Bridging Knowledge | Improving Health
What is the Academic Health Department?
In 2011, the University of Tennessee Department of Public Health entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Knox County Health Department (KCHD), formalizing a long-standing set of relationships by establishing the Academic Health Department (AHD). The purpose of the AHD is to bridge public health academia and practice to improve public health.
You can read more about the AHD on the Knox County Health Department’s Academic Health Department page..
The conceptualization of an AHD was a response to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark study on the future of public health. Many deficiencies were identified by the IOM, including a disconnect between academic programs in public health and actual public health practice. This disconnect holds potential ramifications for workforce training and education, research, and resources. Imagine an academic program in medicine or nursing and the critical role which a teaching hospital plays in the educational experience. The AHD is the public health corollary to what this teaching hospital is for medical and nursing students.The AHD provides a practice setting where public health graduate students can apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real problems and challenges in the field. At the same time, the AHD provides the KCHD leadership staff opportunities to have direct input on curriculum to increase the applicability of the academic program to workforce needs, with better alignment between what is being taught in the classrooms with what the realities of public health practice requires. The benefits expand in other directions as well: the practice site has access to students, who not only can contribute to the work of the agency, but serve as a source for future employment; and, the faculty have access to programs and data which can facilitate practice-based research.
Our structure. An AHD steering committee with executive leadership from both organizations meets quarterly to monitor and refine shared activities. A full-time shared AHD coordinator position manages the day-to-day operations. The coordinator is a permanent staff position, which is held by the university, but is funded equally by both organizations. The coordinator maintains an office at both locations and invests her time equally between the two. Having a person on the ground at both sites has been vital to assuring a.) a central point of contact; b.) implementation of initiatives; and c.) new opportunities and matches are identified quickly.
Three Focus Areas
(click on the links below for PDF examples of each area)
A partnership allows increased capacity and efficient use of everyone’s resources. Our AHD continually collects data to measure operations and outcomes, as specified in our AHD logic model and accompanying performance metrics. Measurable objectives with specific strategies are developed every fall, monitored quarterly, and summarized in a written annual report.annual report.
Benefits of the Academic Health Department
Engaging with timely, relevant topics to increase knowledge and skills. This two-way communication contributes to both workforce development and faculty connection with practitioners.
Networking among practitioners, faculty, and students around areas of mutual interest builds and extends trust.
- Practice-Focused Research
Relevant research opportunities are identified as stakeholders discuss needs, emphasizing the iterative cycle where research translates to practice and practice informs research.
- Shared Funding Opportunities
Existing resources may be leveraged or new ones identified through collaboration.
- Improve the Public’s Health
The ultimate goal is to ensure that prevention interventions are supported by science and effective in practice in order to improve the public’s health. This motive drives all other outcomes.
Points of Pride
First in State!
Created in March 2011, the UT-Knox County AHD is the first academic health department formed in the state of Tennessee. As a national model, our MOU is featured on the Council on Linkages AHD resources page.
- AHD Named an Exemplary Partnership
Have you heard the good news about UTK/UTIA’s prestigious new designation, the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification? As part of the university’s yearlong celebration, the Academic Health Department was named among the Top 50 exemplary partnerships for collaborating with community partners to address society’s most pressing needs. The AHD’s ultimate goal is to improve community health. Commitment from leadership and mutual respect, allows information, expertise, and resources to flow both ways in this mutually beneficial partnership. The AHD has a three focus areas: public health student education and teaching, workforce development, and practice-based research.
- UT Leader Presents AHD Characteristics Survey Results to National Audience
AHD Learning Community member, Paul Campbell Erwin, MD, DrPH, professor and head of the UT Department of Public Health, shared results of a recent survey exploring a variety of aspects of AHDs, including longevity of partnerships, types of connections between partners, and benefits of partnering. This and other resources are also currently highlighted in a post on the Public Health Foundation Pulse Blog, Interested in learning more about Academic Health Departments? The AHD Learning Community can help. An archive of the presentation is available online.
- Grubaugh J., Valentine J., Welch S., Mastronardi A. (March 2013). Evaluation of new centralized student process: Knox County Health Department Quality Improvement 2012. Tennessee Public Health Association East Grand Division Meeting. Sevierville, TN (poster).
- Grubaugh J, Myers C, Knight M, Hamilton C, Amos K. Levels of community engagement in academic health departments. (April 2013).STTI Gamma Chi Inter-professional Healthcare Research Day, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Agricultural Campus (poster).
- Myers, C.R., Knight, M., Amos, K., Hamilton, C., & Grubaugh, J. (April 2013). Level of community engagement in Academic Health Departments. 2013 Public Health Services and Systems Research (PHSSR) Keeneland Conference, Lexington, KY(panel presentation).
- Roberts M., Grubaugh J., Chavez-Lindell T., Allen J., Ridley J., Erwin P. (September 2013). Public Health Summer Academy: A collaborative partnership between academicians and practitioners to ensure a competent public health workforce in East Tennessee.Tennessee Public Health Association Annual Conference. Franklin, TN (poster).
- Brown, K., Myers, C.R., Grubaugh, J., Hancock, L., Persino, J., Barwlow, P., Tayman, A., & Dzialo, R. (September 2013). Why women miss appointments in a women’s health clinic: A research collaboration between public health practitioners & academicians. Tennessee Public Health Association Annual Conference. Franklin, TN (poster). [Poster won second place].
- Grubaugh, J., Erwin, P., Valentine, J., Miller, M., Buchanan, M. A logic model for evaluating the academic health department. (April 2015).Keeneland Public Health Systems and Services Annual Conference, Lexington, KY (poster).
- Grubaugh J., Valentine J., Hamilton C. Reflections from a boundary spanner coordinating an academic health department. (November 2013). American Public Health Association Annual Conference. Boston, MA (poster).
- Erwin, P., McNeely, C., Grubaugh, J., Valentine, J., Miller, M., Buchanan, M. A Logic Model for Evaluating the Academic Health Department. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 2015 Feb 26. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25723875
- Knight MA, Kershenbaum AD, Buchanan M, Ridley J, Erwin PC. The Effects of the Changes in Section 317 Rules for Administration of Federally Purchased Vaccines. Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research. 2014;3(2):Article 7.
- Hamilton CB, Buchanan ML, Grubaugh JH, Erwin PC. Forming an academic health department: a case example. J Public Health Manag Pract. May-Jun 2014;20(3):304-309.
- Erwin PC, Knight M, Graham J, et al. Data synthesis in community health assessment: practical examples from the field. J Public Health Manag Pract. Sep-Oct 2013;19(5):468-474.
- Knight MA, Kershenbaum AD, Buchanan M, Ridley J, Erwin PC. The Effects of the State of Tennessee Immunization Policy Change of 2011 – 2012 on Vaccination Uptake in East Tennessee. Frontiers in Public Health Services and Systems Research. 2014;3(1):Article 4.
For more information about the AHD,
Resources for Forming an AHD
- MOU to create the AHD
- MOU between the Univ. of TN & the Knox County Health Department – 2016-2021
- MOU between Univ. of TN & the East TN Region, TN Department of Health
- AHD Steering Committee
- AHD Annual Reports and Reviews
- AHD coordinator duties
- Public Health Foundation’s Council on Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice AHD Learning Community
- Podcast on AHD characteristics and benefits (strongly recommended for people considering forming an AHD), plus discussion of how the learning community can better serve AHDs; led by Bill Keck, seventy mins
- If you don’t have time to watch the above podcast, read Kathleen Amos’ summary on the Learning Community blog.