From the Dean
It has been a horrifying period, but the world has focused on public health, and public health has proven itself resilient.
As this issue of Carolina Public Health reaches you, we are emerging slowly from a dark period of pandemic, more than two years of sickness, deaths, economic shock, mental health crises, and profound health and social inequities. Many bachelor’s and master’s students spent most of their days as students masked, in virtual classes and barely recognizing one another’s faces. All students, faculty and staff were affected, and yet most found positive ways to cope with the enormously difficult hand we were dealt. As we tentatively cast aside our masks, we are finding joy in really seeing one another, being together and allowing ourselves to feel hope that better days are ahead. The pandemic is not over, but we are finding our resilience.
It has been a horrifying period, but the world has focused on public health, and public health has proven itself resilient. Gillings has been strong and a major contributor to recovery. I am so proud of our people, who have done so much on so many levels to end the scourge we have faced. Courage, compassion, relentless focus, boldness and innovation have marked our immediate and extended Gillings population. We have stood by the people on the front lines of public health and health care and worked with communities to save lives and preserve prosperity. Public health has never been more important, and we must not allow that lesson to be lost.
"Knowledge applied is knowledge that can improve lives. That’s been a theme of this school since its inception. It is a bedrock commitment that has driven every dean of the school."
— Dean Barbara K. Rimer
Our research programs have contributed immensely to taming the pandemic, but our long-term contributions will be felt not just by the strength of our academic and research programs but through our capacity to turn research evidence into practice that benefits communities in North Carolina and around the world. The Gillings School was born in the aftermath of World War I and the 1918 pandemic. It was a time of poverty, want and great social inequity. N.C. invested in the first school of public health in a public university — a statement of belief in the future and recognition of the synergistic relationship between the university, citizens of N.C. and the urgent need to harness knowledge for good. Knowledge applied is knowledge that can improve lives. That’s been a theme of this School since its inception. It is a bedrock commitment that has driven every dean of the school.
This issue of Carolina Public Health is focused especially on our practice mission. As a public school of public health, we should never lose sight of the public — the people who must be in our front view every day as we do our work. It is a sacred obligation and responsibility to benefit the people of N.C. and the world. It is a responsibility that has motivated me every day that I have had the privilege of serving as this School’s dean. It is a commitment that should never be lost. Our impact is felt most profoundly in the students we train and in the ways we turn knowledge into value. Practice is one of the most fundamental ways that occurs.
Gillings is once more the top public school of public health, tied for number two overall (U.S. News and World Report, 2023 rankings). It is fitting that the last issue of Carolina Public Health during my time as dean is focused on practice. Practice will be a key determinant of the Gillings School’s strength and impact in the years to come. As you will read in this issue, we are completing a major strategic planning effort focused on practice — a recommitment to this essential area, on equal footing with research and academics. If implemented, the plan will solidify the School’s reputation as the top practice school. I encourage our donors and friends to increase their support for Gillings practice. It is as worthy of investment as gifts for academics and research. Thank you to all our donors and friends. You help to make the Gillings School the great institution it is today, and your investments lay the foundation for an even more brilliant future.
Barbara K. Rimer