The university significantly expands educational and research expertise in key health sectors initiative through strategic recruitment and investments
WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana – A strategic recruitment effort to expand Purdue University’s focus on public health and health equity while diversifying the racial makeup of its faculty reached a milestone, with 11 new faculty members beginning their academic careers at Boilermaker this fall.
These new faculty members, appointed as part of the inaugural group recruitment search jointly with Purdue’s centrally supported Equity staff, span six departments in the Colleges of Health, Humanities and Pharmacy, and the Library and College of Information Studies.
“This distinguished cadre of new faculty at the Boilermaker will enhance our growing impact on public health and will lead Purdue University’s research and teaching excellence and engagement in public health and health equity,” said Marion Underwood, Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.
Underwood developed the Purdue Group recruitment proposal, which called for a significant investment by the university in public health and health equity, in collaboration with Eric Parker, and Jenny and Jim Chaney, Dean of Pharmacy; Karen Plaut, specimen Glenn W. Dean of Agriculture; Willie Reed, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
A key component of a $75 million multi-year effort by Purdue’s Equity Task Force and Purdue’s Board of Trustees has been a set of interdisciplinary cross-campus cluster assignments driven by comprehensive research designed to bring a diverse group of exceptional scholars to Purdue, John Gates, said. Purdue University Chair for Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
“Recruiting these distinguished scholars is an important step in response to our call for a more diverse campus. We know that a more diverse faculty and student body fosters research and learning across our entire university,” Gates said.
The employment landscape is particularly favorable in the field of public health, with a strong group of young black faculty across the country seeking tenure opportunities in the field, which also covers politics, equity and other growing areas of study and research.
Andrea Hayes, the new assistant professor of Library and Information Studies, who has experience with public health literacy among underrepresented and disadvantaged populations, said.
“We need more equity and diversification of faculty positions in higher education to make the desired impact in our global health community. Purdue is taking these important steps to make it happen. It may be a toxic and lofty goal, but we have to aim high.”
Furthermore, the focus on public health is in line with Purdue’s current and future plans, drawing on the growing numbers of distinguished and diverse scholars with degrees in public health and health equity, according to 2020 NSF Survey of Earned Ph.D..
“Expanding and supporting Purdue’s academic diversity and increasing the number of underrepresented faculty on our growing campus increases our distinction and represents an important step in advancing our progress in public health and health equity,” Underwood said. “The experience and perspectives these fellows bring will enhance our teaching and learning environment, interdisciplinary research, and community engagement.”
Carlos Mahaffey arrives this semester as an assistant professor of public health at the Purdue School of Health and Human Sciences. He comes from Oklahoma State University, and has plans to advance his research and scholarship in the field of sexual health.
“We really want to see ourselves out there,” said Mahaffey, who has a doctorate in pharmacology from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree in public health from Morehouse School of Medicine. “Just being here sends a message to other black scholars looking for opportunities to advance in academia that Purdue supports a culture of diversity and makes it a top priority.”
An emerging practice in higher education that emerged in the late 1990s, mass recruitment involves adding faculty to multiple departments or faculties on interdisciplinary research topics, or “groups”. Purdue University has previously used this recruitment strategy to successfully strengthen specific areas of research.
The 11 faculty members who arrive through this strategic cluster to seek employment in public health and health equity bring extraordinary breadth and depth to scholarship and research excellence, and stand out in their own research. These areas of academic expertise range from mental health disparities, preventive health behavior promotion and health policy to epidemiology, biostatistics, nutrition and dietetics, health intervention and promotion programs for marginalized communities. The faculty members who began their academic career at Boilermaker this fall are:
- College of Health and Human Sciences / Department of Human Development and Family Studies: Paul Robins (Duke University).
- HHS / Nursing: Haocen Wang (Texas A&M University) and sojong jo (Arizona State University).
- HHS/Nutrition Science: Patricia Wolf (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).
- HHS/Public Health: Shandy Malcolm (National Epidemiologist for Turks and Caicos), Carlos Mahaffey (Oklahoma State University), Afsan Bhadelia (Harvard School of Public Health) and Buccola Usedam (University of Michigan).
- Libraries and College of Information Studies: Andrea Hayes (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).
- Pharmacy / Pharmacy Practice: Varia Choudary (St. Joseph Health System) and Michael Preston (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).
A recruitment search for the Public Health and Health Equity Cluster will be relaunched this fall for three vacancies in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and the Departments of Health Sciences and Sociology.
In conjunction with the efforts of the Equity Task Force and Purdue’s expanded focus on public health and health equity, Dr. Jerome Adams, former Indiana State Health Commissioner and 20th US Surgeon General, has been appointed as a Presidential Fellow and CEO of Purdue Health Equity. Initiatives in October 2021. He also serves as Professor of Practice in the Departments of Pharmaceutical Practice and Public Health and as a faculty member at the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering in Purdue.
In addition, two new groups of faculty will be launched this fall, with a total of eight positions:
- The first focuses on urban environments and sustainable and equitable diets. Employees are likely to settle in one or more of the five departments of the Faculty of Agriculture (Agricultural Engineering, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Food Science, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and/or Agricultural Economics).
- The second is the prevention and treatment of antimicrobial resistance. The target employees are in the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine, Science and Agriculture (Comparative Biology, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Chemistry, Biological Sciences and Animal Sciences).
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