Dedicated to Making a Difference

A portrait of Dr. Sue Curry, dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.Sue Curry stepped down as dean of the College of Public Health on April 1, 2017, to begin a new leadership role as interim executive vice president and provost of the University of Iowa.

Appointed College of Public Health dean in 2008, Curry oversaw a number of key milestones in the life of the young college, which will mark its 18th anniversary in August. Curry, who also served as a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy since 2008, praised faculty, staff, students, and alumni for their many contributions to the college and its ongoing success.

“As dean of the College of Public Health, I had the privilege to lead a highly productive and inno­vative unit dedicated to making a difference and creating brighter futures for people everywhere,” Curry says. “I’m proud of the many accomplish­ments we achieved together over the past nine years. The strength and vibrancy of the college’s academic, research, and engagement programs set the college on a path for continued growth, development, and distinction.”

Expanding Education

Major accomplishments during Curry’s tenure include guiding the development of the college’s burgeoning undergraduate programs, including expanding undergraduate course offerings, estab­lishing undergraduate-to-graduate combined degree options, and in 2016 launching new BA and BS degrees in public health.

“Sue’s advocacy of the undergraduate program and of collaborative teaching elevated our college as an educational leader,” says Tanya Uden-Holman, CPH associate dean for academic affairs. “She engaged our faculty in teaching undergraduate courses and fostered interdisci­plinary team-teaching across departments. For the undergrad-to-grad degrees, Sue led collaborations not only with departments on campus, but also formed partnerships with small liberal arts insti-tutions beyond the University of Iowa, which is really unique at the national level.”

Curry encouraged new multidisciplinary research initiatives that connect investigators across and beyond the UI campus, established and developed the Board of Regents-approved Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy, and elevated the college’s national rankings. She oversaw completion and dedication of a permanent home for the college, which currently serves more than 400 graduate and undergraduate students.

Curry also championed the implementation of interprofessional education in the health sciences at the UI.

“The College of Public Health took a lead­ership role to bring together the interprofessional education steering committee on campus,” says Uden-Holman. “The university now has an inter­professional education course that attracts more than 600 first-year students from across the health sciences each year.”

Bringing People Together

One of Curry’s strengths as dean was her skill in bringing people together. “Sue’s ability to connect and engage with people made the college about community,” Uden-Holman says. “She made sure everybody had the chance to participate.”

That same skill also helped Curry forge inno­vative partnerships with communities throughout Iowa. Several of those partnerships centered around the arts, including collaborations with the Working Group Theatre and Hancher.

“The first time I met Sue I immediately felt engaged by her spirit of collaboration,” recalls Chuck Swanson, executive director of Hancher. “Soon we discovered the similarity in the missions of the College of Public Health and Hancher, and we embarked on several ambitious and meaningful projects. The great work continues due to her commitment and belief in working together and creating strong partnerships across the University of Iowa campus.”

Another of Curry’s initiatives, the Business Leadership Network, reaches out to businesses and communities in Iowa to form collaborations around public health needs identified by local residents.

Continuing Excellence

The college also saw successful growth in philan­thropy. At the conclusion of the recent For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa, more than 1,913 donors had contributed a total of $40 million to the UI College of Public Health, surpassing its $25.8 million goal.

“Dr. Curry demonstrated strong leadership in the College of Public Health,” says UI President Bruce Harreld about Curry’s transition to interim provost. “I am pleased she was willing to take on this important role for the University of Iowa as we review our academic organizational structure and begin to implement our strategic plan.”

“I’m excited to serve the university in the role of interim provost,” Curry adds. “I look forward to working with colleagues across campus to ensure our university’s continued academic excellence and national leadership.

“I’m also very pleased that the College of Public Health will be led on an interim basis by Dr. Mueller, who brings outstanding leadership and knowledge of the college to the position,” Curry continues. “The college is an extraordinary example of a high-performing organization, and it has been my honor and privilege to serve as dean.”

This story originally appeared in the spring 2017 issue of InSight.

