Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, the third and longest-serving dean of the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH), will step down from the top post pending a completed nationwide search for his replacement, administrators announced today.
Samet came to ColoradoSPH, which encompasses programs on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Colorado State University and University of Northern Colorado campuses, in 2017 as an accomplished medical professional, scientist and administrator. Since then, the internationally recognized leader in the field has led the school through countless challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In his five years at the helm, Dean Samet has elevated the competitive profile of the Colorado School of Public Health and boosted the visibility of public health as an essential field on the national stage,” said CU Anschutz Chancellor Donald Elliman, who made the announcement with Roderick Nairn, executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.
“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges and disruptions, Samet has been unwavering in his efforts to further advance the school’s education and research programs and strengthen its community connections.”
“We are exceptionally fortunate," Nairn said, "to have had an internationally renowned public health scholar and leader like Dr. Samet. His outstanding reputation in the field and his many contributions to CU, the state, the nation and beyond have further elevated the status of our school.”
Captain of the ship through COVID waters
Samet, who will remain with the university as a faculty member, forged strong partnerships with the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local health departments, making the school an integral player in the state’s response to COVID-19.
“The school responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with remarkable resiliency and launched numerous activities and collaborations that supported the broad response to the pandemic,” said Samet, who helped guide Gov. Jared Polis through the pandemic, earning the nickname from the governor as Colorado’s “Dr. Fauci.”
“We quickly pivoted in all of our activities to sustain and advance them,” Samet said. “Important to me, over the five years that I have been dean, the school has more broadly embraced its mission as a critical resource for public health in the state, the region and beyond.”
Samet, known for his ability to effectively translate research into action, plans to focus on important projects that awaited on the sideline during his tenure as dean. “Stepping away from being dean will allow me to continue to take on important public health challenges, hopefully with more bandwidth than I have had over the last five years,” he said.
‘New decade of forward momentum’
Samet joined ColoradoSPH at its 10-year mark, when it needed strong leadership. “Dr. Samet took the helm of the school at a pivotal time in its evolution as one of the only tri-institutional public health schools in the country,” Elliman said. “He brought expertise, connections and ideas that catapulted the school into a new decade of forward momentum.”
Samet’s successes during his tenure were many and included:
- Advancing ColoradoSPH’s national ranking to within the top 20 of all graduate schools of public health in the country.
- Launching the school into the top 20 in National Institutes of Health funding.
- Increasing the school’s annual research funding to over $31 million.
- Emphasizing equity, diversity and inclusion at ColoradoSPH and in its strategic plan.
- Naming Cerise Hunt, PhD, MSW, as the school’s first associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Laying out an innovative and ambitious strategic plan for the school’s continued growth.
- Leading modeling efforts that guided the state through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Strengthening relationships with the state and local health departments and the community.
- Elevating science, public health and ColoradoSPH in the public eye. Samet was cited more than 1,300 times in the national media since March 2020.
Both Elliman and Samet assured that ColoradoSPH is in a good place for a new transition and will remain strong.
‘Built an enduring legacy’
“Dr. Samet has built an enduring legacy, and we are grateful for the strong foundation he has laid for the school’s continued growth and development,” Elliman said.
One “bright side” of the pandemic, Samet said, was that it brought public health to the fore, creating a surge of interest and motivated students. “The interest in public health should be sustained, and the need for trained public health professionals should grow. We are well-positioned to respond as Colorado’s only school of public health.
Elliman expressed gratitude for Samet’s “outstanding” contributions.
“The strategic plan he put in place promises to take ColoradoSPH to new and greater heights, and to advance diversity and equity in all areas of the school’s mission. His leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has helped the state of Colorado navigate uncharted waters, and the close connections he has forged with local and national public health partners are simply invaluable for the future.”