TAMPA – In an effort to strengthen the U.S. public health system, three national philanthropic nonprofits have awarded the University of South Florida more than $8.5 million in grants to train the nation’s public health leaders in collaboration and leadership skills.
The grant is in response to a badly depleted, post-pandemic public health care workforce where workers are understaffed, overworked, and in dire need of strong leadership.
That is where USF is stepping in.
“Our public health leaders and managers need to foster a community where there is open and honest, true collaboration amongst its members,” said Triparna de Vreede, an expert in collaboration science and organizational psychology in the USF Muma College of Business and one of the co-investigators of the project.
“Regenerative leadership emphasizes holistic, sustainable and long-term thinking where the leader is a facilitator and a voice of the community rather than the hero leading the charge. We need to build regenerative leaders in the public health space to utilize all the assets in the community,” de Vreede said, who serves as an associate director in the School of Information Systems and Management.
Led by Marissa Levine, a USF professor of public health practice and the principal investigator, the grant will establish the national program office for the Public Health Regenerative Leadership Synergy, dubbed PHEARLESS, within the Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice in the USF College of Public Health.
Another co-investigator on the grant is Jennifer Marshall, an associate professor in the USF College of Public Health.
Through this grant, USF leaders will lead a one-year training program and distribute $100,000 grants to help organizations participating in the program.
“We're taking an approach called regenerative leadership—which is thinking about our communities as living systems and not machines — and figuring out how to better work together in complex contexts, like what we went through with COVID, and how to get a shared vision where people all have the opportunity to thrive,” Levine said.
The USF interdisciplinary team will co-lead the design and implementation of the training.
Nearly half of U.S. state and local healthcare workers left their jobs between 2017 and 2021, exacerbating an existing workforce shortage, according to a data analysis of the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey, conducted by the de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Here’s how the PHEARLESS program works:
- The one-year leadership development training is open to public health professionals from across the country. Its inaugural cohort kicks off in September. Organizers are soliciting applications now and have extended the application deadline to close at 3 p.m. July 14.
- PHEARLESS program leaders will award community grants to 15 selected teams. Each team consists of two public health professionals and two community leaders. Teams will participate in virtual and in-person sessions.
- Selected teams will receive a $100,000 grant to support their activities to improve the public’s health and $9,000 stipends for each of the two community leaders.
PHEARLESS is unique in that it gives public health department leaders an opportunity to reimagine their roles in creating healthy communities that are community-led and centered in equality, organizers said.
“We really need to think differently about how we approach leadership in public health and what are we going to do about assuring more equitable outcomes in health and communities,” Levine said.
The College of Public Health will also partner with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Big Cities Health Coalition, and the National Association of County and City Officials as an interdisciplinary support network.