Bill Sollecito, DrPH, is a professor in the Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP) and co-director of the Academic Career Leadership Academy in Medicine (ACCLAIM), a cross-disciplinary leadership program for UNC faculty in the School of Medicine. He also was the director of PHLP from 2000 through 2009. Dr. Sollecito currently teaches graduate courses, lectures and publishes on topics that span team and organizational leadership, project management and continuous quality improvement. He recently served as co-editor for three books on Continuous Quality Improvement in Health Care, including a new edition published this year. Prior to joining the faculty at UNC Gillings, Dr. Sollecito worked in the contract clinical research industry at Quintiles Transnational Corporation from 1982-1996, where, as President of Quintiles Americas, he was responsible for all clinical operations in North and South America. Dr. Sollecito will be retiring from UNC Gillings after the spring semester.
What do you at Gillings (and why do you love it)?
I have always seen my role at Gillings as sharing and further developing the leadership knowledge that I gained in the private sector (at Quintiles and prior to that in New York where I worked as a health services researcher) with the students and colleagues who I have had the great fortune to meet at Gillings. This has been a mutually beneficial process where I have taught others and led by example – but have also learned from others, particularly about the challenges of public health. I think that the thing that I have loved the most at Gillings is teaching and advising students who were experienced practitioners when they were admitted to our program and seeing them further develop as leaders during and after completion of our MPH and certificate programs. I have always enjoyed being innovative and in the early days that I spent at UNC there was a lot more flexibility and opportunities to innovate – taking what started out as interesting ideas and then developing them quickly and successfully by strategic actioning and staying true to our vision. Examples of innovations that I am very proud of include, first, playing a leadership role in the development of our high-quality distance education MPH program, and later starting other innovative programs, such as the leadership and global health certificate programs; and most recently continuing the success of the ACCLAIM program, which is a unique, creative program that was not started by me, but which I had the good fortune to put my imprint on by following the lead of one of my best friends and role models, David Steffen when he retired.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s simple and unfortunately, it shows by the size of my waistline – pasta, with any kind of sauce, but mostly with those sauces and preparations that come from my Sicilian heritage.
Complete the following sentence: “Key elements of leadership include:”
Vision, vision, vision and absolutely a shared vision that ensures the empowerment of others, working in teams, to achieve goals that may seem impossible to others but are clearly doable when teams work together with what Deming called “constancy of purpose.”
What is one of your favorite teaching experiences?
I have two answers for this question – first was the development of my first course that I taught when I first joined UNC – that is project management (PUBH 747) – because it was the first course that I developed and taught (based on my Quintiles experience), and it was my first distance education experience. It has continued to be a highly regarded course for over 20 years and is now taught by one of my closest friends, Lori Evarts, who also learned these principles at Quintiles and who is one of the best teachers and team leaders that I have ever known and who has continuously improved the course over the years.
But another very important course that I was co-developer of was Leadership in Biostatistics (BIOS 844); which is important to me because it was and still is taught to doctoral students in the Biostatistics department, which is where I received my DrPH. What I am most proud of is the impact that this course has on the student-practitioners who take the course and how it allows us to expand our vision of leadership development beyond PHLP to other departments and especially to my fellow Biostatisticians – once again this was an interdisciplinary innovative idea that we (the faculty of PHLP and BIOS) made real.
What is a fictional character from a book or movie that you identify with?
I’ve said too much already – so I’ll keep this short. I am a film fanatic so I have many choices, but I will simply say any character who, as Kouzes and Posner say, “challenges the process” or fights to change the system; one that comes to mind from both the book and the movie is Al Pacino’s portrayal of Frank Serpico.
What are you most looking forward to in your retirement?
First and foremost, to relaxing with my family – as soon as we defeat this pandemic and it is safe to be able to hug my grandchildren again. But, also as a realist about being a workaholic, finding new ways to contribute to the continuous improvement of public health; perhaps by addressing some of the many challenges that COVID-19 has exposed, and doing this without the encumbrances that academia seems to have become a victim of in recent years.
What I am not looking forward to is the gap that will be created by missing the interactions with so many great mentors and colleagues who I have had the privilege to work with here at UNC, both as a student and as a faculty member; the relationships that have made these past 20 years so rewarding.
Aimee McHale, JD, MSPH, is an assistant professor in PHLP and the chair for the PHLP curriculum committee. On a School level, she serves on the UNC Gilling MPH Core teaching team. She also holds a University-level position in the UNC Faculty Athletics Committee. Professor McHale is an attorney by training and has expertise in health policy with a special focus on health equity, social justice, and the health needs of vulnerable populations.
