Augusta University will soon welcome Teresa M. Waters, PhD, as the inaugural dean of the new School of Public Health. Waters, who will begin in her new role on Aug. 1, currently serves at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health as the chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy, Charles T. Wethington Jr. Endowed Chair in the Health Sciences and interim director of the Center for Health Services Research, Implementation Science, and Policy.
Waters’ appointment is the result of an extensive national search conducted by a search committee chaired by Jennifer C. Sullivan, PhD, dean of The Graduate School at Augusta University, in partnership with the WittKieffer search firm.
“I’m honored to serve as the inaugural dean at Augusta University’s School of Public Health and thrilled to work with the exceptional faculty, staff and students who will call the School of Public Health home. It is such an exciting time to be joining the AU family and the community of Augusta. I look forward to working with campus leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as community partners and stakeholders, to position public health at AU as a leader in transforming population health across Georgia and around the world.”Teresa M. Waters, PhD, inaugural dean of the new School of Public Health
“I’m honored to serve as the inaugural dean at Augusta University’s School of Public Health and thrilled to work with the exceptional faculty, staff and students who will call the School of Public Health home,” said Waters. “It is such an exciting time to be joining the AU family and the community of Augusta. I look forward to working with campus leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as community partners and stakeholders, to position public health at AU as a leader in transforming population health across Georgia and around the world.”
Reporting to Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, Waters will be charged with combining Augusta University’s foundational pieces into a united goal, which is on schedule to begin July of this year. Augusta University is already home to the Institute of Public and Preventive Health, the Center for Rural Health and the statewide Area Health Education Centers. The College of Allied Health Sciences offers a PhD in Applied Health Sciences and IPPH offers a Master of Public Health degree. The Medical College of Georgia’s Department of Population Health Sciences houses multiple graduate programs and the College of Education and Human Development offers a health promotion undergraduate program.
“Dr. Waters brings a wealth of leadership experience in public health policy, education, research and faculty development, attributes that will greatly benefit the university as she steps into her role as the inaugural dean of our new School of Public Health,” said MacKinnon, who himself is a former director of the Center for Rural Health and faculty member at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. “This new school is a monumental undertaking, but I am excited for what it will do for Augusta University and our students, the citizens of Georgia and beyond.”
Under Water’s direction, UK’s Department of Health Management and Policy has hired more than a dozen faculty across title series and ranks and implemented several new educational programs, including a PhD in Health Services Research and an online MPH concentration. She also successfully guided the Master of Health Administration program through accreditation in 2018.
“Our new School of Public Health will better focus our university’s incredible foundational pieces into a united goal, and Dr. Waters is well suited to take on the responsibilities of this task,” said Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD. “As we work to continue to meet our aspirational imperatives, including a top-60 NIH ranking by 2030, it is important to recruit and tap into the knowledge of someone of Dr. Waters’ caliber. She also has a proven track record of advancing departments and units under her purview, and I look forward to working with her to continue to offer our students and patients world-class education and care.”
In her various roles at UK’s College of Public Health, Waters managed and grew her departmental budget, increasing both university funding from $1.1 million to $1.6 million and extramural funding from $1.1 million to $2.3 million.
As interim director of the Center for Health Services Research, Implementation Science, and Policy, Waters led a campus-wide revisioning and strategic planning process after leadership of the predecessor center (Center for Health Services Research) left the University of Kentucky, engaging high-level leadership from six UK colleges, UK HealthCare and Kentucky Medical Services Foundation (UK’s Physician Practice Plan).
“The search committee is thrilled that Dr. Waters will be joining us as the inaugural dean of the School of Public Health,” Sullivan said. “She has a proven track record of advancing her faculty, securing grant funding for research projects and shaping curricula that will prepare the next generation of public health leaders. We were extremely impressed by her energy, vision and commitment to public health.”
A classically-trained economist from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Waters seeks to apply economic “tools and thinking” to health services and policy questions. Her current research focuses primarily on pay-for-performance policies and programs in health care: impact, unintended consequences and potential improvements.
Waters recently completed two grants as principal investigator/multiple principal investigator: an R01 funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to examine the impact of Medicare value programs on quality and safety and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant exploring the impact of Medicaid-managed care organization partnerships with community-based organizations to address enrollees’ unmet social needs. Waters’ research has been funded continuously by AHRQ over the past decade. Over her career, Waters has secured over $50 million in grant funding for research projects, including three current projects.
Waters also served as associate dean for research for UK’s College of Public Health from 2018 to 2021. Under her leadership, the college saw robust growth in awards, funding and PIs over a three-year period — a 22% increase in extramural funding ($18 million to $22 million), 31% increase in awards (61 to 80) and 28% increase in unique PIs (32 to 41). As ADR, she also developed and implemented an Office of Scientific Writing to support PI success at UK’s College of Public Health, offering grant and paper writing workshops, scientific editing for proposals and papers and support for IRBs.
Over her career in higher education, Waters has contributed six book chapters, reviews and non-peer reviewed publications, as well as written over 100 articles for peer-reviewed journals.
As an Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine fellow in 2020-21, her institutional action project was “Developing a Campus-wide Framework for Growing Research Mentors.” In collaboration with associate deans of research across UK’s campus, she implemented an evidence-based curriculum based on “Entering Mentoring and Crucial Conversations.”
In the classroom, Waters has taught undergraduate, master’s and PhD-level courses in health economics, health finance and health services research. While she enjoys teaching and sees it as a privilege, she stepped back from the classroom in 2020 to focus her passion for teaching by working to ensure that her department’s academic programs are strong and that her faculty has the time, tools, training and support they need to offer engaging and transformative educational experiences for their students.
Waters is a member of the Association for Health Services Research/AcademyHealth, the International Health Economics Association, the American Society of Health Economists and the American Public Health Association.
From 2014 to 2017, Waters served as department chair for the Department of Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. During her tenure as chair, the department grew from 22 to 30 faculty. To support this rapid growth, she reorganized department staffing to better support research and reorganized department faculty into four divisions to better support faculty cohesion and early career faculty mentoring.
Waters joined the UK College of Public Health in December 2017 after serving as professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC-Memphis). She was a faculty member at UTHSC for 18 years. She also served as a research associate professor and deputy director at the Institute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies at Northwestern University from 1992 through 2000.