Public health associate dean to retire

After more than 35 years at the UW, Fred Connell, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Public Health, will retire this summer from his career of connecting students to the health needs of their communities and advocating for problem-based learning in the School of Public Health.

Connell came to the UW in 1976 as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar after earning his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his medical degree from New York University. Since then, he has assumed a variety of roles within the School of Public Health, in addition to researching and lecturing nationally and abroad.

“He certainly has a very long history at the School,” said Mark Oberle, associate dean for public-health practice, who has worked with Connell since 1987. “There’s a lot of institutional memory that he has about how we’ve done things, why we’ve done things.” 

Oberle said Connell’s contributions to the school include coordination of curriculum and orchestrating the accreditation of the school. Connell has also been a strong voice for practical applied public-health practice in the curriculum.

Connell worked as a pediatrics intern at the University of Colorado and also worked for two years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for his military service during the Vietnam War. After this, Connell worked as an epidemiologist for the World Health Organization’s Smallpox Eradication Programme in Bihar, India for three months, which Connell described as a “very informative experience.”

Connell’s research focuses on small-area variation of health-care services, epidemiology of diabetes, Medicaid, and prenatal, obstetric, and pediatric-care patterns. 

During his time at the UW, Connell also played vital roles in several of the school’s smaller departments. Oberle said Connell has been instrumental in expanding the UW’s Maternal and Child Health Program. He also founded the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice Program (COPHP), a new Master’s in Public Health track that prepares students in becoming public-health practitioners.

“(COPHP) is a form of learning where students take responsibility for what they learn,” Connell said. “This kind of teaching system is very good for helping students to become self-starters, independent, and for learning how to tackle problems without a lot of hand-holding.”

Connell has also taught a variety of courses, from Data Analysis, to Program Evaluation, to Community Health Assessment, a course that offers students the opportunity to evaluate the health issues of local communities directly. 

“Fred has been an invaluable member of our School community … and a close friend, colleague, and adviser to me since my arrival at UW,” Howard Frumkin, the dean of the School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement. “He will be greatly missed.”

Connell will continue to serve on the Board of the Excellence in Pediatrics Institute and contribute to the public health community in Nepal, where he previously worked as a visiting professor.

Connell said he will stay connected to the UW public health community after retirement by doing what he has always found gratifying, but now in a part-time capacity: continuing to advise students in their research and in their learning to become public-health leaders.

Reach contributing writer McKenzie Templeton at development@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @kenzietempleton

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