What do you at Gillings (and why do you love it)? I teach Leadership in Health Policy for Social Justice which is a required core course for the Leadership in Practice concentration. I teach this course for both the residential and MPH@UNC platforms. I also serve as the chair for the PHLP curriculum committee. I am currently re-developing the two-credit solution course for the Gillings MPH Core in the Spring. I love what I do because I am able work with, teach and learn from students, who are essentially the future of public health. They give me hope for a future in which we will alleviate many of the greatest barriers that keep people from being healthy.
What is your latest research/project? I am currently working with Dr. Upshaw and Dr. Carter-Edwards in the early stages of an upcoming project with the Durham VA. I don’t think it’s any secret that there are significant issues around the health and wellbeing of our military Veterans, so we’re working with the VA to develop a public health model for addressing Veterans’ health issues at the community level. It’s an issue of health inequities and social justice, and, as the step-daughter of a retired US Marine, it’s something about which I care deeply.
Favorite teaching moment? At the beginning of semester this fall, we had a discussion about identity and how it is related to our role as both an individual and public health professional. The following week after this discussion, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my students were so devoted to the discussion that they continue the conversation even though our class session was over. It really showed that they genuinely cared about getting to know their fellow classmates and understood the importance of this topic as it relates to public health as a whole.
If you could you have three apps on your smartphone, which would you pick and why? I would say Twitter and Instagram would be my first two that I would pick because I like to follow different leaders in government and keep up with current events. I am also able to follow all things Tar Heel and talk a little smack to people who support other teams. (I am only borderline ashamed to say that). The third app that I would pick would be Apple Music because I have access to all of my music. My teenage daughter and I share an account so it’s a very eclectic collection of music, which is, at times, a mixed blessing.
What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day? I generally don’t have enough time to unwind. Sometimes, I may have a drink with a friend or invite our social group over for dinner. I watch my favorite TV shows at night, a mix of news, and other stuff. I also enjoy reading, but sometimes I’m so tired I can only read a few pages before I fall asleep. I am a huge Tar Heels fan, so I spend a good amount of my free time attending sporting event especially football and baseball. I am a member of the UNC Faculty Athletics Committee assigned as liaison to both baseball and women’s lacrosse so in the Spring, I’ll frequently be found at those two venues.
What is the last TV show or book that you read? I enjoy reading historical fictions and any content related to social issues. I am currently reading the Nickel Boys. The book takes places in Florida during the Jim Crow era and focuses on two African American boys who attend a state-run reform school called Nickel Academy. The books sheds light on racial injustice and unethical practices in the school. I am a fan the author, Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad, which I really loved. I’m also reading The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by theologian James Cone, which examines the Black experience in America, intertwining the injustices and the abiding faith that have been hallmarks of that experience.
Lori Evarts is an assistant professor in PHLP. She also serves as the graduate studies director for the program. Professor Evarts has extensive experience in project management and clinical research. Prior to PHLP, She worked at Quintiles, Inc. as the director of project management training. Professor Evarts’ interests include project management, team effectiveness, leadership, quality improvement, clinical research and online education.
What you do at UNC Gillings (and why you love it): I am a faculty member and I teach project management courses (PUBH 747 and PUBH 784) and team leadership (PUBH 767). I love my students and teaching. I also enjoy seeing students apply their learning and related tools in their public health endeavors and careers. This is one of the several reasons why I enjoy staying in touch with alumni as well.
What is the latest project that you are working on? At the moment, I am working with students in Project Management: Strategies & Application to prepare for the UNC Science Expo on Saturday, April 6th. Our class is representing Gillings at the event with four booths. This year, the topics for the projects focus on the following: dangers of flooding; the importance of vaccination and herd immunity; healthcare access considerations; benefits of mindful meditation.
What is something that people wouldn’t know about you just by looking at you? I have lived in Orange County almost my entire life. Most people may not know that because I do not have a distinctive southern accent. There are some words that give me away, like “hair,” but other than that I do not have much of an accent. My family moved to Chapel Hill when I was two years old. My husband has me beat though as he has lived here since he was ten months old.
Best teaching experience: Can I say all of them? Actually, I have the best teaching experiences when there is real learning taking place. I enjoy seeing my students apply solutions to ambiguous situations. I also enjoy having a little fun in my class by using humor. One example that comes to mind is when I used this goofy National Geographic article in my project management course. The article showed different animal groups and how some groups have more than 20 ways to use tools while others only have a few, and how they change. I incorporated the article in my class to underscore the importance of testing out different project management tools and techniques to ensure that these are right-sized and appropriate for a given project. These tools also change over time as well, so we have to be able to adapt and use the tools accordingly.
If I could wake up tomorrow having mastered one new ability: I wish I could wake up with the engineering skills to create some type of Winnebago flying hovercraft. I would use this invention to travel as quickly as possible to the beach, of course avoiding all traffic. Ideally, I would not limit myself to North Carolina, and would be able to travel quickly to any beach. In case, you couldn’t tell, I really enjoy spending time at the beach!
