Dean’s message fall/winter 2019

A message from Dean Michael G. Perri

Michael Perri

Dr. Michael G. Perri, Dean

In this issue of PHHP News, we feature a pioneering new study that will examine the use of near-infrared light and its potential to improve cognition and brain function in older adults. Dawn Bowers, Ph.D., and Adam Woods, Ph.D., both faculty members in the department of clinical and health psychology, lead the Revitalize Study, which is supported by a $3.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. It is one example of the tremendous success the college’s faculty members have had over the past fiscal year in attracting funding for their research studies. The college received more than $32 million in research funding in fiscal year 2018-2019, a 16% increase over the previous year. A dozen college investigators received grants in the amount of $1 million or more.

The university as a whole also had a terrific year, bringing in $776.2 million in research funding in the past fiscal year, a new record.

Research topics for the newly-funded PHHP studies focus on some of the most pressing health issues of our time, including infectious diseases, substance use, HIV, pain, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.

Our faculty members are publishing their findings in scientific journals that are among the most influential in their fields. In the past fiscal year, this included articles in the Lancet, JAMA Network Open, JAMA Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Heart Association, Science Translational Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Publishing research findings in high-profile publications helps ensure that our faculty members’ work has the greatest reach and potential to impact health care and public health policy and practice.

For more information on some of their findings and new scientific project grants, please see our research section, starting on page 10 of this issue.

Faculty members are also working hard to prepare the next generation of scientists. The college now has eight federally-funded training grants, which provide specialized curriculum, experiences and mentoring to prepare graduate and postdoctoral associates for careers in research. One of these programs, the T32 Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Training in Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration program, welcomed special guests earlier this year. Leadership from the funding agency, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke — part of the National Institutes of Health — got a firsthand look at the trainees and faculty during a Gainesville visit.

Directed by Dr. Bowers and David Vaillancourt, Ph.D., a professor of applied physiology and kinesiology at the College of Health and Human Performance, the training program offers several features that are unique to NINDS-funded training grants. For example, trainees take part in a group project in their movement disorders class to facilitate team-based science. Another innovative feature is the associate trainees component, which allows other interested students to participate in all aspects of the program, such as monthly meetings, guest lectures and career development opportunities.

The NINDS representatives were impressed by the supportive environment faculty had created for future scientists.

“We left Gainesville thinking that this is a place where people are taken care of and looked out for,” said Letitia Weigand, Ph.D., the program manager of the NINDS office of training and workforce development. “It’s always wonderful to know people are really invested in training. That came across so clearly from everyone we talked to.”

At the College of Public Health and Health Professions, we’re proud to foster intellectual curiosity, a commitment to advancing science and a desire to have real-world impact on our nation’s health. We will continue to update you on the research achievements of our talented faculty and students.