Donna Petersen to expand health efforts in new roles

College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen said she will strengthen public health efforts at the university in assuming these new roles. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen will broaden her presence at the university by immediately assuming the role of chief health officer and interim associate vice provost for Student Health and Wellness.

The purpose of this decision comes in an effort to allow the goals outlined in USF’s Strategic Plan to come to fruition, and to make the USF community an overall safer and healthier place, according to a universitywide email sent Wednesday by President Rhea Law.

Petersen’s new duties include being the voice for employee and student health concerns at the university and being a vital communicative bridge between USF Health and external support units that promote wellness. She will also head a collaborative mission to implement ideal financial and organizational structures that support accessible and qualitative services at the university. She will hold these positions through Aug. 7, 2023.

Along with her formal duties, Petersen said she must approach the positions with compassion and personability to represent the community as a whole.

“The other aspect of the position is to consider the health needs of the entire community, not just students, but all of our employees and to create an environment and a culture that supports and promotes the health of the university community,” she said.

“We know we have a responsibility to contribute to the greater good of the Tampa Bay community and we know we will do that better if we take care of ourselves and also serve as role models for other organizations.”

Law said Petersen was a perfect fit for these positions due to her experience handling the pandemic as the chair of the USF COVID-19 response taskforce.

“Dr. Petersen’s outstanding management of USF’s response to the global pandemic ideally positions her to craft how we can address ongoing needs for health, wellness and support among all members of the university community,” Law said in the email.

Guiding the university through challenging times taught Petersen more than just how to deal with issues relating to COVID-19.

“I think we all learned that it wasn’t just testing and quarantine that mattered, it was how we reimagined work, reconfigured spaces, applied technology, educated the community, promoted transparency, communicated with all constituents and adapted policies that collectively … allowed us to experience fewer cases than other similar institutions,” she said.

“It is also important to note that we shared our expertise freely with the larger community. Public health requires a collective response.”

Petersen is not leaving her current position as a dean, as these roles are an addition to her responsibilities at the university.

Assuming these positions will allow her to more directly offer support to students, staff and the community as a whole, and implement public health measures to boost safety measures at the university.

“In these new roles, I will be actively practicing public health myself, with a clear imperative to create systems and structures that support student and employee health and create a culture that contributes to student success, our strategic plan and making USF a great place to work,” Petersen said.