Cathy J. Bradley, PhD, is more than two months into her role as the newest dean of the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) and the first woman appointed to this position. She commemorated the beginning of her tenure at the 2023 State of the School Address by acknowledging the school’s history and her vision for its future over the next five years.
On Aug. 1, Bradley succeeded Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, who served as dean since October 2017. Under his leadership, ColoradoSPH was ranked as one of the top 20 graduate schools for public health by the U.S. News and World Report in 2023.
Samet “provided a strong foundation for the school’s future,” said Chancellor Don Elliman. “This is a much, much stronger school today than it once was several years ago.”
According to Samet, during the last 15 years since the ColoradoSPH began, the school has fulfilled its initial vision of becoming one of the nation’s premier institutions for public health education, research and training.
Now, Samet said, “it’s time for a grander vision” with Bradley at the helm.
ColoradoSPH seeks a stronger identity
Bradley cited a statement from the school’s Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, who referred to ColoradoSPH, the only tri-institutional public health school in the country, as ready to differentiate itself from other public health programs.
“To address this, we have to think about amplifying our strengths and addressing some challenges,” Bradley said.
Attendees applaud during the State of the School address for the Colorado School of Public Health on Oct. 18.
Headquartered at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, ColoradoSPH also includes educational programs, faculty, staff and students at Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).
ColoradoSPH’s collegial team, nationally ranked research, multi-campus model, and positive relationships in the community are some of its main assets, Bradley said.
In contrast, she pointed out several upcoming challenges, including building a sustainable funding model, designing a more student-focused curriculum, and establishing a strong culture, or sense of identity, within the school.
She also identified public health problems faced by Coloradans that she hopes to address as dean, including issues related to climate change, mental health, air quality, homelessness, drug overdoses, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“Our goal is to solve consequential problems in public health, reduce health inequities, enhance a culture of innovation, partner with communities with through engaged scholarship, and expand research partners and multidisciplinary approaches,” Bradley said.
One of her first action items was restructuring the Dean’s Office. She appointed Michelle Kuba, MPH, as the assistant dean of operations to help manage strategic operations and internal communication efforts, and Travis Leiker, MPA, as the assistant dean for external relations to continue strengthening relationships within the community.
‘We’re about to break some rules’
Bradley’s five-year plan includes initiatives to diversify the school’s portfolio, build stronger community ties, create a centralized budget, and seek more input from faculty, staff and students on how to continue fostering a cohesive workplace. She is also hosting a “Founding Funders” dinner with organizations and philanthropists who invested in ColoradoSPH early on to show gratitude and celebrate the school’s many accomplishments.
Looking ahead, she noted that she is ready to take risks as the new dean. “I’m prepared to dust off some apologies because we’re about to break some rules,” Bradley said. “This is our opportunity to show who we are.”
Elliman embraced this sentiment and encouraged Bradley to “push the envelope, be innovative, be agile, and take risks.”
View the recording of the 2023 State of the School Address on the school’s YouTube channel.
Guest contributor: Brittany Truong is a freelance writer specializing in health and science.