Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Robert Esterhay

Bob Esterhay

After over two decades at UofL, Robert Esterhay, MD, retired on June 30, 2021, as Associate Professor in the Department of Health Management and Systems Sciences. He has been named Associate Professor Emeritus, an honorary title giving to those recognized for distinguished academic service at UofL. 

Dr. Esterhay had been a part of the School of Public Health and Information Sciences since its inception in 2002. He was the first chair for the Dept. of Health Management & Systems Sciences (HMSS) and served in this role for more than 11 years. He was also Acting Chair for the Dept. of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics for two years. One of Dr. Esterhay’s fondest memories was when the school moved out of the K-Building (School of Nursing) to its current location in 2009 because it “symbolized that we were really now going to be a School of Public Health and Information Sciences.”

Prior to working at SPHIS, Dr. Esterhay spent five years as an Associate Professor and Medical Director for Information Systems in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UofL School of Medicine. Before that, he was with the National Cancer Institute for almost 20 years and spent three years as a senior program manager at Kindred Healthcare. His background includes a BA in Chemistry from Harvard University and an MD from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Dr. Esterhay feels his most meaningful contribution to SPHIS was the top-notch talent he was able to recruit including Drs. Craig Blakely, K.B. Kulasekera, Chris Johnson, Richard Wilson, and Bert Little. Chris Johnson, PhD, Chair of HMSS, said, “It was my distinct pleasure to work with Bob over these past seven years. He greatly helped with my adjustment to the University of Louisville and continues to be a valued colleague, mentor, and partner in the development of our department.”

Other notable accomplishments were creating the Louisville Health Information Exchange, a person-centered data sharing effort, and serving as the first co-chair of the Kentucky Health Information Exchange Board, representing the President of the University of Louisville.

Starting the doctoral program in Health Management and System Sciences was also a point of pride for Dr. Esterhay. Over the course of his career, he served on 25 PhD dissertation committees. He said, “I am very proud of the graduates of this program who have gone on to impressive careers working for healthcare companies and academic health organizations in the U.S. and abroad.”

His favorite class was “Introduction to Health Systems,” because he enjoyed how engaged the students were in class and having the opportunity to teach it alongside his colleague Judah Thornewill, PhD.

When asked to offer parting advice for students, his message to them was: “Do your best. Follow your dreams and passions, listen to others, take time to reflect, and set goals for yourself.” He added that for careers in public health one should “look forward to large-scale collaboration efforts and working with a team of individuals to get things done.”

“Dr. Esterhay will be greatly missed by our students, staff, and faculty! I wish him all the best during his retirement and hope that he will continue to participate in department activities as time allows,” said Dr. Johnson.

In retirement, Dr. Esterhay plans to downsize, visit his grandchildren, catch up on reading, and attend concerts and sporting events.

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