What is a fictional character from a book or movie that you identify with? I guess I identify with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. I really admire his high energy and positivity. I strive to be like Tigger in my everyday life and less like Eeyore. Although I can imitate Eeyore’s voice really well.
Travis Johnson, MD, MPH is an assistant professor for the PHLP and the Interim Director for the UNC Gillings Masters in Public Health program in Asheville. He has 15 years of experience as a family physician, specializing in maternal- child health in rural settings. Currently, Travis is co-teaching the Leadership Workshop (PUBH 791).
What you do at UNC Gillings (and why you love it)? I am the Interm director for the Leadership in Practice concentration on the UNC-Asheville campus. I also co-teach the leadership workshop course (PUBH 791) with Vaughn Upshaw. So far, I have really enjoyed the camaraderie between us as well as learning from Vaughn who has taught the course before. I love what I do because I enjoy thinking of creative ways to combine core leadership concepts with public health to brainstorm solutions on how to break down barriers in our communities.
What is your favorite thing to eat? Good question! I love strawberry rhubarb pie. It has a sweet tart flavor. My grandmother would make that for me. It brings back great memories.
What’s something that you enjoy most about the Asheville campus? I appreciate Asheville for its smallness especially with our cohort. I am able to get to know students better, which allow me to really help them develop and work through their professional goals. The close-knit nature is also a great teaching tool as well. I also enjoy the campus’ strong drive to involve different stakeholders in the area to practice public health in Western North Carolina. It really is a community effort.
If I had one superpower: I would probably freeze time in place. I think the ability to stop time would help me revel in the moment and get a better sense of what’s happening in present time.
A fictional character that you identify with: I really identity with Huckleberry Finn. He is able to think outside of the box. He is also always open to new and exciting adventures and willing to invite any and everyone one along the way. I think that is how I try to approach life.
What is your biggest teaching goal? My dream teaching goal would be to partner with local agencies to give students the opportunity to solve cases based on real life issues in real time. This approach would allow students to further hone their skills through creative and critical thinking while also working on current public health issues in the field. I firmly believe that the best and most innovative teaching takes place outside of the classroom.
Karine Dubé, DrPH is an assistant professor with PHLP and has worked with the program since February 2017. Her research focuses on integrating biomedicine, social sciences, ethics, community engagement and public health in HIV cure-related research.
What is your latest research? My latest research has focused on bridging biomedical research, social sciences, ethics, community engagement and public health in HIV cure-related research in the United States. With Project Inform, we are about to launch a new survey looking at how people living with HIV perceive HIV cure-related research interventions, and what they would consider to be improvements above standard antiretroviral HIV therapy and acceptable target product profiles for an HIV cure. I am also embedding social sciences as part of actual HIV cure-related studies, including the Last Gift study (http://lastgift.ucsd.edu/) at the University of California San Diego. I also help support a clinical research capacity development effort in Liberia, following the Ebola outbreak.
What do you do at UNC Gillings (and why do you love it)? I help mentor the next generation of global health leaders! I teach three global health courses: PUBH 711 (Critical Issues in Global Health), PUBH 712 (Global Health Ethics) and SPHG 700 (Introduction to Global Health). I will be part of the new global health concentration. I love it because I get to pursue my passion every day! I found a nice balance between teaching and research, and I am very grateful to be working with amazing students and in an academic environment.
What do you do when you’re not at work? I like to travel. My husband and I try to travel somewhere at least once a year. I have really enjoyed visiting different African countries especially Mozambique. I would love to go back there. I also like to read during my spare time. I just really like the smell of old books. I also enjoy photography.
Complete the following sentence: “Innovation in teaching means…” I think it means being responsive to current challenges that we face specifically in public health. I also think of how to tie teaching to advocacy. When I was an undergraduate student at UNC, I was president of the APPLES Service-Learning program and learned a lot about experiential learning. That really showed me the importance of bringing the real world to the classroom and giving back to our communities. When I conduct research, I try not to do “parachute research” and I like to build capacity. It’s a similar concept when I teach. I strive to create a classroom that emphasizes the exchange of information and resources and meaningful dialogue.
If you could wake up tomorrow having mastered one new ability, what would it be? I want the ability to add more time to my day. Time is my most precious resource. If I could, I would make it so that we have eight-day weeks because seven-day weeks are just not enough!
What is something that you’re looking forward to? Everything! I look forward to continuing my research and teaching my classes. I look forward to further bridging the gaps between biomedicine, social sciences, public health, and the community for HIV cure-related research. I found my home within PHLP and enjoy the interdisciplinary lens of my colleagues and the overall program. I am happy that I am able to align my passions with my career through PHLP.