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University of Iowa News Release


April 24, 2007

James Merchant To Step Down As Dean Of College Of Public Health

James A. Merchant, dean of the College of Public Health, will step down as dean effective July 1, 2008. He will continue as a professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health. Michael J. Hogan, UI executive vice president and provost, made the announcement and added that he has named the committee that will conduct the search for Merchant's successor.

"Jim Merchant was instrumental in bringing the College of Public Health into being almost eight years ago," Hogan said. "And he has been not only the College's academic leader, but also its most passionate advocate, since day one."

Under Merchant's leadership, the college's faculty has doubled in size, to 77 primary faculty, and the number of graduate students has grown from 200 in FY 1999 to 429 in FY 2006. The college also serves more than 250 graduate and professional students from other colleges and more than 200 undergraduate students. The college has tripled its funding over the years, generating $35.3 million in extramural research grants in FY 2006.

"It's a remarkable success story," Hogan said. "I'm grateful for Jim Merchant's dedication to making the college the amazing resource it is today, not just for our students but for the people of Iowa."

Merchant said, "It has been a great honor to lead this faculty and new college over the last decade. My priority for the coming academic year is to continue planning and fund raising for the new College of Public Health Academic Building, and in the fall of 2008 to returning to my research and teaching in the area of rural and environmental health."

Gary Fethke, interim UI president, said, "Jim Merchant deserves the heartfelt thanks of our university community and of all Iowans for his contributions to the University of Iowa and to public health. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with him as a fellow dean and to know him as a friend. Although his retirement as dean of the College of Public Health is a just reward for his many years of service, I know he will be fully engaged in his final year as dean and that he will continue his contributions as a member of the faculty for years to come."

A nationally known expert on occupational and environmental health, rural health, and public health policy, Merchant served as head of the College of Medicine's Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health and directed several UI-based centers before becoming the College of Public Health's first dean in 1999. In that year, he was also elected to the Institute of Medicine.

He has taught at Iowa since 1981, when he returned to the state after earning a doctorate in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later serving as director of the Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Safety and Health and the Division for Respiratory Disease Studies for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A native of Ames, Iowa, Merchant earned his bachelor's degree from Iowa State University, followed by an M.D. from the UI.

Hogan said the search committee charged with identifying and screening candidates for a new Public Health dean will be chaired by Francois Abboud, Edith King Pearson Chair in Cardiovascular Research and associate vice president for research in the Carver College of Medicine.

Other members of the committee are:

* Shelly Campo, assistant professor, community and behavioral health
* Stacey Cyphert, senior assistant director, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
* Karen Farris, associate professor, clinical and administrative pharmacy
* Laurence Fuortes, professor, occupational and environmental health
* Barry Greene, professor and head, health management and policy
* Erin Heiden, graduate student, College of Public Health
* Charles Lynch, professor, epidemiology
* Corinne Peek-Asa, professor, occupational and environmental health
* Jane Pendergast, professor, biostatistics; and chair, College of Public Health Faculty Council
* Kathleen Shie, human resources director, College of Public Health
* Laurie Zelnio, director of safety, environment, and standards for John Deere & Co.; and member, Board of Advisors
* M. Bridget Zimmerman, associate professor (clinical), biostatistics; and director, Biostatistics Consulting Center

The UI College of Public Health was established in 1999, becoming the University's 11th college and the first new college in 50 years. The college offers graduate degrees in several areas including biostatistics, community and behavioral health, epidemiology, health management and policy, and occupational and environmental health, as well as a certificate in public health designed for individuals in public health practice who are currently in the workforce. More than 25 interdisciplinary centers based in the College focus on critical public health topics and advance the college's service and outreach activities, which engage every county in Iowa.

STORY SOURCE: University Relations, 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1000.

MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Parrott,, phone 319-335-0552, cell 319-530-6972