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Building a Sustainable Academic Health Department: The South Carolina Model

Smith, Lillian Upton DrPH, MPH; Waddell, Lisa MD, MPH; Kyle, Joseph MPH; Hand, Gregory A. PhD, MPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: May/June 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p E6–E11
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3182a2d9c2
Original Articles

Given the limited resources available to public health, it is critical that university programs complement the development needs of agencies. Unfortunately, academic and practice public health entities have long been challenged in building sustainable collaborations that support practice-based research, teaching, and service. The academic health department concept offers a promising solution. In South Carolina, the partners started their academic health department program with a small grant that expanded into a dynamic infrastructure that supports innovative professional exchange and development programs. This article provides a background and describes the key elements of the South Carolina model: joint leadership, a multicomponent memorandum of agreement, and a shared professional development mission. The combination of these elements allows the partners to leverage resources and deftly respond to challenges and opportunities, ultimately fostering the sustainability of the collaboration.

This article provides a background of the South Carolina model of sustainable academic health department and describes its key elements.

Offices of Public Health Practice (Drs Smith and Hand) and Public Health Research (Dr Hand), Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia; and Preventive Services (Dr Waddell) and Community Health and Chronic Disease Prevention (Mr Kyle), South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Columbia. Dr Waddell is now with Community Health and Prevention at ASTHO.

Correspondence: Lillian Upton Smith, DrPH, MPH, Office of Public Health Practice, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, 915 Greene Street, Suite 503, Columbia, SC 29208 (

This project was funded by Cooperative Agreement No. D3297-23/23, jointly sponsored by the Association of School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors thank the dean of the Arnold School and the director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control for their support and the many members of the Consortium Advisory Committee for their contributions and continued commitment.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.