Practice Pathway is a new initiative by the college that invites professionals who have occupied leadership positions in public health and health care to join the COPH non-tenured teaching staff with the purpose of bringing their lived it/learned it experiences and expertise to the classroom.
“You can study public health in the abstract,” said COPH Dean Donna Petersen. “But what is it like to stand in front of an angry county commission or group of concerned citizens? How do you mobilize a disaster relief response? How do you counter fear and anxiety and deal with all the politics? Learning from people who have spent many years in the field of public health in leadership positions will greatly benefit our students.”
This semester, Practice Pathway welcomes two new faculty members.
Dr. Marissa Levine recently served as Virginia’s state health commissioner (SHC). There, she oversaw a $650 million budget and staff of almost 4,000—everyone from engineers to epidemiologists to emergency response personnel.
The SHC, along with the Virginia Board of Health, has regulatory oversight of things such as public drinking water systems, health care facilities, food service providers, shellfish harvest waters, nuclear power stations, EMS/trauma systems and vital records.
“I look forward to sharing lessons I’ve learned, particularly lessons related to the public health emergency responses to the H1N1 pandemic and Ebola and Zika viruses,” said Levine, a family physician who has also held faculty positions at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
“I have had the opportunity to work on the ground in community health improvement, developing state-level policies while also influencing federal ones,” she added. “I’m excited to help develop the next generation of leaders as they evolve their critical and creative thinking skills to deal with what will only be more complex public health issues in the future.”
Levine plans to bring real-world practice into her classroom through “the rich stories” of her career, as well as through guest speakers—both virtual and in person—and possible internship opportunities for students.
“I am happy to be part of a college and university that is always striving to do better and to prepare learners for the challenges of the future,” said Levine. “I am excited to not only offer my experiences, but also to continue to learn as we work together on some very important public health issues in Florida, the U.S. and the world.”
Joining Levine is Dr. Max Salfinger.
Salfinger earned his medical degree from the Medical School at the University of Basel, Switzerland, which was founded in 1460. He entered the world of public health when he was appointed head of the Tuberculosis Laboratory at the University of Zurich.
“For almost 40 years I have been responsible for, among other things, a TB laboratory, and I have never regretted it,” said Salfinger.
Salfinger is a microbiologist who has also held leadership roles in laboratories across the country, including those in the New York State and Florida Departments of Health. In New York he was clinical mycobacteriology laboratory director of the Wadsworth Center, one of the most sophisticated state public health labs in the country and home to a Nobel Prize winner. In Florida, he also served as the state’s TB controller.
Salfinger will bring his vast laboratory experience to the classroom, urging students “to learn from each other, adding to the unique success stories, and sometimes failures, we experience in public health,” he commented. “It’s a very noble mission to help prepare a new cadre of public health laboratory directors.”
Salfinger, who has taught more than 50 international Fogarty Fellows, school of public health interns and visiting scientists, is eager to embark on his Practice Pathway endeavors.
“The Practice Pathway at the COPH will evolve and serve as a re-fueling station for graduates on their lifelong quest to deliver enhanced health and well-being to all humankind,” Salfinger said, “even long after students have been awarded their degrees.”
Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health