In a move to shape the future of public health education, the Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health proudly introduces its new dean, Paul K. Halverson. With a wealth of experience as a founding dean at Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, state health officer for the State of Indiana and Arkansas, federal health official for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and hospital president, Halverson brings a community-centered approach to public health in being an effective collaborator, focused on the health and well-being in service of the community.
Setting the stage for success
The first order of business for Halverson is to immerse himself in the rich history and legacy of SPH, OHSU and PSU. Halverson said he’s interested in understanding the people behind the amazing work being done at SPH and to better understand how the school can be a true collaborator with the community it serves.
"Great accomplishments in public health happen through collaboration with other disciplines, the community as well as governmental public health organizations," Halverson emphasized.
He’s also looking forward to working with the deans’ leadership team to share a strategic plan aligned with the broader OHSU and PSU institutional goals, ensuring SPH’s legacy seamlessly integrates into the evolving strategic landscape of both universities and the local public health system.
As a school committed to advancing antiracism in public health education and recruiting a diverse student body reflective of the society it aims to serve. Halverson said, “I look forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the intersections of our work toward health and social equity, actively participating in advocacy, and advancing the momentum already in motion at SPH.”
And Halverson is looking forward to carefully examining and emphasizing excellence in the student experience.
“We want to make the students the center of our universe,” he said. He wants to assure that SPH students gain experience that’s relevant to today’s public health climate, and are able to meaningfully contribute to the vibrancy and health of their communities after graduation.
Halverson radiates with pride when discussing his most cherished aspect of serving as a dean to future public health professionals. "There is a sense of pride and accomplishment during commencement,” he shared. “As a dean, witnessing graduates reach that pivotal moment, extending a congratulatory handshake as they walk across the stage in front of their peers, faculty and support network, is truly gratifying."
"It's a wonderful experience to witness the remarkable achievement of our public health students and to be a part of that life-changing moment that can positively impact thousands of people in their community.”
Halverson is keenly focused on fostering a positive impact on the health and wellness of the SPH community and improving the quality of life for all through the institution as a part of the overall state public health system.
“Collaboration, like the oboe in a symphony, enhances our efforts. Just as the oboe section thrives when they harmonize with other instruments, our best work happens when we work in tandem with the community, government, and public health organizations,” he said. “Together, we create a harmonious composition, making a lasting impact on our community.”
As a member of the dean search committee, Rachael Banks, director of Multnomah County Health Department said, "I was very proud to be on the committee that recommended Dean Halverson for this important role. Multnomah County Health Department counts on the strong partnership with OHSU-PSU School of Public Health as we move forward in supporting innovative research and quality training of public health professionals to support the health and vitality of all Oregon’s communities.”
In approaching community engagement, Halverson emphasizes the importance of listening, acknowledging and working as equal partners to meet the needs of the community without an agenda.
“We need to be mindful of what the community needs and how they want us to contribute in an authentic and honorable way,” he said. “The community is the driver of their needs. Their invitation to help support their work that positively impacts their health is a privilege that we honor.”
With a diverse public health background spanning public health practice and education, health administration, and strategic planning, Halverson is well-positioned to lead SPH into the future. His commitment to internal and external community collaboration and reaching impactful achievements that benefit the livelihood of Oregonians is poised to propel SPH to new heights.