Skinner serves as dean of new school of public health at UT Southwestern

Dr. Celette Skinner

December 21, 2021

Celette Sugg Skinner, PhD — alum and adjunct professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of the Gillings School’s Public Health Foundation board — has been selected to serve as the first dean of a new school of public health to be launched at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern in Dallas, on an interim basis.

Karissa Grasty

Karissa Grasty

“Among her many accolades and accomplishments, Celette has served on our Public Health Foundation board for 10 years, including as a past chair,” said Karissa Grasty, associate dean for advancement at the Gillings School and executive director of the Public Health Foundation. “The School has benefitted enormously from her sound leadership and experience in academia. I’m so pleased that her talents will be put to good use in this new school and position.”

North Texas has faced a host of enduring public health challenges, including high rates of chronic illness and disparities in access to care, and school leaders point to the need for science-based interventions and an increased public health workforce to respond to these needs, which have only grown more urgent since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Based in the 7.8 million-person Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the school will be in close proximity to a wealth of resources in one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and leadership plans to capitalize on these resources by partnering with community organizations, health systems, and universities.

Plans for the new school were approved in February, 2021, by the UT System Board of Regents, and the Texas Legislature responded by appropriating $10 million in seed funding. Classes for Master of Public Health students are expected to begin in fall 2023, and the first cohort of doctoral students will begin the following year. However, Skinner, along with other members of the new school’s faculty and administration, are already working to develop a new curriculum, in consultation with top schools of public health across the country, and pursuing new faculty members to contribute to research and teaching expertise.

“This new school will be research-intensive and will generate evidence about what works with large groups of patients, develop professionals to expand the work and learn more regarding what can be implemented on a large scale across systems that benefit the citizens of Dallas, the U.S. and the world,” said Skinner.

A former member of the Duke University faculty before moving to Dallas in 2007, Skinner is an expert in health disparities, health communication and health care delivery research, with particular focus on cancer prevention and control in underserved populations. She is a regular invited adviser to the National Institutes of Health and academic institutions on cancer control and screening science. Previously, she was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and was associate director for population science at Duke Cancer Institute.

Skinner, who received a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Gillings School in 1991, has been referred to as a pioneer in computer-tailored communications for her work over 30 years to develop and test innovative behavior-change communications, primarily among historically underserved groups. She continues to serve as chair of the Department of Population & Data Sciences at the UT Southwestern Medical Center and is the Parkland Professor of Community Medicine.

“I continue to be thankful for the excellent education and experience developed through my time as a student at Gillings, as well as the many meaningful collaborations with faculty and alumni over the years,” she said.


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

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