February 9, 2024

Dr. Vaughn Upshaw

Dr. Vaughn Upshaw

The UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health has named Vaughan Upshaw, DrPH, EdD, MPH, as chair of the newly formed Department of Public Health Leadership and Practice (PHLP), effective February 5.

Upshaw came to Carolina in 1996 with appointments in both the School of Government and the School of Public Health. Her career has been spent supporting leaders and decision-makers who work to improve quality of life in their communities.

Most recently, she led the Leadership in Practice concentration of the School’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, and she will continue to direct the Public Health Leadership Certificate program at the Gillings School. She also serves as principal investigator for the North Carolina Public Health Leadership Institute and the Building Veteran Healthy Communities project.

“In October 2023, we launched the new Department of Public Health Leadership and Practice, which previously had been a program,” explained Nancy Messonnier, MD, dean and Bryson Distinguished Professor in Public Health at the Gillings School. “I cannot think of a better leader for this new department without walls. Vaughn has spent her entire career in public health leadership, giving her a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for this department and the Gillings School.”

Anna Schenck, PhD, directed the Public Health Leadership Program since 2009, led the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) from 2011–2017 and was the inaugural chair of the new PHLP department.

“I’m thrilled to be passing the leadership of the department to Vaughn,” said Schenck. “She has extensive expertise in both academia and practice and is uniquely suited for this role. I’m confident the department will thrive under her leadership.”

Upshaw earned a Master of Public Health degree in health behavior and a Doctor of Public Health degree (DrPH) in health policy and administration from UNC’s Gillings School, as well as a Doctor of Education degree from North Carolina State University. Her initial appointment as chair will be for a two-and-a-half-year term.

The new department joins two units — the Public Health Leadership Program and the NCIPH — with the goal of strengthening and elevating leadership and practice at the Gillings School through both scholarship and action.

 The department will continue to train students in the Placed-Based Health concentration, offered through a joint MPH degree with UNC-Asheville, as well as the Population for Clinicians, Leadership in Practice and Global Health concentrations. It will also jointly offer the DrPH degree in health leadership with Gillings’ Department of Health Policy and Management and continue to expand the work of the NCIPH to collaboratively foster innovative solutions to public health challenges in North Carolina and beyond.  

“I am honored to serve as chair of the Department of Public Health Leadership and Practice at Gillings,” said Upshaw. “By combining the practice-facing initiatives at NCIPH with academic programs in the School, we are positioned to connect what we know from research with what actually works in practice to improve the health of communities in our state and around the world.”  

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

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