Our History

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and RTI International are long-standing partners and leaders in improving human health and the human condition. Both institutions are complex, mission-driven organizations with North Carolina roots and global impact. Read more/less.

  • RTI is an independent, nonprofit institute that provides research, development, and technical services to government and commercial clients worldwide
    • RTI Mission: To improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice.
    • RTI’s global presence currently spans more than 1217 clients and over 3,977 projects across 12 US offices and 13 international offices.
    • In FY21, RTI generated approximately $1 billion in revenue (2021 Annual Report).
  • UNC Gillings School is the #1 Public School of Public Health
    • Comprised of 7 departments and 1 program with approximately 2,461 students.
    • Mission: to improve public health, promote individual well-being and eliminate health inequities across North Carolina and around the world.
    • In Fall 2022, total grants and contracts awarded to faculty was approximately $280 million (Gillings School Facts and Figures).
  • UNC Gillings and RTI formally embarked on a Preferred Partnership Planning Process in 2017, resulting in the Initiative to Maximize Partnerships and Catalyze Teams (IMPACT).

Leadership: Then and Now

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health was founded as the Division of Public Health within the UNC School of Medicine in 1936. In 1958, RTI International (then known as the Research Triangle Institute), the cornerstone tenant of Research Triangle Park, was formed to inspire graduates of North Carolina institutions of higher education to remain in the state and provide research services for government and business clients. Read more/less.

  • In 1940, the UNC Board of Trustees approved public health as a stand-alone school, and began awarding degrees —the first school of public health to be established within a state university.
  • In 1940, Gertrude Cox established developed statistics programs on the campuses which later became known collectively as the UNC
  • In 1949, the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health was organized
    • Bernard Greenberg was named chair of the department at just 29 years old.
  • After retirement from NC State University, Gertrude Cox because the first head of RTI’s Statistics Research Division.
  • Under the leadership of Barbara Rimer (appointed Dean in 2005), the Gillings School expanded its global focus. In 2006, it became the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in recognition of a $50 million gift from Dennis Gillings and Joan Gillings. “Adding the word ‘global’ to our name recognizes the increasingly global nature and worldwide interdependence of health and well-being. Health problems don’t stop at borders” -Barbara Rimer


In September 2022, Nancy Messonier joined the Gillings School as Dean, succeeding Barbara Rimer, who served in the position for 17 years. Tim J. Gabel became RTI International’s fifth president and chief executive officer in February 2022, succeeding Wayne Holden. Read more/less.

  • Nancy Messonnier has been an influential leader in public health, bringing with her experience from her role as former CDC director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) and, most recently, as executive director for Pandemic Prevention and Health Systems at the Skoll Foundation.
    • In her role at CDC, Messonnier developed the COVID-19 vaccine implementation program and helped develop, evaluate and distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the nation.
    • Messonnier also held several leadership roles at the CDC during her 1995-2021 tenure, including deputy director and later director of the National Center of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and worked on several important initiatives like low-cost vaccine to prevent epidemic meningitis in Africa; responding to the anthrax attacks in 2001; and addressing disparities in immunization coverage and promoting vaccine confidence.
    • At the Skoll Foundation, Messonnier played a key leadership role in addressing the COVID19 pandemic and helping to build a global response and preparedness system to prevent future pandemics.
  • Tim J. Gabel became CEO of RTI in 2022, following 10 years of service, as executive vice president of Social, Statistical, and Environmental Sciences, the largest business unit within RTI. As head of SSES, Mr. Gabel successfully grew the group from $391M to $667M in annual sponsored research, organically expanding existing divisions while overseeing the integration of acquisitions and development of strategic partnerships
    • Gabel has worked at RTI since 1983, bringing technical training in both statistics and computer science to every level of RTI leadership, including as the head of the Research Computing Division and the vice president for Survey and Computing Sciences
    • He is a member of the American Statistical Association, American Association for Public Opinion Research, and American Public Health Association. He co-edited the book The Essential Role of Language in Survey Research, published in 2020 by RTI Press.
    • Gabel is also an Adjunct Professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Public Health Leadership Program.
  • Leah Devlin, who was previously the State Health Director for North Carolina, joined RTI as a part-time consultant in 2012 to strengthen ties between the Institute and UNC Gillings.
    • As a Professor of the Practice in Health Policy and Management at UNC Gillings, Devlin recognized the importance of connecting people and building peer-to-peer relationships.
    • Devlin recognized the many RTI researchers were Gillings School Alumni or had existing connections and started organizing network events between RTI researchers and Gillings School Faculty.
    • Since 2012, Devlin has helped double the number of RTI researchers with adjunct faculty appointments.
    • Devlin organized 24 Round Table Discussions.
    • Devlin increased student engagement by encouraging their participation in the RTI/UNC PHield Trip.
  •  The Gillings Research, Innovation and Global Solutions Unit
    • The Solutions unit promotes and advances the school’s global and local health activities in Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Service, Practice and Teaching through Strategic Initiative, and Partnerships, Internships, Outreach and Communications.
    • The unit also manages and provides support for several UNC Gillings programs and initiatives, including programs funded by the transformational Gillings Gift.
  • The RTI University Collaboration Office (UCO)
    • RTI’s senior leaders created the UCO to continue strengthening North Carolina’s research community by enhancing and catalyzing collaborative teaming, research proposals, projects, and publications
    • Jacqueline Olich, formerly of UNC-Chapel Hill, was hired as the UCO’s founding director in 2014 and currently serves as Vice President, University Collaborations.
    • Olich and Devlin work closely together on increasing opportunities for collaborative proposal development, fostering relationships with faculty and students, and special projects.
    • Katie Bowler Young (RTI) and Anne Glauber (UNC Gillings) partner to operationalize the Partnership’s initiatives and support research teams.

