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New dean brings fresh enthusiasm, leadership

Last year when Laurence Branch came to talk with USF students, he had no idea he would soon call Tampa his home. Today, Branch officially becomes USF’s new College of Public Health dean, and he said the timing couldn’t be better.

“I have been working at Research I universities throughout my career, but the caliber of research at USF so impressed me that as soon as I heard, I knew I had to be here,” Branch said.

“With the new emphasis on research at the university and stepping up to accept this role at a Research I university, I’m very enthusiastic about coming down there,” Branch said.

Dr. Robert Daugherty, dean for USF’s College of Medicine, said Branch’s interests in research will help USF maintain it’s well-known reputation as a Research I university.

“He has the leadership qualities from his experience to help not only the College of Public Health but in the Health Sciences Center, as well,” Daugherty said. “In the health department he has an exceptional professional education with medical students.”

At Duke University in Durham, N.C., Branch spent the past five years as a professor for the university’s Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Branch said he is confident about moving students ahead in their research.

“I have 30 years of professional work that focuses on students,” Branch said. “There’s a whole life challenge of blending the needs of students with their needs as researchers.”

Branch said he wants to focus on a public health care program that is available during the evening for students.

“I want to help them grow with the formal training they need,” Branch said. “I am very much impressed by the College of Public Health at USF.”

Daugherty said sometimes a simpler quality, such as dedication, is more important.

“His research interests will bring the level of expertise we need,” Daugherty said. “I think it will be a big help.”

Branch said a lectureship he attended last year, where students in the college presented their research projects, convinced him to come back to USF.

When the College of Public Health was established at USF in 1984, Branch assisted as an adviser to the founding dean, Peter Levin. Branch has also been a designated lecturer for USF’s Institute on Aging.

“When I heard the dean was leaving, I stepped up to take the position,” Branch said.

Charles Mahan was the college’s former dean and now directs maternal and child health policies at the Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies. Mahan stepped down as the dean on June 1, and Ann DeBaldo has served as the college’s interim dean since May.

“They modeled the college very much after Boston University,” Branch said. “It is very nicely organized and structured with a set list of goals.”

Branch held a faculty appointment at Boston University School of Medicine for 10 years and an appointment at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School from 1978 to 1986.