Message from the Dean

September 2020

Craig Blakely

Fall semester is underway and we are back to the business of teaching, learning, and researching. We continue working with our state and local partners and are preparing for our virtual reaccreditation site visit (Sept. 16–18) with the Council on Public Health Education.

However, this semester is very different compared to last fall or the start of any academic year I can recall. The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined how we do business and how we all operate in almost every phase of our public and personal lives. It is the most impactful infectious disease outbreak in the last century. The pandemic has contributed directly to the largest economic slowdown in 90 years and we will feel the repercussions of that for years to come. We are also witnessing a re-energized anti-racism movement in America like we have not seen in 60 years. Louisville is about to become the global epicenter of this movement as the Kentucky Attorney General is about to conclude his investigation of LMPD behavior in the murder of Breonna Taylor.

These storms are wreaking havoc on everything we know.  We have been working extremely hard to create a climate on campus that recognizes how each and every one of us are affected. We are trying to provide a redefined on-campus experience for our new and returning students. We seek best-practice strategies for the safest way to welcome students to campus, provide instruction, and create a learning environment that is UofL’s own version of post-secondary education at a community-engaged, Research 1 Urban University.

These continue to be somewhat uncharted waters, but we are heading down this road together with faculty and staff who are committed to delivering a great educational experience in a safe setting. Of course, to be successful at this effort, we will need a parallel commitment from all of you. Further, as the academic public health community, we are all called on to be the most knowledgeable and best role models for safe behavior.

We are eager to get on with the 2020-21 academic year. There are many new things going on at the school—from new academic programs to new and innovative research and service projects. We have experienced huge growth in student numbers in public health that are reflective of the national trend in the last five months. Yes, there should be many jobs in public health settings for the next several years as we finally recognize the errors in our ways as we collectively dismantled much of our post 9/11 public health infrastructure. In fact, our local health department has 74 openings right now.

Remember, masks help reduce exposure and spread. Wear yours religiously and lean on others who may choose not to do so. The University of North Carolina announced, after one week of classes and an ensuing growth in cases, that they would immediately return to fully remote instructional models. We are prepared to do the same if we must, but we have a real opportunity to make a hybrid environment work if we pull together. Two weeks into the process, we seem to be managing. Help us stay the course.

Be careful, be safe, and stay healthy.

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Dr. Craig Blakely

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