Institute for Public Health holds inaugural symposium

2008 Institute for Public Health Conference Summary

The new Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis hosted its inaugural symposium on Sept. 5, 2008 at the Eric P. Newman Education Center at Washington University Medical Center.

The conference symposium began at 8:30 a.m. with an overview of the institute. The overall goal of the event was to raise awareness of public health research and service activities currently conducted at the university.

“There is a significant amount of public health related work already underway at Washington University,” says Edward F. Lawlor, PhD, dean of the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor.

“Through the interdisciplinary focus of the institute, we can tackle public health issues in innovative ways. One of our primary goals is to help improve health status right here in St. Louis.”

Lawlor is the founding director of the Institute for Public Health.

Harvey Fineberg, MD, president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, presented a keynote address on “Quality, Efficiency and Value in Health Care.”

Additional highlights of the conference included panel discussions and poster sessions on community and international public health initiatives at Washington University in St. Louis as well as a panel focused on opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration in improving public health regionally and internationally.

Lawlor and Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, the Niess-Gain Professor and associate director of prevention and control at the Siteman Cancer Center, gave closing remarks. Colditz is the institute’s deputy director.

The Institute for Public Health aims to:

  • improve community and international health by creating new knowledge
  • produce new forms of public health teaching and research
  • bring medical, social and physical science discoveries to the community
  • train advanced academic and practice leaders in public health

The institute will draw expertise from across the university and will focus on supporting cross-campus collaborations in the field. A faculty advisory council will facilitate interdisciplinary programs and research in the following areas: genetics and population health, health disparities in the St. Louis region, international diseases and interventions, environment and health, and health services and policy. These initial areas of focus reflect current faculty expertise across the university.

“The interdisciplinary nature of the institute and the breadth of expertise among faculty members at the university is extremely exciting and encouraging,” Colditz says.

“The magnitude of public health challenges calls for approaches that are broader than traditionally undertaken from one or two disciplines. To eliminate health disparities, for example, will require new approaches integrating efforts from many disciplines. The five areas the institute will focus on were driven by the needs of the community and the ongoing research activities of faculty members across the university.”

Washington University faculty with research, teaching and experience working in the field of community health can apply to be scholars at the Institute for Public Health. Scholars will participate in institute programs, lectures and workgroups focused on addressing community, regional and international public health issues. Small grants will be available to teams of scholars to seed interdisciplinary programs and projects.

Over time, the institute will be developing infrastructure to foster collaborative public health research, teaching and service across the campus.

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