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Release: Immediate

Director of Iowa Department of Public Health to lead new UI center

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The director of the Iowa Department of Public Health will join the faculty of the University of Iowa to lead a newly formed center within the UI's proposed School of Public Health.

Christopher Atchison, who has directed the health department since 1991, will become director of the Iowa Center for Public Health Practice. The center will coordinate the School of Public Health's outreach and continuing education programs, including community-based practicums in public health, which are required to earn a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree. Atchison is expected to begin work at the UI around March 1.

"Chris brings a unique combination of leadership and experience in the area of public health practice," observed James Merchant, M.D., Dr.P.H., UI professor and head of the department of preventive medicine and environmental health. "His first-hand knowledge of issues in the public health arena, his rapport with public health practitioners throughout Iowa, and his leadership at both the state and national levels will make him an outstanding director for this new center and greatly enhance public health training at the University of Iowa."

Atchison's move to the UI also won praise from Gov. Tom Vilsack.

"The state of Iowa has been very fortunate to have Chris serve as health director for almost eight years," noted Vilsack. "I am pleased that he will continue to serve the state of Iowa and that he will be doing outstanding work on behalf of the University of Iowa's Public Health Initiative, which is one of my priorities for improving the health of all Iowans."

Atchison said his new role at the UI will allow him to remain involved in shaping the future of public health in Iowa.

"Public health has always represented community based efforts to improve health and prevent disease," he said. "This new initiative at the University of Iowa will help advance those efforts through solid research and active support of community efforts. I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of public health with the many fine health professionals around the state who have already been involved, and I look forward to helping acquaint the next generation of health professionals with the benefits to Iowa's quality of life that professional public health practice brings."

The School of Public Health is the primary component within the UI's Public Health Initiative. Gov. Vilsack's proposed budget recommends $1 million in fiscal year 2000 to establish the school and fund a companion program, the Health and Independence of Elderly Iowans. If supported by the legislature, funds would be used to recruit faculty, develop an expanded public health curriculum, and provide statewide distance learning opportunities.

In December the Regents approved the university's plan to develop the M.P.H. degree. Applications are being accepted for the approximately 20 positions available beginning in the fall semester of 1999. For further information about the M.P.H. program, inquire at or write to: Program Director, 2800 Steindler Building, Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.