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UK’s Newest College Off to a Healthy Start

Photo of Stephen WyattTo Stephen Wyatt, the reason the University of Kentucky needed a College of Public Health is self-evident.

“It’s because Kentucky is number 1, or close to the top, in many health behaviors that lead to disease or death: tobacco use, childhood and adolescent obesity, and physical inactivity, among others,” says Wyatt, UK’s first dean of the College of Public Health.

For Wyatt, a professor of preventive medicine and environmental health, the college has a dual mission: to fight the state’s health problems and to create solutions that are efficient, cost-effective and well-targeted to individual Kentucky communities.

One highly visible program supported by the College of Public Health is the Cooper-Clayton method to stop smoking. This program was developed in the early ’80s by Thomas Cooper, a Lexington dentist, and Richard Clayton, an expert on drug addiction and currently associate dean for research in the new college.

“The Cooper-Clayton method combines nicotine replacement therapy with a comprehensive smoking-cessation support program that helps smokers change the behavior patterns that accompany smoking,” Wyatt explains. Working with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the Kentucky Department for Public Health and local health departments, Clayton and Cooper have given hundreds of classes across the state. “Kentucky leads the country in the percentage of adults who smoke, and this program is a direct response to that problem,” Wyatt adds.

The new dean was happily surprised by the fact that the college received full accreditation, for five years, from the Council on Education in Public Health last June. The college received this honor on its first try, which, he says, is an extremely rare feat. “Attaining this status will clearly strengthen our efforts in education, research and service to make Kentucky a healthier place to live,” says Wyatt. Grant awards since July 2005 to faculty associated with the college total nearly $5,500,000.

The college currently has 36 faculty and 250 graduate students, and Wyatt believes these numbers will increase since there are currently huge career opportunities in public health. “Between 1976 and 1984, a huge number of folks came into the state and federal public health system, and these people are now at the end of their careers, so the opportunities for new university grads are out there. In fact, numerous reports indicate that as high as 30 percent of the federal public health workforce is eligible to retire over the next five years.”

—Jeff Worley

In Brief section as pdf (6 pages)