2022 Year in Review: College of Health
This was a year of transition and emergence. The Delta and Omicron coronavirus waves began to give way to a more endemic phase of the pandemic. Then, we were tested again with a “triple-demic.” This new normal presented its own headwinds. We face challenges with workforce, professional and personal burnout, equity, access, and the need for more space—all while our city and state continue to experience rapid population growth.
Amidst these challenges, we have a clear and exciting path forward. We continue to work together and lead with our values, promoting well-being and belonging. We innovate new approaches to providing world-class and compassionate care to our patients, offering unparalleled education and training for our many learners, and advancing scientific research and knowledge that changes the world, all in service to our communities. To share a few glimpses of that great work, each of our health science deans compiled “2022 Year in Review” narratives that reflect our ongoing efforts to excel in our missions. Please enjoy reading about the accomplishments of your colleagues in our schools and colleges at the University of Utah.
— Michael Good, MD
As we began transitioning to a new normal in 2022, the University of Utah College of Health (COH) experienced a significant transition of its own. Dean David H. Perrin, PhD, retired mid-year after eight fruitful years with the college, and I assumed the role of interim dean. Throughout a busy 2022, we welcomed more new leaders, kickstarted a first-of-its-kind extension program, celebrated the construction of an important research facility, and launched a new magazine.
After eight years serving the COH, Dean David H. Perrin retired in June. Perrin made many significant positive impacts during his tenure. Some of his accomplishments include:
- Expanding the COH’s research portfolio from $10.5 million in FY2016 to $75.4 million in FY2022.
- Successfully navigating the COVID-19 pandemic with pivots to online learning and telehealth services.
- Facilitating the renovation of the new HPER Research Facility.
- Championing diversity and inclusion initiatives.
At the time of Perrin’s retirement, I had recently retired as chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, where I’d worked for many years. I accepted the opportunity to serve as interim dean knowing I had big shoes to fill. As a proud University of Utah graduate, I have spent my entire teaching career at the U, starting as a clinical assistant professor in 1987. A nationwide search is underway for the next dean.
I’m not the only one in a new role for the COH. In January, Julie Lucero, PhD, and Paul Estabrooks, PhD, joined in new associate dean positions.
Lucero is the college’s inaugural associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion. She previously directed the Latino Research Center in the College of Liberal Arts and was an associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Reno. Lucero’s research agenda focuses on health inequities and diversity and inclusion.
Estabrooks is our new associate dean for community engagement. He previously served as the Harold M. Maurer Distinguished Chair and adjunct professor in Health Promotion at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Estabrooks is a community-engaged research scientist who has published over 250 articles and has been consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2000. His work with community partnerships has helped more than 300,000 people become more active, eat better, and lose weight.
Additionally, two other colleagues who are familiar faces at the U started new appointments as associate deans this year:
- Christopher Noren is the new Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs, after longtime associate dean Robin Marcus retired in the summer.
- Janet Shaw, PhD, FACSM, is the new Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, replacing Karen Paisley, PhD.
A Satellite Doctoral Program
This summer, the college opened a new Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) satellite program in St. George. Housed at Utah Tech University, this is COH’s first satellite clinical professional training program.
- The program admitted 18 students for year one. We plan to expand to 24 by year three. That increases the number of students currently in the DPT program to more than 70, with one-third in the St. George program.
- The DPT program at Utah Tech is a synchronous offering, meaning it’s a University of Utah program. Even though the program’s classrooms are more than 300 miles apart, technology ensures that students and faculty in Salt Lake City and St. George stay connected.
- Catherine Ortega, PT, EdD, ATC, is the on-site program director. She is directly involved in outreach to rural students across Southern Utah, including those from Indigenous populations and other diverse communities.
A Cutting-Edge Research Facility
A remodeling effort at the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) East building—previously used for student recreation—is underway. The result will be a modern research environment for COH faculty.
- The $2.9 million renovation converts four unused racquetball courts into new research space.
- The new space will include exercise space and labs, rooms for sleep research, and a metabolic kitchen for nutrition research.
- Construction also meets University of Utah’s sustainability standards.
- The facility is projected to be completed and open in spring 2023.
Initiatives and Awards
- Scott Summers, PhD, was awarded Distinguished Professor by the university’s Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. Summers also chairs the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, co-directs the Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center, and is the William J. Rutter, PhD, Presidential Endowed Chair in Biochemistry.
- Summers and Mary Playdon, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, along with Neli Ulrich, PhD, MS, received a $5 million grant to study the link between obesity and colorectal cancers.
- Jim Sibthorp, PhD, a professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, is part of a group to receive a new $1.4 million award from the John Templeton Foundation, which funds the study of commonalities and differences in Outward Bound Schools around the world.
- The Nature and Human Health-Utah Group, headed by Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism interim chair Dart Schmalz, PhD, awarded pilot grants of $10,000 to four separate teams to investigate the benefits of nature on physical, emotional, and mental health.
- Paul Estabrooks, PhD, was inducted as a fellow into the National Academy of Kinesiology.
- The National Science Foundation awarded a Stage 1 Planning Grant to a project led by Shannon Jones, MS, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. The grant funds research and design of a hybrid farm and civic engagement center for underserved communities.
- Kota Takahashi, PhD, helped secure two R01 grants totaling over $5 million to research muscular function and skin temperature regulation. Takahashi began his position as assistant professor with the Department of Health and Kinesiology in August.
- Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapy students swept a poster section at the American Therapeutic Recreation Association annual conference. That’s a department first.
- Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism student Rob Warner won the prestigious student research award from the American Camp Association. He’s the seventh Utah student to receive the award since it was established in 2008.
- 2022 Annual Excellence Awards:
- Distinguished Teaching Award: Sydney Abbott, MS, RD
- Distinguished Mentoring Award: Alexandra Terrill, PhD, and Tanya Halliday, PhD, RD
- Staff and Advising Excellence: Maddie Miller and Carrie Cox
- Senior Researcher Award: Nelson Roy, PhD, CCC-SLP
- New Investigator Award: Amandine Chaix, PhD
- Graduate Student Researcher Award: Jonathan Petrocelli
- Inclusive Excellence Award: Sarah Puig-Holzman
- Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award: Jessica Bodily
Our communications team completely retooled the college’s annual magazine into a new publication called Valeo. The new magazine is sent to an audience of more than 10,000. If you’re a COH alum, look for the next issue in your mailbox in March.
Beyond these news items, COH faculty, staff, and students have worked every day to powerfully impact the community. We serve 100,000 community members every year through clinics, presentations, workshops, and initiatives. We continue to set the table for a bright future ahead as we pursue a world of More Health, Less Medicine.
R. Scott Ward, PhD
R. Scott Ward, PhD, is interim dean of the College of Health and former chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at the University of Utah. Ward is a member of World Physiotherapy’s’ Global Education Accreditation Committee and a past-president of the American Physical Therapy Association. He received a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and a PhD in physiology at the University of Utah.