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Gillings School of Global Public Health Dean Barbara K. Rimer to step down

Dean Rimer began her service as dean in 2005, making her the school’s longest-serving dean, as well as the first woman and behavioral scientist to serve in the role.

Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the school.
Gillings School of Global Public Health Dean Dr. Barbara K. Rimer

Dear Carolina Community,

We are writing to share that Gillings School of Global Public Health Dean Dr. Barbara K. Rimer will conclude her service as dean on June 30, 2022, after an incredible 17 years at the helm of the nation’s top public school of public health. She will remain on the school’s faculty, where she started as an adjunct associate professor in 1992.

Barbara began her service as dean in 2005, making her the school’s longest-serving dean, as well as the first woman and behavioral scientist to serve in the role. In 2008, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine — one of the highest achievements in science, public health and medicine. She has served as chair of the President’s Cancer Panel under two U.S. presidents.

Her commitment to innovative research, academics and practice, as well as inclusive excellence and service, have guided her leadership priorities, aligning with Gillings’ mission to improve public health, promote individual well-being, and eliminate health inequities across the state and around the world.

With Barbara as its leader, Gillings was ranked the No. 1 public school of public health and tied for second overall three consecutive times by U.S. News & World Report, pulling ahead to stand alone in second place in 2021. Early in her service, she secured a transformative gift from the Gillings family, which renamed the school in 2008. In 2009, Barbara championed the development of the Water Institute at UNC to solve the world’s most pressing water and sanitation challenges.

Gillings now ranks No. 1 among public health schools in funding from the National Institutes of Health, and Gillings faculty members have received more than $1 billion in research since 2013. This funding supports groundbreaking research, education and practice in all 100 North Carolina counties, 47 countries and five continents.

Barbara created the school’s Practice Advisory Committee, which engages leaders across the state to strengthen public health practice. She has fostered strong partnerships with the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and the Carolina Population Center.

Barbara also supported the development of a robust preferred partnership with RTI International. She was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the N.C. Policy Collaboratory, positioning Gillings researchers to lead statewide projects in important areas such as water quality, children’s environmental health and COVID-19 viral sequencing and surveillance.

Barbara has championed inclusive excellence, most recently through the school’s ambitious Inclusive Excellence Action Plan. Its 2021 fall cohort is the most diverse yet, welcoming a record number of students from historically excluded groups.

Under Barbara’s leadership, Gillings leaders revamped the Master of Public Health degree, launched the online MPH@UNC program and developed a multi-partner public health program with UNC-Asheville and the Mountain Area Health Education Center. She also encouraged the establishment of a “Culture of Health” program to support Gillings community members.

Gillings School students consistently receive about one third of the Graduate School’s Impact and Horizon Awards for research that benefits North Carolinians. On Barbara’s watch, students leave prepared to make the world a better place: 96% have jobs or are continuing their education six months after graduation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara redoubled her commitment to the well-being of Gillings and Carolina community members, amplifying fact-based health communications and supporting the expansion of the school’s student emergency relief fund and the creation of virtual support pods. After she steps down as dean, we know she will continue advocating for better health for all.

We have appointed a committee to oversee a dean search, chaired by Dr. William L. Roper, a former Gillings dean, as well as former CEO of UNC Health, vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the UNC School of Medicine. He will be joined by Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith, Kenan Distinguished Professor, departments of medicine and social medicine, director of the UNC Center for Health Equity Research and associate provost for UNC Rural, who will serve as vice chair. We are confident that this search committee, under Bill and Giselle’s leadership, will help identify an outstanding dean to continue Gillings’ longstanding success.

In the meantime, please join us in thanking Barbara for her continued contributions to Carolina, and to Bill and Giselle for their leadership in helping us identify a new dean.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost