Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, to step down in 2022

September 22, 2021

Dean Barbara K. Rimer

Dean Barbara K. Rimer

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, MPH, dean of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Alumni Distinguished Professor in the School’s Department of Health Behavior, will conclude her service as dean on June 30, 2022. She will remain an active faculty member at the Gillings School.

Rimer began her service as dean in 2005, making her the School’s longest-serving dean. She is the first woman and behavioral scientist to serve in the role. In 2008, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine — one of the highest achievements in science, public health and medicine. She has served as chair of the President’s Cancer Panel under two presidents.

Her commitment to innovative research, academics and practice, inclusive excellence, and service to North Carolina and beyond have guided her leadership priorities, aligning with the School’s mission to improve public health, promote individual well-being and eliminate health inequities across N.C. and around the world.

With Rimer at the helm, the Gillings School was ranked the number one public school of public health and tied for second overall three consecutive times by U.S. News & World Report, pulling ahead in 2021 to stand alone in second place. Early in Rimer’s service as dean, she secured the transformative gift from the Gillings family that prompted the School’s 2008 renaming. In 2009, she championed the development of the Water Institute at UNC to solve the world’s most pressing water and sanitation challenges.

The Gillings School now ranks No. 1 among public health schools in funding from the National Institutes of Health, and Gillings faculty members have received more than $1 billion in research dollars since 2013. This funding supports groundbreaking research, education and/or practice in all 100 North Carolina counties, 47 countries and five continents.

Rimer’s commitment to public health practice is evidenced by her creation of the School’s Practice Advisory Committee, which engages leaders across N.C. At the University, she has fostered strong partnerships with Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, and Carolina Population Center.

She also supported the development of a robust preferred partnership with RTI International. She was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the NC Policy Collaboratory, positioning Gillings researchers to lead statewide projects of critical importance in areas such as water quality, children’s environmental health, and COVID viral sequencing and surveillance.

Rimer has championed inclusive excellence within the Gillings School, most recently through an ambitious Inclusive Excellence Action Plan. The School’s 2021 fall cohort is the most diverse yet, welcoming a record number of students from historically excluded groups.

With Rimer’s leadership, Gillings leaders revamped the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, launched the online MPH@UNC program, and developed a multi-partner public health program with UNC-Asheville and the Mountain Area Health Education Center. She also encouraged the establishment of a “Culture of Health” program to support the physical, mental and emotional health of Gillings community members.

Gillings School students consistently receive about one third of the Graduate School’s Impact and Horizon Awards for research that benefits North Carolinians. On Rimer’s  watch, graduates leave prepared to make the world a better place: 96% have jobs or are continuing their education six months after graduation.

Rimer gives credit for the School’s continued preeminence to the Gillings community – the alumni, students, faculty, staff, donors and friends who regularly go above and beyond in contributing their time, talents and resources in service of a School and mission about which they are passionate.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rimer has redoubled her commitment to the well-being of Gillings and UNC community members, amplifying fact-based health communications and supporting the expansion of the School’s student emergency relief fund and the creation of virtual support pods.

Even after stepping down as dean, she will continue to be a model of living one’s values as she dauntlessly pursues better health for all.


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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