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Forming an Academic Health Department: A Case Example

Hamilton, Charles B. DrPH, MPH; Buchanan, Martha L. MD; Grubaugh, Julie H. MPH; Erwin, Paul Campbell MD, DrPH

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31829b5405
Original Articles
Abstract

The disconnect between public health practice and its academic base has major implications for training and hiring the future public health workforce, for practice-based research, and ultimately for improving the public's health. To bridge this disconnect, the University of Tennessee Department of Public Health and the Knox County Health Department established an academic health department in early 2011 through a memorandum of understanding. This action followed a long history of informal collaborations, built on mutual trust. The memorandum of understanding identified the scope of academic health department activities, clarified responsibilities of each organization, and created a shared coordinator position. Accomplishments during the first 18 months include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of student field placements; establishing collaborative learning sessions delivered jointly by University of Tennessee Department of Public Health faculty and Knox County Health Department staff; and exploring opportunities for practice-based research. The shared coordinator position and an active steering committee are considered fundamental to achieving sustainable academic-practice linkages.

In Brief

This article describes the process for establishing an academic health department through a memorandum of understanding between public health practice and its academic base and identifies critical elements for success and sustainability. The shared coordinator position and an active steering committee are considered fundamental to achieving sustainable academic-practice linkages.

Author Information

Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Drs Erwin and Hamilton and Ms Grubaugh), and Knox County Health Department, Knoxville (Dr Buchanan and Ms Grubaugh), Tennessee.

Correspondence: Charles B. Hamilton, DrPH, MPH, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee, 390 HPER Bldg, 1914 Andy Holt Ave, Knoxville, TN 37996 (cbhamilton@utk.edu).

Coauthors have no financial, consultant, institutional, or other relationships to declare that would constitute a possible conflict of interest in submitting the manuscript.

For this descriptive case study prepared by the principal leadership of the AHD, the coauthors did not collect data nor conduct interviews. Accordingly, an institutional review board review is not required and was not requested.

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.