Dobbs takes helm at Population Health | Mississippi Politics and News

dr Thomas Dobbs-Dean of Public Health

dr Dobbs is the third person to direct the John D. Bower School of Population Health (SOPH).

Effective August 1, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, former health officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health, is the new dean of the John D. Bower School of Population Health (SOPH).

dr Dobbs is the third person to lead SOPH, which was founded in 2016 under founding dean Dr. Bettina Beech was founded and became only the third public health school in the country.

dr Dobbs has spent most of his career as a public health officer. However, a career in medicine was not his first choice. As an applied physics major at Emory University, Dr. Dobb’s plans to become a theoretical physicist.

“A summer spent at the University Hospital learning that healthcare work is a marriage of science, service and the humanities brought about a change of heart for the Alabama native,” says a UMMC press release.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” said Dr. Dobbs. “I was pretty smart, but I would never win a Nobel Prize.”

dr Scott Rodgers, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs, said Dobbs brings a wealth of experience to the role. Rodgers said the new dean is not afraid of hard work and possesses a high level of compassion and determination that has enabled him to succeed in his role for the state.

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“In his role as health officer for the Mississippi Department of Health, Dr. Dobbs has responsibility for a large organization working to meet the healthcare needs of approximately 3 million people in Mississippi,” Rodgers said. “He has traveled all over the state, meeting people where they live, interacting with and learning from community leaders, and helping out wherever and whenever possible.”

“He has just the right mix of experience, wisdom, know-how and adaptability to thrive at a high level and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for his school. We are in exceptional hands,” added Rodgers.

Prior to his appointment as dean of the John D. Bower School of Population Health, Dobbs served the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) as state epidemiologist and regional, deputy and state health officer, to which he directed the state’s response to the COVID pandemic and dealt with with health inequalities plaguing the state.

Dobbs has also worked in national and international leadership roles in the fight against diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.

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“And having had other leadership roles, with varying levels of stress and challenges, surviving some of them and learning from them, hopefully I can bring something to the school,” Dobbs said of his new position.

Through his position as dean, Dobbs oversees a school made up of three departments: data science, which focuses on extracting knowledge and insights from data; population health science, which trains graduates to use strategies, programs, and other interventions to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities; and Preventive Medicine, which works with the School of Medicine to train health professionals in disease prevention and health promotion for individuals and populations.

Dobbs has set some short-term goals: increase enrollment, which stands at 58 students, and provide what he calls a “population-based mindset” and curriculum for other schools at UMMC.

Dobbs said he wants the school to be a “force to propel, induce and catalyze change” in the state, particularly in areas that are making communities unhealthy that others in healthcare don’t have time to focus on.

On paper, Dobbs spends 70% of the week on administrative work and classes, 20% on infectious diseases and clinical work through an appointment in the medical school’s infectious diseases department, and 10% with the health department, which runs the Crossroads Sexual Health Clinic.

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The new dean works closely with the Jackson Heart Study, the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities, Adult Specialty Care and People Living with HIV.

“It’s a nice balance. Variety is fun. Things overlap,” he said of his responsibilities. “It also keeps me part of public health, and this appointment to the board of health helps maintain that relationship as population health and public health go hand-in-hand.”

The Center for Telehealth worked with the Department of Infectious Diseases to develop an app that provides education and access to healthcare for patients at high risk of HIV. The app will be available through the app stores in the coming weeks.

“We are very pleased to work with Dr. Dobbs and leverage his knowledge and expertise to make this app available to high-risk patients in the state and to provide access to healthcare through telemedicine for patients who have already been diagnosed with HIV.”

According to the UMMC publication, Dr. Dobbs invites others interested in pursuing a public health agenda to learn about partnership formation.

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