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Officially Stepping Into the Dana and David Dornsife Dean Role

Posted on May 30, 2024

By Dana and David Dornsife Dean Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH

Gina Lovasi headshot

This month, my title changed. I'm now honored to be the Dana and David Dornsife Dean, dropping the "interim" part that I have held since September. I am grateful to the search committee, leadership, external reviewers who played a role, and to the colleagues and students who have made my journey to this point joyful and meaningful.

Even though I have gotten to know many at the Dornsife School of Public Health since I joined the faculty in 2016, I am eager to continue learning about how we see ourselves and how we are seen. I've set a goal of having 100 listening tour conversations in the first 100 days, with many of these as walks. I take particular joy in these walks, having studied pedestrian environments and streetscapes environments, and the health implications of geographic contexts that support physical activity and social engagement.  

Conversations I've had so far have already included staff, faculty, alumni, scholars, supporters, and peer leaders. Several have highlighted treasured courses and programs at our school they would like to see reach more students. Many have expressed curiosity about my journey and my vision, so I'll highlight a small glimpse into each.

From my journey, something on my mind as we have a student-led flash sale for Dornsife School crewnecks and totes is a t-shirt from my graduate program. At University of Washington's epidemiology department, we had a design contest which resulted in t-shirts saying "Sensitive, but not specific," and I wore mine for years afterwards. I wore it on many walks and to the gym, not only in Seattle but later in Manhattan where I was at Columbia University for 10 years. There continues to be something that resonates with me about that tagline, perhaps because being sensitive to my surroundings and paying attention to the people around me is core to who I am. And while I thrive on focused work, what I work on and have curiosity about ranges widely. Being specific and somewhat narrow in one's professional interests is likely efficient, yet my interest in public health is broad. It spans the types of knowledge, and approaches to generating knowledge, that can inform what humans create and the ways we decide to structure our lives. And so many of the structures, systems, and settings we create are relevant to health, and to the degree to which health impairments block individual and collective human potential.

With regard to my vision, I feel it is important to preface that our school is due for a collective process to articulate a strategic plan. That said, I keep returning to the centrality going forward of cultivating a flexible array of communication channels. Our research growth in the past decade has been tremendous, and the landscape in which we communicate about findings is rapidly changing. I envision looking to flexibly and energetically share lessons and stories. Those ways should be sensitive to the needs and preferences of our audiences. Audience-friendly communications require going beyond traditional formats, building skills that are not specific only to reaching a specialized audience of peers. I see training and engagement in this space as a way to be effective both as producers and critical consumers of actionable information.

As we move forward, I hope all those connected to our school and committed to advancing public health will stay in the conversation.