Curry examines sustainability of community-based youth smoking cessation programs

Sue Curry 2016
Sue Curry

Sustaining community-based public health programs presents numerous challenges to practitioners. However, a recent study of youth smoking cessation programs has uncovered commonalities that researchers hope will inform the development of more sustainable initiatives in the future.

The research team, led by Sue  Curry, dean and Distinguished Professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, surveyed 591 community-based youth smoking cessation programs nationwide to examine characteristics and correlates of sustainability over a three-year period. Follow-up surveys were completed with 305 programs.

Of the 305 programs completing the follow-up survey, 188 (62%) were still in operation, and the data from those respondents indicates several baseline correlates of sustainable operation, including serving a larger number of youth, well-trained staff, and receiving state funding as a sole source of support.

Commonly cited reasons for discontinuation include high cost of operation, funding cuts, low enrollment, and lack of trained staff. The full study is available online at Health Promotion Practice.

According to Curry, it is encouraging that many smoking cessation programs stay active over the long-term. “Our results highlight the importance both of continued state support for youth cessation and continued training and technical assistance for program staff,” she says.

Additionally, Curry thinks the findings of the study could help community leaders better understand how to create and implement other successful and sustainable programs. “Because we built on a general framework for understanding program sustainability, it is reasonable to extrapolate our findings to other community-based public health initiatives.”

Robin J. Mermelstein and Amy K. Sporer of the University of Illinois at Chicago also contributed to the study.

This study was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Support was also provided by the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.

 

Panel chaired by public health dean reports on Total Worker Health interventions

Sue Curry 2016A national panel of independent experts, chaired by University of Iowa College of Public Health Dean Sue Curry, has issued a new report evaluating the evidence for Total Worker Health interventions as well as a set of recommendations to advance the science of such efforts to improve the overall health of American workers.

The report concluded that a small body of evidence suggests that Total Worker Health (TWH) interventions — which aim to integrate injury and illness prevention efforts with work-related safety and health efforts — may help employees improve some health behaviors, but more research is necessary to determine whether these interventions decrease injuries or improve overall quality of life.

The report, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, summarizes a scientific review conducted by researchers for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), along with expert presentations and public comment at a 1.5-day workshop held in December 2015. The report also includes a response from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which first introduced the TWH model in 2011.

“While evidence was slim in most areas of interest, the researchers did find limited evidence that integrated Total Worker Health interventions can improve health behaviors, such as reducing tobacco use and sedentary behavior and improving diet,” noted Curry. “Our recommendations plot a course to support continued development of the science of integrated interventions in TWH research. Included in these recommendations is the critical need for investment in infrastructure to support the development of a seminal body of research.”

The full report is available online at www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/M16-0740

CPH Dean Sue Curry appointed vice chair of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

A portrait of Sue Curry of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.Sue Curry, dean of the UI College of Public Health and distinguished professor of health management and policy, has been appointed vice chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Curry was appointed by the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and her term will begin in March 2016.

“We are honored to have Dr. Curry return to the task force in a leadership role,” said vice chair David Grossman, M.D., M.P.H. “Her expertise in disease prevention and her experience with community-based and self-help interventions will be an important addition to the task force as we work to improve the health of all Americans.”

The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. The task force works to improve the health of all Americans by making recommendations about clinical preventive services, such as screenings, counseling services, or preventive medicines. Members come from many health-related fields, including public health, medicine, behavioral health, and nursing.

Curry has been dean of the College of Public Health since 2008. She previously served as a member of the USPSTF from January 2009 to December 2014. Her many professional activities include past service as vice chair of the board of directors of the Truth Initiative (formerly the American Legacy Foundation), member of the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors, and associate editor for clinical practice for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Curry was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) in 2010 and is a member of its Board on Population Health and a section chair.

Her research focuses on disease prevention and behavioral risk factor modification, with a primary focus on tobacco use. Curry’s research in tobacco includes studies of motivation to quit smoking, randomized trials of promising smoking cessation and prevention interventions, evaluations of the use and cost-effectiveness of tobacco cessation treatments under different health insurance plans, and health care costs and utilization associated with tobacco cessation.

 More information on the USPSTF is available at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org.