Prior Leadership

  • Barbara K. Rimer served as Dean of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health from 2005-2022.
    • During her tenure as longest-serving Dean, Rimer championed several key initiatives including establishment of the Water Institute, Practice Advisory Committee, the RTI-Gillings Preferred Partnership, Inclusive Excellence Action Plan, and led the school’s efforts in response to the COVID19 pandemic.
    • Rimer was the first woman and behavioral scientist to chair the National Cancer Institute’s National Cancer Advisory Board, and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2008 and appointed by President Obama to servie on the President’s Cancer Panel, which she chaired from 2011 to January 2019.
    • Rimer currently serves as Alumni Distinguished Professor at the School in the department of Health Behavior.
  • The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health was founded as the Division of Public Health within the UNC School of Medicine in 1936.  In 1940, the UNC Board of Trustees approved public health as a stand-alone school, and it began awarding degrees – the first school of public health to be established within a state university. In 1940, Gertrude Cox was appointed to develop statistics programs on campuses in the UNC System.
    • In 1949, the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health was organized.  Bernard Greenberg was named chair at just 29 years old. 
    • In 1958, RTI International (then known as the Research Triangle Institute), the cornerstone tenant of Research Triangle Park, was formed to inspire graduates of North Carolina institutions of higher education to remain in the state and provide research services for government and business clients.  
    • After retirement from NC State University, Gertrude Cox became the first head of RTI’s Statistics Research Division. 

Selected Joint Initiatives, 2013-Present 

The UNC Gillings / RTI Preferred Partnership established several joint initiatives to maximize the collective impact of these two organizations that seek to improve health and wellbeing around the world.  Read more/less.

  • The North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS)
    • RTI joined the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute in 2013.
    • The partnership occurred to advance translational research by increasing resource availability to researchers at both institutions and encouraging cross-institutional collaboration.
    • NC TraCS pilot grants stimulate research initiatives by enabling investigators to obtain preliminary results with the goal of reducing the lengthy gap between research findings and benefits for patients.
    • NC TraCS Co-Principal Investigators are John Buse (UNC School of Medicine) and Nick Shaheen (UNC School of Medicine). The RTI point of contact is Lisa Gehtland (RTI). Lisa Gehtland (RTI).
  • Forethought: The RTI $5M+ Research Collaboration Challenge was awarded in 2021 to the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI), led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to produce antiviral drugs for the future. This award was designed to ignite innovative and compelling research projects that meld scientific rigor, technical proficiency, and innovative methods to help solve the world’s most critical problems. The future-focused competition aims to draw on and, eventually, contribute to the distinctive intellectual and institutional resources and culture of the Research Triangle.
Are you interested in exploring ways to become involved with the IMPACT Partnership?
Contact Anne Glauber (aglauber@unc.edu) or Katie Bowler Young (kbyoung@rti.org).

School Events

December 7
7:30 am
2:30 pm
UNC Holiday Carolina Blood Drive
December 8
All Day
School Wide Final Exam Week Events
December 8
All Day
Gillings School Final Exam Week Events
January 22
10:00 am
12:00 pm
Introduction to Atlas.ti Part 1