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Participants in the 2015 Public Health Summer Academy

Public Health Summer Academy

A model workforce development program distinguished by academic-practice collaboration

The Public Health Summer Academy (PHSA) is a week-long workforce development activity provided to East Tennessee Regional (ETR) and Knox County Public Health Department (KCHD) public health practitioners by the UT Department of Public Health faculty. The academy includes twenty hours of educational sessions in basic public health knowledge and skills with an evidence-based public health (EBPH) framework. Participants receive a certificate of completion.

A distinguishing strength is that the PHSA has been collaboratively planned, evaluated, and monitored by a team of individuals from academia and public health practice.

Since 2012, 143 public health professionals have completed the weeklong summer academy held at the university. ETR employees travel from surrounding counties plus the regional office to participate in half-day intensive sessions that include lecture, discussion, and small group activities. Participants have included nutritionists, office supervisors, social counselors, health officers, public health representatives, nurses, and more.

PHSA program value, impact, and continued quality improvement is well-documented in our four-year program evaluation: brief report (pdf).

Summer Academy students take notes on a laptopBridging Academia and Practice

Using an evidence-based public health framework, faculty instructors teach key concepts from community health education, epidemiology/biostatistics, health policy and management, and program evaluation. Paul Erwin, MD, DrPH, professor and department head of the Department of Public Health, facilitates daily discussions relating material to challenges he faced in his former role as ETR director, one of the distinguishing strengths of the academy. Small group activities allow participants to apply learning to real problems in the local community.

With support from Janet Ridley, director of the ETR, the PHSA was planned by three ETR employees: Micky Roberts, MS, MCHES, epidemiologist and director of the Blount County Health Department; Tamara Chavez-Lindell, MPH, an epidemiologist with the Food Safety Center of Excellence; and Juli Allen, MSN, director of  Children’s Special Services. Erwin and Julie Grubaugh, MPH, CHES, coordinator of the UT/Knox County Academic Health Department, also served as collaborators. Special thanks to the Knox County Health Department’s sharing of program development and lessons learned from their Public Health Workforce Development Series (PHWDS). In 2012 and 2013 the PHSA was funded by East Tennessee State University’s Public Health Training Center. The UT Department of Public Health funded in 2014 and 2015. Based on resoundingly positive feedback from participants and faculty presenters, the PHSA will be offered.

Participant Perspectives

  • 100 percent of participants would recommend the PHSA training to colleagues.
  • 80 percent of participants said that, as a result of PHSA, they will seek additional coursework or pursue a degree in public health.
  • “This week has been an ah-hah moment and affirmation about why I do what I do and how I can improve. It gave me props to do better. It encouraged me to probably go back to school.”  —PHSA participant
  • “If I had learned [how to write measurable objectives] before, it would have helped me do my job better.” —PHSA participant
  • “One of the best parts I felt about the PHSA is the field experience the participants brought in, the questions they raised were real and reflected what they had run into during their routine work.” —PHSA instructor

For more information, please contact Julie Grubaugh, coordinator of the UT/Knox County Academic Health Department, at or 865-974-9277.