Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
My undergraduate degree is from UGA (A.B. in political science ‘89) and my master’s degree (M.P.A.’91) 1991) also is from UGA—so that makes me a double-DAWG. I also have a Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University (‘02). I currently am a tenured professor in the department of health policy and management in the College of Public Health.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I joined the UGA faculty in 2006 to be a part of the exciting creation and development of the College of Public Health and the department of health policy and management. I was the founding head of this department from 2009-2012. Before coming to UGA, I worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for 15 years. What a wonderful place to grow up and learn the importance of public health! Leaving CDC was a tough decision, but if you have ever commuted into Atlanta on a daily basis, then you understand at least one reason for me leaving. Academia is so very different from the federal government, and I was on a very steep learning curve when I first arrived at UGA. But finding the right mentors on campus really helped me with the transition.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite course to teach is Introduction to Health Policy and Management (HPAM 7010), which is a core class in our M.P.H. program. (I teach a similar version HPAM 3600 for undergraduates). I love this course because there is no better time in history to be engaged in the policies of healthcare reform. In my class, we have very frank discussions about our current healthcare system (the good, the bad and the ugly) and about the options available for improving the system. We try to be apolitical in our discussions, try to take the rhetoric out and keep the analytical and rational thinking in. I think our UGA students are brilliant in their ideas for the future of healthcare and public health.
What interests you about your field?
My specific area of research is economic evaluation applied to public health interventions in the areas of violence and substance abuse prevention. In other words, I am interested in how the costs of public health interventions compare to the health outcomes that are impacted by these interventions. This type of research is really critical right now, more than any other time, because our public health resources are decreasing, and we really must figure out how to efficiently allocate our resources.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
The highlights of my career in the last few years:
- receiving a college award for excellence in teaching
- receiving a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct an economic evaluation of a substance abuse prevention program here in Georgia
- becoming tenured and promoted
- being asked to be on an Institute of Medicine panel on child maltreatment research
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching and vice versa?
My research in economic evaluation definitely inspires my teaching, i.e.: HPAM 8850: Cost-effectiveness analysis in health. This class is quite rigorous, but I think the students benefit from me bringing in examples from my research into the classroom setting.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
If students can walk away from my courses with the analytic skill to conduct economic evaluations or to analyze policy alternatives from all angles, then I have succeeded as a teacher. I think with so much political rhetoric available to students from all media sources, it becomes quite easy to regurgitate what one hears (or reads). But I want students to think for themselves about health policy issues, to hear all angles of the same story and decide for themselves what is the best approach, to put their political views aside and really think through the implications of policy decisions—implications for health and for our economy.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is a policy “wonk”—one who is up on their current events and who wants to debate the issues with me.
Beyond the UGA campus…
I live in Gainesville, so I don’t really get to hang out in Athens much at all. On the weekends, I spend every minute with my husband and two children. We love tennis and have become quite the match-up in doubles. Traveling is another thing I love to do, and my children are at the age in which they can now join me on some of my trips. There is no better education than experiencing different cultures.
Community/civic involvement includes….
Both my husband and I support a number of non-profit organizations in Hall County, specifically in the areas of domestic violence and child maltreatment prevention.
Other pertinent information you wish to share…
I am the co-host of a TV show that airs on WUGA called Public Health Impact. We are in the third season of the show, which is supported by the College of Public Health, and we are about to launch into a much larger viewing audience in all of Northeast Georgia and in some select Atlanta metro areas. The show is all about current public health topics and features the research we do, as well as spotlighting students and public health leaders around the state.