University of South Florida

USF names Rhonda White 2013 Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health

The University of South Florida College of Public Health has named Rhonda R. White, MBA, the 2013 Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health. White directs the Office of Performance and Quality Improvement for the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee.

The College bestows the award each year to a woman whose career accomplishments and leadership contribute significantly to the field of public health in Florida.  White received the award in a ceremony April 3 at the USF College of Public Health, 13201 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Tampa.  Click here for the full list of activities at USF College of Public Health during National Public Health Week.


Donna Petersen (left), ScD, dean of the USF College of Public Health, with this year’s recipient of the Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health award — Rhonda White, MBA, director of the Florida Department of Health Office of Performance and Quality Improvement.

A key member of the state’s public health management team, White’s expertise and interdisciplinary approach helps the Florida Department of Health and its partners build and evaluate the infrastructure needed to support efficient and effective delivery of public health services and programs.

Stepping into the public health preparedness leadership role shortly after 9/11, White recognized the state’s vulnerabilities and partnered with public and private entities to protect Florida’s residents and visitors. She led the effort to create the Florida Public Health and Medical Response System, which helped Florida to weather several public health events including the H1N1 influenza outbreak, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the Super Bowl, Republican National Convention, and 2012 Presidential Debate.  With the help of White’s leadership, Florida has become a nationally-recognized model in public health preparedness.

Disaster planning is just one of White’s many contributions to the health and well-being of Floridians. In her 24 years with the Department of Health, she streamlined the state’s data collection system and spearheaded an effort to overhaul the smallpox vaccination program, which evolved into Operation Vaccinate Florida. When Gadsden County needed someone to step in and stabilize the health department Ms. White answered the call without hesitation.

“Time and time again, she (White) has taken Florida’s public health partners from where they are to where they need to be to successfully protect, promote, and improve the health and safety of all people in Florida,” said John H. Armstrong, MD, Florida’s surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health.


Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the USF Health Division of Infectious Disease and medical director of the Hillsborough County Health Department, was among those who spoke about White’s accomplishments as a public health leader.

White earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of South Florida. Her graduate training includes a MBA degree from Florida State University and divinity coursework at Asbury Theological Seminary.

The Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health Award was initiated by USF in 1988, and nominations are solicited from public health practitioners across the state. Past honorees have included Lillian Stark, PhD, MPH, director of virology at the Florida Department of Health Tampa Branch Laboratory; University of Miami epidemiologist Lora E. Fleming, MD, and Florida’s Division of Environmental Health Director Lisa Ann Conti, DVM, MPH.




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