On October 22, colleagues and students joined in a celebration honoring the retirement of Dr. Stockwell, professor, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (EPB), and director of international education innovations in the COPH.
Dr. Heather Stockwell completed her doctoral studies and a post-doctoral fellowship at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. Coincidently, her academic preparation ended the same year the Florida legislature established its first college of public health in the state—1984.
In 1985, the USF COPH welcomed Dr. Stockwell as its first epidemiology faculty member.
“During this period, I developed the masters and doctoral programs in epidemiology, developed and taught many of the concentration’s courses, and created and offered important epidemiology training courses for county public health employees throughout the state of Florida,” Stockwell said.
Teaching, service, and research are the three core roles a faculty member must fulfill. As a relatively new researcher, Dr. Stockwell was eager to explore areas of concern for the workforce and general public in Florida. During her early years in the college, she led a successful Florida based epidemiologic research program focused on occupational and environmental cancer epidemiology.
With funding from the National Cancer Institute, “I conducted a large five year study of lung cancer in women in Florida and served as co-investigator of a state funded study of lung cancer among Florida’s sugarcane workers,” Stockwell said.
No good deed goes unnoticed and in 1989, Dr. StockwelI was promoted to associate professor with tenure. One year later she was appointed as the college’s first assistant dean for research.
In 1992, Dr. Stockwell’s husband received an exciting professional opportunity in the Washington, DC area. She joined him in the district and directed a large Department of Energy epidemiology program.
After ten years of federal service, she retired as the acting deputy assistant secretary for Health Studies and returned to USF and the College of Public Health as chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
Washington’s loss was Tampa’s gain.
Since returning to USF in 2002, the Department of EPB has almost tripled in size, she implemented a doctoral program in biostatistics, developed dual concentrations with other departments which have attracted outstanding students nationwide, developed several EPB graduate certificates, and for the first time, undergraduate courses in EPB. Most recently, the department created and launched an online MPH program in epidemiology.
“I believe that the department chair has a critical role in the education of our students, in addition to serving as an instructor for more advanced masters and doctoral courses.”
As evidence of her strongly held convictions, Dr. Stockwell taught the core epidemiology course required of all MPH degree seekers and in 2011 public health graduate students named her “Outstanding Professor of the Year”.
During her second tenure in the college, administrative duties left little time for research. However, she served as a collaborator on a number of NIH/CDC and VA funded projects, co-authored numerous peer reviewed publications, and served on NIH review panels and as an external academic reviewer in a variety of other settings.
In 2012, Dean Donna J. Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, invited Dr. Stockwell to serve as director of the college’s International Education Initiatives, with an initial focus on continuing public health educational programs for professionals around the world.
As her retirement cake portrayed, Dr. Stockwell plans to enjoy the Florida sunshine on and off the golf course, but don’t’ count her out professionally.
“I applied to the Fulbright Specialist Program with a focus on training public health practitioners internationally in the methods required for the study of chronic diseases,” Stockwell said.
Retirement in itself is a momentous occasion, however, the icing on the cake came via a November 4 letter from Dr. Ralph C. Wilcox, USF’s executive vice president and provost.
“The University has been honored by your numerous contributions to the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, and to the development and present standing of the College of Public Health, so it is a great pleasure to affirm that you have been designated and officially recognized as Professor Emerita following your retirement in October.”