Public-health expert Bobbie Berkowitz chosen as new nursing dean

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Bobbie Berkowitz, a nursing professor at the University of Washington and a public-health researcher, has been selected as the next dean of the Columbia School of Nursing. She starts her new job September 1.

Berkowitz began her career as a nurse in the early 1970s in her home state of Washington. She quickly rose to leadership positions in local and county public-health departments. In 1993, she was appointed deputy secretary for the Washington State Department of Health. Berkowitz’s most formative professional experience, she says, was directing the national offi ce of the Turning Point Initiative from 1997 to 2006, a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to promote public health. Berkowitz and her staff traveled across the country, facilitating new collaborations among public-health workers and schoolteachers, business leaders, and clergy in 23 states. “The idea was that the underlying causes of poor health are complex,” Berkowitz says, “and that they cannot be addressed by the public-health system alone.”

Berkowitz has published dozens of journal articles, most of them about how public-health organizations can best collaborate with other community groups. She is also an outspoken advocate for increased government investment in health education, pre-ventive medicine, and other public-health initiatives, which, she points out, receive just one penny for every dollar spent on health care in the United States. Berkowitz has written extensively about how public-health services benefi t the poor. She promotes awareness of these issues as director of the Center for the Advancement of Health Disparities Research at the University of Washington’s nursing school, where she has taught since 1996; she chaired the school’s department of psychosocial and community health from 1998 to 2004.

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