affirmed our commitment to social justice and serving all students equally, regardless of racial and ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, native language, age, political opinion, religion, economic or social situation. Additionally, with UofL’s support, there will be an enhanced first year experience for undergraduate students and new opportunities to provide them with faculty mentorship. Our faculty and staff continue to excel, with 15 members of the SPHIS community being named 2023 Student Champions.  We’ve also named our 2023 Alumni Fellow, Kimberly H. Mascaro ’13. We invite you to the celebration of Mascaro on October 24, with both in-person and virtual opportunities to attend.

While there is collective relief that we’ve transitioned out of the public health emergency related to COVID-19, we are aware that the number of infections and hospitalizations has risen somewhat in recent weeks. Presently, there are no plans to reimplement any pandemic era requirements, but UofL Campus Health will be monitoring the situation as the semester progresses. As was the case during the pandemic, eligible students are urged to receive immunization with the new COVID vaccine formulation and with the latest influenza vaccines as soon as they become available. Students who may become ill should not be in class and should report to Campus Health for testing.

This semester, I want to encourage our students to engage in opportunities for research and for service to the community, as opportunities arise. Several service options are already available, including the Compassion Clinic  and neighborhood health fairs, that student leadership will bring to your attention. It is also time for all eligible individuals to engage with our democracy by registering to vote and learning about the candidates, given that major elections are coming up in Kentucky this November and nationally as we enter the presidential election year of 2024.

As interim dean, I hope to have the chance to meet and discuss opportunities for professional growth and our school’s vision with many of you. UofL's Homecoming Week is a great way to connect and I encourage you to participate in our annual Raise Some L campaign. Also, if you will be attending the APHA Annual Meeting in Atlanta in November, please feel free to reach out so we can connect at our Alumni and Friends Celebration on November 13. Please feel free to give me your feedback on how we can best meet your needs and prepare for the next transition in leadership as we anticipate a new permanent dean.

Best regards,

Paul McKinney, MD
Interim Dean and Professor
UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Summer 2023

W. Paul McKinney, MD, professor, associate dean for research, and director of the Clinical Investigation Sciences program, has been appointed interim dean of the School of Public Health and Information Sciences, effective July 1, 2023.  

Dr. McKinney possesses qualities that faculty, staff and students expressed wanting in an interim dean at recent listening sessions with the Provost’s Office. He also brings a wealth of experience to the appointed role. 

He arrived at the University of Louisville in 1995 as the V.V. Cooke Chair in Medicine and the chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine. His prior training and experience included two years with the Centers for Disease Control as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, five years as hospital epidemiologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and five years as section chief in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas/Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. His interest in international health led to the establishment of the UofL’s first International Travel Medicine Clinic in 1996. Due to increasing levels of concern for biodefense in the wake of the anthrax attacks of 2001, he helped formulate the UofL Center for Health Hazards Preparedness that was subsequently supported by a series of federal grants over 10 years. When the School of Public Health and Information Sciences was formally established in 2004, he was appointed as an associate dean and later led the successful efforts for its initial accreditation. 

Dr. McKinney explained that he feels honored to serve the school in this new role. He said, “I am committed to continuing Dean Blakely’s legacy by striving to demonstrate the high level of support for our outstanding faculty, staff, learners and community that he provided, and I look forward to working with our dedicated partners at the local and state level to ensure that we meaningfully advance important measures of public health across the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Starting in late April, Dr. McKinney worked closely with Dean Blakely to ensure he was thoroughly onboarded before Dean Blakely retired on June 30. Dr. K.B. Kulasekera, professor and chair, has assumed the duties of Associate Dean of Research, replacing Dr. McKinney on an interim basis.

The search is underway for a permanent dean of the School of Public Health and Information Sciences and is expected to conclude by late fall 2023. [add job opening link]

Learn more about Dr. McKinney.

Read an archive of past messages from Dean Craig Blakely

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