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Pioneer in Public Health
Carol Whittaker's curiosity about cultures has brought her to the far corners of the world. But it's her fervent commitment and role as assistant dean for global health that has led Whittaker to confront the world's public health problems.
From Costa Rica to Turkmenistan, Whittaker is expanding UAlbany students' world view by developing program and research collaborations between the University's School of Public Health (SPH) and universities in other countries. Her interest in changing the landscape of international public health was sparked in the 1990s by a trip to Romania. The country, after its break from the Soviet Union, sought to rebuild its health care system -- starting with the need for trained public health professionals.
"We realized that if [the Romanians] just had opportunity to come here, learn more and get the fundamentals, they could have more well-trained professionals and take their program beyond where they were," said Whittaker.
UAlbany provided them an outlet for just that. Through grants and fellowship programs, UAlbany brought students from the former Soviet Union and other countries to SPH. But Whittaker and her SPH colleagues had the foresight to realize that it wasn't enough. Instead, using SPH as a model, they began helping other countries set up schools of public health, including the Republic of Georgia and Mongolia.
The University is continuing to foster connections around the globe with its new Center for Global Health, directed by Whittaker. SPH is developing collaborations with public health schools and agencies in countries that include Costa Rica, South Africa and Turkey. Partnerships have included life-enhancing student internships and service learning projects, as well as faculty exchanges and research.
It means a bit of world traveling, which suits the peripatetic Whittaker just fine. Whittaker's own travels have landed her on all seven continents, including the ice and cold of Antarctica.
Exploring new horizons isn't unfamiliar territory for Whittaker. She joined SPH in its infancy in the early 1990s, charged with building new programs. She created distance learning courses, set up global health seminars and became involved in public health leadership. Appropriately, she was named Assistant Dean for New Fun.
Although Whittaker's title has changed during her tenure, her role in educating and raising awareness about global public health issues has not. That's why Whittaker delayed retirement, which the 65-year-old had planned this fall, to lead the new Center for Global Health.
"We have to make sure people have long, healthy lives so they can be happy and productive for their families and their countries," said Whittaker.