Coming into my role as the Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, I have many ideas about what the school can achieve but in the first month, I listened to you – the Colorado public health community. I am fortunate to have established relationships within the school and I leaned heavily on them to gain insight. I also reached out to our constituent leaders to learn where our influence and expertise is most needed. The energy from the community and from within the school is truly special and it excites me to see what, together, we can accomplish. In my first monthly communication, I wanted to share some of the insights I gathered and how they interplay with the vision for ColoradoSPH.
One of the first questions I received in one of these meetings was, “Where do I want to take the school?” The conversation quickly evolved and moved away from where I wanted to take ColoradoSPH to “Look at all the amazing things we can accomplish together.” Comments like, “bolster the public health infrastructure” and “tap into the expertise the school offers” summarized common themes. Another constituent felt ColoradoSPH can play a larger role in public health practice by taking “research to relevance.” The energy of our community partners was equally met by our internal team.
Building on the vision of our founding funders whose support made it possible to start the school 15 years ago, we have risen as a leader in our local, regional, national, and international communities. With this in mind, the response to the question of where I want to take the school is to accelerate with greater Reach, and more Inclusivity, to Surpass and Expand upon what we are achieving—I want ColoradoSPH to RISE. To summarize:
Reach: I envision extending our partnerships and practice, especially throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Our multi-campus model gives us a leg-up in this regard.
Inclusivity: A fundamental value of our school, we will be committed to leaving no communities behind and strive for equity in everything we do.
Surpass: I want to see ColoradoSPH push beyond the status quo. While there is broad consensus on our remarkable achievements, we can go even further.
Expand: This is a reflection of our depth in subject matter and relevance to our community, aligned with our “research to relevance” mission.
RISE is a framework for my vision, a framework that applies to initial priorities of climate change and health, population mental health, and chronic disease where we partner with national, state, and local health organizations to support the public health infrastructure, building on lessons learned during COVID.
Developments in our school demonstrate our readiness to expand our leadership in climate change and health. We have a new PhD program in Climate and Human Health, research teams examining water and air quality, and working to address exposures from innumerable conditions that lessen the quality of life we could otherwise achieve. We are poised to inform policy and practice throughout the beautiful Rocky Mountain region where the conditions are uniquely challenging but amenable to change. Partnerships leveraged through our multi-campus model with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado, and with our colleagues in the CU School of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, and School of Dental Medicine, other partners at CU Boulder and CU Denver, and in state and local health departments, will amplify our impact, perhaps through a new research center that will become a nexus for collaboration.
Our school has responded to emerging mental health crises by expanding the depth of research we do in population mental health. Our faculty are focused on seemingly unsolvable problems, and they are developing interventions for prevention of injury, suicide, and the conditions that lead to homelessness, inadequate access to care, and health inequities. These conditions disproportionately affect people already facing challenges from racism, low-income and education, and lack of access. Nonetheless, inspiring research by our faculty address conditions that affect children pre-natal through adulthood, workers’ mental health, patients struggling with disease and addiction, and individuals at greater risk of injury from a multitude of causes. Building on this strong foundation, we can include more communities and bolster the conditions that support mental health through our research, educational offerings, best practices, and philanthropy. Many opportunities exist.
Chronic disease remains a leading cause of death in Colorado. Cancer is the leading cause, followed by heart disease (#2) and diabetes (#8). The Colorado School of Public Health has outstanding faculty members who are international leaders in reducing the health burden from these conditions. Additionally, our faculty are leaders in disease-focused research centers on our campuses. We see progress. Colorado ranks favorably compared to death rates in the rest of the nation: we are 48th, 49th, and 45th in cancer, heart disease, and diabetes mortality, respectively, despite these conditions being among the state’s leading causes of death. Our “research to relevance” is part of this success, but we can surpass these rates by ensuring that all communities have the same level of benefit through our inclusivity lens. By leveraging partnerships within our multi-campus model and with UCHealth, I plan to grow our school through strategic faculty recruitments and student training programs that are aligned with the mission of our partners both on and off campus. We can capitalize on these well-established relationships to further our mission towards a healthier Colorado and nation.
I extend an opportunity for full participation in developing an updated strategic plan for the Colorado School of Public Health in the fall. Our leadership team alongside students and community partners will engage in strategic planning that addresses the priorities I outlined and any emerging ones. I value your input and will provide opportunities for broad engagement. Each of you, whether faculty, staff, student, or supporter, is an integral part of our Colorado School of Public Health family. Collectively, our goal will be to look for opportunities to RISE. So, I ask you: “Where do you want to take the school?”
I am inspired by the dedication and passion from the public health community in Colorado, and I look forward to what we can achieve together.
Cathy Bradley, PhD
Dean & Professor, Colorado School of Public Health
Deputy Director, University of Colorado Cancer Center